The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday opened its case against immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose.
The commission is prosecuting Fayose over alleged N6.9 billion fraud. It had earlier on October 22 arraigned the former governor alongside his company — Spotless Investment Ltd on 11 counts.
Fayose had then pleaded not guilty to the charges and was subsequently granted bail. The matter was adjourned for trial to November 19, 2018.
When the trial began this Monday in court, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) stood as counsel for the EFCC while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) stood for the first and second accused respectively.
Lawrence Akande, a banker in a commercial bank in charge of South West 1, comprising Ogun, Oyo and Osun states, was called by the EFCC lawyer as first prosecution witness.
Testifying, the witness said in June 2014, he was called and informed by one Abiodun Agbele, that he had about N1.2 billion cash lodgement to make in Akure.
He said after the Agbele call, that he also got a call from Fayose on the same issue. He explained that since the lodgement was in Akure, he placed a call across to his colleague in Akure to follow up same.
“This is all I know on this issue,” Akande said.
Asked if he knew the second accused (Spotless Ltd), he replied that the company was a customer of his bank with account at Dugbe branch.
When the prosecutor showed the witness some account opening document of Spotless Nig. Ltd, De Privateer Ltd, Still Earth Ltd as well as account document of first accused, he confirmed the documents.
The documents were therefore admitted by the court and marked Exhibit A.
Asked again if the account of Fayose was domiciled, he replied, “It is not domiciled within my domain, but from the document before me here, I can see Apapa.”
When the prosecutor asked him to “tell the court if the Peoples Democratic Party maintained an account with your bank,” the witness replied, “not only PDP, but so many other political parties.”
During cross examination, the witness explained to the court that he made statements to the EFCC on June 6, 2016, and confirmed that he made no mention of the first accused in his earlier statement.
Being cross -examined by defence counsel (Agabi), Akande said that he only made mention of Fayose in his subsequent statements.
Defence then asked, “You said your colleagues handled the transactions, so it means your narration here is based on what you were told?”
Agbele said in his response, “I was told how the cash was processed.”
When defence counsel asked if he had “solicited for the defendant’s patronage before he came in as governor,” the witness said, “We solicited for patronage on the opening of government account with our bank, because part of my business is to look for deposits.”
Defence further asked Agbele, “Until invited by the EFCC , you did not observe any abnormalities with this account?, he said in his reply, “No.”
During cross-examination by second defence counsel (Ojo), the witness told the court that he had worked in banking sector for 28 years.
He confirmed to the court that a person who is not a signatory to an account cannot make withdrawals from such account.
He added that there are withdrawal limits in every account and where withdrawals are to be made above the stipulated limits, it is reported to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit to investigate such transaction.
The EFCC also called in its second witness, Abiodun Oshodi during the trial on Monday.
Oshodi told the court that he is the zonal head of the bank, covering South West 2 which includes Ondo, Kwara and Ekiti states, adding that he also supervises all branches in the three localities.
He told the court that he received a call from his colleague (Akande) that Agbele will be coming to make some lodgements and that he should organise a bullion van.
He said that he waited for Agbele, who arrived with one Sadiku and some escorts, adding that Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the then Minister of State for Defence, and his aide, also accompanied them.
According to him, as soon as the aircraft arrived, he moved with the bullion van towards the plane to evacuate the money.
He said that the total sum amounted to N1.2bn, adding that they were lodged into accounts supplied by Agbele.
The accounts according to him include Spotless Nig. Ltd, De Privateer Ltd, as well as personal account of the first accused (Fayose), while some cash was taken to Ado- Ekiti.
When asked to look at the deposits in the account of Spotless Ltd from June 17 to August 4 , 2014 , he told the court that there was a lodgement of N100m on June 17.
He said that on June 23, there was a cash lodgement of N49 million; on June 24, a cash lodgement of N200,000; while on August 4, there was a cash lodgement of N40 million.
According to him , on same August 4, there were also cash lodgements in the sums of N 35 million, N 35 million, N 24 million, N20 and N14 million respectively.
The witness told the court that Agbele made the deposit on June 17, while from the statement before him, he could see that it is written “Ayo” as depositor of the funds on August 4.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, adjourned till January 21 and 28 for continuation of trial.
EFCC in its charge claimed on June 17, 2014, that Fayose and Agbele took possession of the sum of N 1.2 billion for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti State, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.
It said the offences contravened the provisions of sections 15 ( 1 ) , 15 ( 2 ) , 15 ( 3 ) , 16 ( 2 ) ( b ) , 16 ( d ) , and 18 ( c ) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 .
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