On Monday, February 12, 2024, Ogau Onyeka Michael, the first prosecution witness in the continuing trial of Godwin Emefiele, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, testified before Justice Hamza Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, Abuja, about how the ex-CBN boss authorized the settlement of $6,230,000 in cash for foreign election observers during the most recent general election in 2023.
While testifying at Emefiele’s ongoing trial, Michael revealed the revelation. Before Justice Muazu, the former CBN boss is on trial on 20 revised counts involving $6,230,000 in corruption, conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and acquiring by false pretences.
Prosecution lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, led Michael, a former branch controller of the CBN, Abuja branch, in testimony at Monday’s resumed trial. Michael was asked to identify the documents given to him by the prosecution and was also asked to state that he had worked on them.
He claims that the then-CBN boss authorized the delivery of $6,230,000 in cash for international election observers after receiving a request for payment on January 8, 2023.
“My lord, it is customary for the branch controller, which is my office, to receive all requests for payments. The request to my office that day was $6,230,000, My Lord, and my assistant had brought it to my notice. According to him, the document was sent by the Banking Services Department and signed by the Director of Banking Services. It instructed the branch controller to pay $6,230,000 to an individual working for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the document bore the individual’s name and identification card.
According to Michael, the payment was meant for election observation and would be paid in cash in the naira equal of that amount. It went on to say that the Federal Ministry of Finance should return the funds in the middle of 2023. “Please find attached the approval of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the payment,” the paper said as well, my Lord.
“Additionally, the permission of the then-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation were attached to the memo. After reviewing the document and confirming that it fulfilled the requirements, I minutestated it for processing and subsequent payment to the head of the Banking Services Unit. The payment was made in cash by Mr. Williams, Head of Banking Services, on April 8, 2023. The document is easily identifiable because it bears my signature as well.
As Oyedepo attempted to present all six documents as exhibits, he informed the court that two of the documents, which had the approval of the former SGF and the President, were photocopies. He prayed that the remaining two could be tendered later on in the trial, so he could present the four original documents. In order to retrieve the original copies, he requested a 30-minute stand-down from the court and proceeded to the CBN facility.
The defence attorney, Mathew Bukka, SAN, raised objections to Oyedepo’s prayers, stating that the case was already scheduled for February 12 and 13, so he requested that the matter be postponed until February 13. Bukka went on to say that the prosecution would not have enough time in the 30 minutes that Oyedepo requested to obtain the original documents from the CBN.
Justice Muazu heard their arguments and then postponed the case to February 13, 2024, so the trial can continue then.