Buhari’s signature forged to withdraw $6.2m from CBN, ex-SGF tells court

The immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, on Tuesday, appeared as a witness in the ongoing trial of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama.

Mustapha, who mounted the box and testified as the fourth prosecution witness, PW-4, revealed to the court that both his signature and that of former President Muhammadu Buhari, was forged by those that withdrew $6,230,000 from the vault of the apex bank on February 8, 2023.

He told the court that he was neither aware nor took part in any correspondence that led to the withdrawal of the fund which was allegedly meant for the payment of foreign election observers.

Led in evidence by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the former SGF maintained that documents that authorised the withdrawal of the money, neither emanated from his office nor the presidency.

He equally denied receiving any amount from the said money.

While faulting the authorization letter that was purportedly issued from his office, Mustapha, told the court that it was not the business of the federal government or the office of the SGF to request funds from the CBN for the payment of foreign election observers.

He said the responsibility of relating with such observers was solely that of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

While distancing himself from the withdrawal, the witness, said: “My lord, all through my service year as the SGF, I never came across these documents.

“It was claimed that Buhari also signed, but on the face value of this document, having served for five years and seven months as SGF, this document did not emanate from the president for the following reasons.

“A correspondent that has the seal of Nigeria does not carry a reference number. The seal is the authority.

“Secondly, I have looked at it and read the document. Federal Executive Council, FEC, decisions are not transmitted by letters. They are transmitted through extracts after conclusions are adopted.

“Thirdly, I am the custodian of FEC, the president will not refer executives’ conclusions to me.

“Also, in all the five years and seven months I stayed in office, I never heard of the term ‘Special Appropriation Provision’, referred to me.

“The terms known to me my lord are appropriation as provided by the Appropriation Act, which is normally passed by the National Assembly. When the government file drafts, it brings Supplementary Appropriation.

“In all the correspondences I have received from Buhari, it has never had or ended with: ‘Please accept the assurance of my highest regard.’

“I am his subordinate. My correspondences do not carry that.

“And lastly, looking at the signature, it is a failed attempt at reproducing Buhari’s signature. I will leave that to the experts,” he added.

An official of the apex bank, Mr. Onyeka Ogbu, had earlier in his testimony, told the court that the money was withdrawn and handed in cash to an official from the office of the SGF, named Jibril Abubakar.

He said the action was backed by approvals by both President Buhari and the embattled former CBN governor, Emefiele, following a request by the ex-SGF, Mustapha.

However, in his evidence, the former SGF told the court that he never knew the said Abubakar, adding that he was not a staff in his office.

He equally told the court that contrary to the claim in the letter, President Buhari did not preside over the FEC meeting on the day the purported approval was given, but the then Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Meanwhile, trial Justice Hamza Muazu has adjourned further hearing in the matter till March 7.

The former CBN governor is answering to an amended 20-count charge the EFCC preferred against him.

The charge against him borders on criminal conspiracy, forgery, breach of trust and the allegation that he conferred undue advantage on himself.

Specifically, EFCC accused the defendant of obtaining about $6.2million through false pretence, alleging that he falsely represented the SGF.

He was accused of committing an offence that was in contravention of Section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.

According to the amended charge, marked: CR/577/2023, Emefiele, on February 8, 2023, connived with one  Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2m from the CBN, claiming that it was requested by the SGF “vide a letter dated 26th January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.”

EFCC alleged that the defendant, in January 2023, forged the document titled: “RE: PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE ON FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVER MISSIONS.”

It further alleged that contract for the renovation of the CBN Governor’s lodge, located at No. 2 Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was awarded to a company named Messrs Architekon Nigeria Limited, wherein Emefiele’s wife and brother in-law, were directors and majority shareholders.

Offences the defendant committed, according to the EFCC, contravened sections 17, 19 of the corrupt practices and other related offences Act, 2000, as well as sections 315, 363 and 364 of the penal code.

The court had on November 22, 2023, granted Emefiele bail to the tune of N300m with two sureties in the like sum.

The court stressed that the sureties must be resident within the FCT Abuja and owners of landed properties within the Maitama District.

Besides, the court seized his travelling documents.

One of the counts in the amended charge, read: “That you, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, male, adult, sometime in March 2020 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 your wife, Omoile Margret, and brother-in-law Omoile Macombo, by awarding a contract for the external renovation of the CBN Governor’s residence lying, being and situate at No. 2 Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, in the sum of N99.826m to Messrs Architekon Nigeria Limited, a company wherein the duo are directors and majority shareholders and you thereby committed an offence.”

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