The ongoing trial of former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, took a dramatic turn on Monday, as the first prosecution witness, Ogau Onyeka Michael, revealed startling details of how Emefiele allegedly approved the payment of $6,230,000 for international election observers during the 2023 general elections.
Testifying before Justice Hamza Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Maitama, Abuja, Michael, a former branch controller of the CBN Abuja branch, recounted the sequence of events leading to the controversial payment.
Michael, led in evidence by prosecution counsel Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, highlighted that the request for the hefty sum of $6,230,000 came to his office on January 8, 2023.
He said that documents for the disbursement of the funds were approved by Emefiele himself, in cash, for international election observers.
According to Michael, the request originated from the banking services department and bore the signature of the Director of Banking Services, instructing the branch controller to disburse the specified amount to a staff member of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The payment was purportedly designated for election observance and was to be refunded by the Federal Ministry of Finance in the second quarter of 2023.
“The document also stated that ‘find attached the approval of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the payment,'” Michael asserted, underscoring the purported approval from Emefiele.
The witness further detailed the process, mentioning that the memo included approvals from the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the President of Nigeria.
Michael explained that after verifying the documents and ensuring they met requirements, he forwarded them to the head of the banking services unit for processing.
The payment was subsequently made on April 8, 2023, in cash, with Michael confirming his signature on the relevant documents.
“My Lord, all requests for payments are usually channelled to the branch controller and that is my office. And on that day, my Lord, the request to my office was $6,230,000 and my attention was drawn towards it by my office assistant. It came from the banking services department and the memo carried the signature of the Director, Banking Services, with an instruction to the branch controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, bearing the name and identity card of the person”, Michael said.
During the trial, Oyedepo sought to tender all six documents as exhibits but faced objections from the defence counsel, Mathew Bukka, SAN, regarding the authenticity of photocopies.
Oyedepo requested a 30-minute recess to secure the original documents from the CBN complex.
However, the defence argued for an adjournment until February 13, 2024, to allow sufficient time for document retrieval.
After considering both sides, Justice Muazu adjourned the trial to February 13, 2024, for the continuation of proceedings as the case delves deeper into allegations of corruption, conspiracy, and breach of trust against Emefiele.