N1.2 billion cash was airlifted to Fayose in 2014, Ex-minister tells court
Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, on Wednesday, told the Federal High Court in Abuja, how about N1.2 billion cash was ferried in an aircraft from Lagos to Ekiti State for Ayodele Fayose, a former Ekiti State governor.
The money was allegedly delivered to Mr Fayose in July 2014, about a month before his second term election as Ekiti State governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Mr Fayose, whose first term in office was from 2003 to 2006, successfully ran for a second term in 2014, against the then-incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi.
The N1.2 billion in question is the subject of the ongoing trial of Abiodun Agbele, who served as an aide to Mr Fayose.
Mr Agbele is being tried before a Federal High Court judge in Abuja, Nnamdi Dimgba.
Mr Fayose is also facing a similar but separate trial in the Lagos division of the Federal High Court.
The EFCC in August 2016 arraigned Mr Agbele and three other companies before Mr Dimgba on 11 counts of money laundering involving N4.7 billion, which was allegedly taken by a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, from the NSA office’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The three companies charged alongside Mr Agbele were Sylvan Mcnamara Ltd linked to Mr Obanikoro; De Privateer Limited run by Mr Agbele, and Spotless Investment Limited, whose bank account was allegedly being operated by Mr Fayose and his wife, Feyisetan.
The EFCC alleged that, on 17 June 2014, Mr Agbele along with Mr Obanikoro and other suspects said to be at large, fraudulently took N1.2 billion from the total N4.7 billion allegedly diverted from ONSA’s account when they “reasonably ought to have known” that the money was part of proceeds of Mr Dasuki’s unlawful activity”.
The commission alleged that Mr Agbele and the three companies did retain, transfer and convert part of the proceeds of the funds for their personal use when they “reasonably ought to have known that they were part of proceeds of Dasuki’s unlawful activity.”
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Mr Obanikoro, who testified for the EFCC as a prosecution witness, said the N1.2 billion was airlifted to Ekiti State for Mr Fayose because Diamond Bank which was holding the money was unable to disburse due to the volume of the cash.
When the prosecuting lawyer, Wahab Shittu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, asked Mr Obanikoro to expatiate on the source of the N1.2 billion, he replied that he did not know the source of the money and that he only got the information on the money from Mr Dasuki.
The witness explained that it was Mr Dasuki who informed him that the said money had been paid into the account of Sylvan Mcnamara Ltd (Obanikoro’s firm).
“I was a minister under Jonathan administration in 2014. Sometime in 2014, we were going to have an election in Ekiti State. I was saddled with the responsibility of coordinating the activities in the election.
“Some days before the election, I got a call from Governor Fayose asking me if I received any message for him from ONSA, I can recall that prior to that, we had some activities among which was fundraising for the purpose of that election.
“When Mr Fayose called, I told him I would call him later. I had a phone conversation with the NSA and was told he would get back to me.
“After, he got back to me that N2.2 billion was paid into the account of Sylvan Mcnamara Ltd,” Mr Obanikoro revealed.
“The money came from the NSA. I can’t vouch for the source of the funds. Only the NSA can explain the source of the fund.
“I handed over the N1.219 billion cash to Agbele (an aide to Mr Fayose) for onward delivery to Fayose. I did not take any money or N19 million, contrary to a publication by a Lagos-based online platform,” he added.
‘Money meant for election in Ekiti’
Mr Shittu further asked the witness about his relationship with Sylvan Mcnamara Ltd.
In his response, Mr Obanikoro said, “The account was created to deal with the issue of Boko Haram in Lagos, the account was created by Taiwo Kareem and was used for the purpose of disbursing funds for election.
“I put a call through to let (Mr) Fayose know that the money had been paid. Diamond Bank had said it did not have the capacity to make the funds available, so we opted to airlift the funds. The funds were airlifted from Lagos in two tranches, the volume was much.
“Myself, my ADC and my security orderly were there, including a top aide of Fayose to meet Mr Agbele, the bank manager. I instructed my orderly to escort Mr Agbele and ensure the safe delivery of the money,” the former minister said.
Asked about the source and what the funds were meant for, Mr Obanikoro said, “They were meant for our election in Ekiti. It came from Diamond Bank. N1.219 billion was moved from Diamond Bank out of the N2.2 billion.”
Diamond Bank has since merged with Access Bank Plc.
Mr Obanikoro further informed the court that Diamond Bank in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, said it lacked the capacity to disburse such funds. He said the cash was so much that it had to be airlifted twice.
“We airlifted the funds from Lagos in two tranches because the aircraft could not accommodate the funds. We used two aircraft and I was in one of the aircraft.”
After listening to the testimonies, the judge, Mr Dimgba, adjourned the suit until 27 February 2024, for continuation of trial.