The trial of the immediate-past Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose for alleged theft and money laundering opened on Monday with a prosecution witness narrating to the court how a former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, helped the ex-governor to move N1.2bn cash from Lagos to Ekiti by loading the cash in three aircraft.
Fayose and a firm, Spotless Nigeria Limited, are being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before the Federal High Court in Lagos for an alleged N2.2bn fraud.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Fayose used the money for his governorship election in Ekiti State in 2014, adding that he ought to have reasonably known that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities.
The two defendants were arraigned on October 22, 2018 before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on 11 counts bordering on criminal breach of trust, theft and money laundering.
They, however, pleaded not guilty.
In a bid to prove the allegations, the EFCC opened its case on Monday, calling four witnesses – all bankers.
The 4th prosecution witness, Mr Damola Otuyena, who identified himself as the Head, Cash and Transit Services, Diamond Bank, narrated to the court how he delivered N1.2bn cash in a bullion van to Obanikoro and his son, Gbolahan, on June 16, 2014 at the private wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and how the ex-minister loaded the money into about two or three aircraft for onward movement to Ekiti State.
Otuyena said the transaction began when he received instructions from his director, one Premier Oyewo, who said the bank needed to pay N1.2bn cash to some beneficiaries on behalf of a firm, Sylvan McManara, and that he (Otuyena) needed to get the cash ready.
He said the transaction instructions were accompanied with a list of six beneficiaries and how much each should be paid.
He added that the document bearing the instructions was signed by the signatory to the account of Sylvan McManara, who did not write his name and gave instructions that the bank should pay the beneficiaries without demanding their means of identification as he (the unnamed signatory) had waived the beneficiaries’ identifications.
According to Otuyena, the beneficiaries and the amount of money they were to receive were listed as Santuraki Bello, N200m; Yusuf Olama, N120m; Chimenu Njokwu N250m; Josiah Moses N280m; Abubakar Zana, N200m; and Franklin Tolani N150m.
The banker, however, said he waited for the beneficiaries but they did not turn up, and when he informed his director, he was told to proceed to the airport with the money and wait for further instructions.
The witness said, “We then contacted the company that renders the bullion van services to help us move the cash to the airport and it was moved to the private wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport but when we got there, we could not gain access.