By OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Usman Zakari yesterday told a Federal High Court in Lagos how a senior advocate of Nigeria, Dele Belgore distributed part of the $115 million doled out by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, to security agents and electoral officers to compromise the 2015 general election.
Zakari, an investigator with the EFCC, listed out the names of the security agents and staffs of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) while testifying on a document allegedly recovered from Belgore, who was the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Kwara State during 2015 elections.
Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning during President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, Ayanlaja (SAN) were arraigned before the court by the EFCC on a five count charge of conspiracy and money laundering.
The witness, in his testimony claimed that the Resident Assistant Inspector-General of Police in Kwara State at the time received N1m cash while the state’s Commissioner of Police at the time received N10m cash.
Zakari also told the trial judge, Justice Rilawan Aikawa that the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations got N2m cash while the two Assistant Commissioners of Police in charge of operations and administration received N1m cash each.
The witness, who was reading out the names and sums from the tendered document further claimed that the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kwara State for the 2015 general elections was also given a cash of N10m, while the Independent National Electoral Commission’s Administrative Secretary in Kwara State at the time received N5m cash.
He also indicted the INEC Head of Department, Operations, who he alleged collected for himself and “his boys” N5m, while he stated “other officers” received and shared N2m among themselves.
Also listed as beneficiaries of the Diezani bribe in Kwara State according to the witness were OC Mopol and “his men”, who got N7m; 2Ic Mopol and men in the state got N10m; the Director of the State Security Service and his men, who got N2.5m.
Zakari also indicted the military in Kwara State, he alleged that the military was bribed with N50m, while other security agencies including the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps got N20m.
The witness told the court that Belgore volunteered the list to the EFCC when he was invited and interrogated by the anti-graft agency.
He showed the court potion of the document containing Belgore’s endorsement, stating that “document supplied by me, Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN)” the document is titled, “Security and Transportation per State.”
The anti-graft agency also tendered another document allegedly recovered from Belgore also showing other beneficiaries.
The second document simply titled “Kwara State” showed beneficiaries of a sum of N155,220,000 and the breakdown of what they got.
Among them were 15 electoral officers who each received, 250,000; 15 supervisors, who got N100,000 each; state Returning Officer, who got N1m, among others.
Zakari further testified that the EFCC’s findings showed that the money was disbursed in cash to the beneficiaries.
The witness said, “My Lord, the mode of payment, as contained in Exhibit 7, is cash payment. The payments were not done through any financial institution.”
Also during Thursday’s proceedings, Justice Aikawa heard an application filed by Belgore seeking the dismissal of the charges against him on the grounds that the EFCC failed to attach an affidavit showing that it had concluded investigation in the case before bringing the case to court.
Counsel to Belgore, Ebun Shofunde (SAN), argued that the failure of the EFCC to attach an affidavit saying it had concluded investigation before filing the charges was a fundamental breach of the Federal High Court Practice Direction and which had rendered the charges incompetent.
The lawyer therefore urged Justice Aikawa to quash the charges and free his client.
But the EFCC counsel, Oyedepo, insisted that the current law governing criminal cases in the country, was the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Oyedepo submitted that the ACJA did not list filling of the said affidavit as one of the conditions that must be fulfilled before a criminal charge could be filed in court, stressing that the provisions of the ACJA were superior to that of the Federal High Court Practice Direction.
He cited Section 221 of the ACJA which barred a judge from entertaining any application challenges the competence of charges in a criminal case in the middle of trial and Section 396 (2) of the Act, which barred a judge from ruling on any such application until the final judgment in the case.
Oyedepo urged the court to dismiss the application because granting it would “amount to slaughtering justice on the altar technicality.”
Justice Aikawa adjourned the case to July 7 for ruling.
The EFCC had alleged in charges that former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired with the two defendants on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The trio were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through the financial institutions.
Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one Sheriff Shagaya, without going through the banks.
The offences according to the prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo, are contrary to Sections 18(a)15(2)(d),1(a), 16(d) and punishable under sections 15(3) and 4, 16 (2)(b), and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
Both Belgoreand Sulaiman once again pleaded not guilty to the charge.
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