By Sandra Umeh
A former Minister of State for Defence, Mr Musiliu Obanikoro, on Tuesday told the court how he transferred the sum N1.2 billion from an account known as Sivan Mcmera being used security operations in Lagos to former Ekiti governor, Ayodele Fayose for election.
The money was allegedly used to prosecute the re-election of Fayose as Ekiti governor in 2014.
Obanikoro spoke as the 12th prosecution witness in the prosecution of Fayose by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged fraud and money laundering.
According to the former minister, the N1.2 billion was deposited into the account being used to fund clandestine security operations aimed at preventing terrorists’ activities in Lagos State in two batches.
He said the account which belonged to him was being operated by his son before he became a minister.
But he said he took over the account after he was appointed minister for use of funding the clandestine security operations in Lagos through the office of NSA.
Speaking from the exhibit he was shown by the prosecution counsel, Obanikoro said first there was an inflow of N200 million into the account on June 5, 2014, followed by N2 billion on June 16, 2014.
He said the money was transferred from the impress account of the National Security Adviser.
On whether he knew one late Mr Kareem Taiwo, he replied in the affirmative, adding that the said Taiwo was part of those who helped out with security operations.
He further told the court that he had received a call from Fayose, who was then a governorship candidate in Ekiti, asking if he had received any money from the Office of the NSA.
The witness told the court that he replied, `No’, and promised to get back to the defendant if the money arrived.
He said that when the money eventually dropped, he informed the defendant and asked how he wanted it sent.
Obanikoro testified that Fayose indicated that part of it should be in dollars and the other in Naira.
The former Minister said he then called Ado-Ekiti to find out from a bank if it had the amount, but was informed that the branch did not have.
He told the court that since elections were fast approaching at the time, he had to take the money by aircraft from Lagos.
He said that the money was carried in two batches.
He said that the first batch was loaded in an aircraft which conveyed him, while the remaining was loaded in another aircraft.
Obanikoro said that the total amount was N1.2 billion.
Obanikoro added that dollars were procured through a bureau de change but said he could not recall the exact amount.
He told the court that when he arrived in Akure, he saw an aide to the defendant who approached him and introduced himself.
He said that he then called Fayose on phone and he requested that the money should be handed over to the aide.
The witness told the court that he then instructed his orderly to go with the aide, while he proceeded to Ado-Ekiti to meet Fayose.
Obanikoro testified that in Akure, he saw a bullion van which came to pick the money.
He said he later met Fayose in a hotel in Ado Ekiti and told him what transpired at the airport.
The court adjourned the case until Feb. 1 for continuation of trial.
Fayose was first arraigned on Oct. 22, 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun alongside his company, Spotless Investment Ltd. on 11 counts.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail on Oct. 24, 2018, in the sum of N50 million with sureties in like sum.
He was, however, re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2, 2019, after the case was withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun following EFCC’s petition.
Fayose also pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was allowed to continue on the bail earlier granted.
The EFCC has since opened its case before Justice Aneke and is still leading witnesses in evidence.
In December 2021, the commission called its 11th witness, one Mrs Joanne Tolulope, who narrated how one Abiodun Agbele, said to be an associate of Fayose, allegedly bought property worth millions of Naira for the defendants.
During trial before Olatoregun, prosecution called witnesses from several commercial banks, as well as Obanikoro.
According to the charge against Fayose, on June 17, 2014, he and Abiodun Agbele illegally took possession of N1.2 billion for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti.
Fayose also allegedly received a cash payment of five million dollars (about N1.8 billion) from Obanikoro without going through any financial institution.
He is also charged with unlawfully retaining N300 million in a bank account and illegally taking control of about N622 million.
The EFCC alleges that the former governor reasonably ought to know that the money was part of crime proceeds.
It also alleges that the defendants procured De Privateer Ltd. and Still Earth Ltd. to illegally retain N851 million.
It claims that Fayose used about N1.6 billion crime proceeds to acquire property in Lagos and Abuja.
The commission also charged Fayose with using N200 million crime proceeds to acquire a property in Abuja in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji.
The alleged offences contravene Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011.