By Michael Ojo
Trial of a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenadi Usman and others, resumed before a Federal High Court Lagos on Tuesday, with cross examination of a prosecution witness, Mr Shehu Shuaibu.
Shuaibu is a third witness for the prosecution, who had commenced his evidence since November 2019, and is now being cross examined by the defence.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Usman alongside a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
Also charged is a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Ltd. EFCC preferred a 17-count charge of N4.6billion money laundering against them.
They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
On Tuesday, trial resumed before Justice Rilwan Aikawa with first defence counsel Chief Ferdinard Orbih (SAN) cross examining the witness.
Orbih asked the witness, if he personally took the statements of any of the defendants , and the witness replied in the affirmative.
When defence counsel insisted that there was no column in the statement of first defendant showing that her statement was recorded by the witness, he replied:
“I wrote the cautionary word and I can show the court my handwriting”.
Witness further explained that although there is a column to be filled by the maker of a statement, such column can be filled by another who records the statement on her behalf, in situations where such defendant cannot do so.
Orbih then asked the witness if it is correct as he had earlier stated under cross examination, that the first defendant asserted in her statement to have known that the funds came from government.
The witness replied that although the witness earlier said that the monies was not from the expected source, she had however, later discovered that the funds was from the Permanent Secretary of the State House, one Engr Emordi.
Defence asked: “Will I be right to say that the first defendant told you that the inflows into the account of Joint trust on January 8, 13 and 15, 2015, came from Emordi”
Witness replied “No”
The witness also said he could not remember if the first defendant had stated that she was informed by the perm sec that he had some campaign contributions to make.
Defence then put it to the witness that from the statement of account of joint trust mentioned, there were inflows to show that funds also came in from companies and individuals.
The witness replied that there were inflows from companies, individuals, government as well as Nuban over head account.
For instance, the witness confirmed the following inflows:
“N500 million from Global Scan System Ltd on February 11, 2015, N300 million from Diamond Bank on Jan. 30, 2015 and N250 million from Castillo Torres BDC Ltd on Feb. 11, 2015.
“N100 million from Afri gate Energy Ltd, and N500 million from Chief Emeka Ofor on March 13, 2015,”
He, however, said that he was not sure if they were truly donations, as some of these alleged donated monies were still under investigation.
Defence then asked the witness”Since 2015 how many of those who made inflows into this account have you charged to court,”
Witness; “It is not my duty to charge anyone, I am just an investigator,”
Defence: “Did you say you found that government money was stolen and paid into Joint trust dimension,”
The witness replied Yes.
Orbih consequently asked the witness “Who then stole this government money,”.
The witness replied “They conspired to transfer the monies from government account into Joint trust, without executing any contract,”
Again, by way of illustration Orbih then asked the witness, “when a car is involved in an accident, do you leave the driver of the car and charge the conductor”
The witness replied “My Lord, I am not a lawyer”
There was consequently, an uproar of laughter from the audience in the courtroom.
Cross examination of Shuaibu will now continue on Feb. 26.
In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.
In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, the defendants were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile in counts 15 to17 Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
All offences were said to have contravened the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money laundering (prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The case is adjourned to February 26, 2020.