A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, sitting at Maitama, on Tuesday, commenced full-blown hearing on the case the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
The first witness in the matter, Mr. Samsudeen Romanus, in his Evidence-in-Chief, told the court that the embattled former boss of the apex bank was neither the owner nor a shareholder in a firm, April1616 Investment Limited, which the anti-graft agency alleged was illegally awarded contracts by the Defendant.
The PW-1, who was brought to testify before the court by the EFCC, identified himself as a top official at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.
Led in evidence by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the witness read in the open court, names of all the shareholders of the company, among whom included; Aminu Idris Yaro, Maryam Aliyu Abdullahi and Saadatu Ramalan Yaro, who are the joint owners.
He further tendered several documents to show how the company was incorporated on August 1, 2016, adding that Emefiele’s name was not captured in any of the firm’s ownership documents.
The witness explained that though the CAC was responsible for incorporation of the company, it, however, had no role to play in the day-to-day running of affairs of the entity.
After he was discharged from the box, the second witness, Remigious Ugwu, a Compliance Officer with Zenith Bank Plc, narrated before the court, how various sums of money were paid into the account of April1616 Investment Limited by the CBN.
Ugwu told the court that on October 19, 2020, a sum of N39, 060, 465 was paid into the firm’s account, followed by another N421, 953, 488 on November 6, 2020, with the third sum of N304, 883, 720, paid on November 23, 2020, to the same company, by the CBN.
The witness equally told the court that non of the payments had any link with Emefiele’s name, saying he did not know the purpose for the payments.
The PW-2 further tendered various documents on behalf of the bank, adding that the former CBN governor was not a signatory to the bank account of the company.
Similarly, the third witness, Oluwole Owoeye, a Deputy Director, Banking Services with CBN and former Secretary to Major Contract Tendering Committee MCTC of the CBN, said that his organization was responsible for ensuring contracts awarded by the apex bank, complied with the Procurement Act.
Owoeye told the court that his committee was not involved in the vetting of bidding for the award of contracts that led to the prosecution of Emefiele.
The PW-3 explained that another committee handled the bidding process for the contracts since it was above the threshold tat his Committee could handle.
” My Lord, all I know, which is through our records, is that contracts for award of vehicle supplies were awarded to April1616, but I cannot say whether the contracts were executed or paid for because my Committee played no role,” he added.
He told the court that MCTC and Procurement Department were fully functional while Emefiele held sway as CBN governor.
Meantime, trial Justice Hamza Muazu adjourned further hearing in the matter till January 18 and 19, 2024.
It will be recalled that the court had on November 22, granted bail to the former CBN governor to the tune of N300million.
However, almost a week after the court ruling, Emefiele had yet to perfect his bail conditions as he attended his trial on Tuesday from the Kuje Correctional Center.
The court had ordered him to produce two sureties who must be z
resident within the FCT Abuja, and who must have landed property within the Maitama District with the value of the bail sum.
Justice Muazu said he was minded to grant the bail application that Emefiele filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Mathew Burkaa, SAN.
The court had earlier ordered Emefiele to surrender all his travelling documents.
It will be recalled that the former CBN governor had on November 17, pleaded not guilty to the charge the anti-graft agency entered against him.
Specifically, Emefiele was in the amended charge marked CR/577/2023, accused of complicity in a procurement fraud that was to the tune of about N1.2billion.
Though the initial charge the EFCC filed against him contained 20 counts and had a female CBN employee, Sa’adatu Yaro and her company, April 1616 Investment, as defendants, however, only Emefiele was listed as a defendant in the amended charge.
The prosecuting agency alleged that the former CBN governor illegally bought 43 vehicles between 2018 and 2020, worth N1.2bn.
He was further accused of giving a corrupt advantage to Yaro by awarding her a contract for the procurement of 37 Toyota Hilux Vehicles valued at N854m.
One of the counts in the charge, read: “That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, male, adult, sometime in 2018 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did use your position as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to confer a corrupt advantage on Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria by awarding a contract for the supply of 37 Toyota Hilux Vehicles at the cost of N854,700,000 only to April1616 Investment Ltd, a company in which the said Sa’adatu Ramallan Yaro is a director and thereby committed an offence.”
President Bola Tinubu had on June 9, suspended Emefiele from office as the head of the apex bank.
He was later arrested at his Lagos residence by the Department of State Services, DSS.
Emefiele had since then, faced a two-count charge of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition before the Federal High Court in Lagos, as well as a 20-count corruption charge.
Proceedings in both cases were put on hold, following the decision of the Defendants to explore a plea bargain deal with FG.
The former CBN boss was later transferred to the EFCC detention facility on October 26, by the DSS.
Following a fundamental right enforcement suit he filed through his lawyers, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, on November 8, ordered his immediate release from detention, after he had spent 151 days in the custody of security agencies.