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Nigerian govt witness admits Emefiele didn’t confer corrupt advantage on himself

Michael Agboro, a Federal Government witness in the trial of former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele on corruption charges has admitted at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), that Emefiele did not confer any unfair, corrupt advantage on himself in the award of contracts to some companies during his tenure at the apex bank.

Emefiele is standing trial on 20 counts amended charges preferred against him by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

He was alleged to have engaged in criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to obtain by false pretence and obtaining money by false pretence, when he served as the apex bank’s boss.

Among the allegations was that the former CBN boss forged a document titled: Re: Presidential Directive on Foreign Election Observer Missions dated January 26, 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201 and purported same to have emanated from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (AGF).

Besides he is also accused of using his office as CBN governor to confer unfair and corrupt advantage on two companies; April 1616 Nigeria Ltd and Architekon Nigeria Ltd.

However at Monday’s proceedings, the federal government in trying to establish its charge called on its 7th prosecution witness, Agboro, an investigator with the Independent, Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

Agboro led in evidence, by Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN tendered several documents including company registration documents and awards of contracts as well as payments for contracts relating to the two forms.

In his evidence, the investigator claimed that Emefiele conferred unfair and corrupt advantage in the award of contracts to April 1616 and Archtekon because documents his team, comprising of persons drawn from the ICPC, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Department of State Service (DSS), showed that while a Director of April 1616, Mrs Saadatu Yaro is a Public Officer with the CBN, Emefiele’s wife, Margaret Omoyile and his brother-in-law, Mac Congo are Directors in Architekon.

However, during cross examination by Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr Mathew Burkaa, SAN, the witness when asked whether the defendant conferred unfair and corrupt advantage on himself, answered that, “he conferred on Saadatu Ramalan Yaro, who is a Public Officer working under him. He also conferred on his wife and brother-in-law but did not confer any on himself personally.

Question: So he did not confer on himself.

Answer; No. We limited our investigation to him, his wife, relatives and associates.

Besides, the witness admitted that nowhere in their findings did they discover that Emefiele was a director or shareholder or signatory to any account in either April1616 limited or Architekon Nigeria limited.

He also admitted that there was no evidence of any payment made to Emefiele by the companies in the course of performing his duties at the CBN.

Also when asked if in the course of their investigation they interviewed people in the CBN to determine whether the two firms executed the jobs they were contracted to do, the witness said “yes”.

However, when asked if the team in their final report stated this fact, the witness said he could not recall if they did.

Agboro had earlier admitted that his team did a report on their investigation which was forwarded to the Director General Department of State Service DSS, adding that he did not come to the court with it.

When asked if he was conversant with the procedure of award of contracts in the CBN, the witness who replied in affirmation, however, told the court that “I cannot remember” whether the defendant was part of the procurement and tender committees that vetted, reviewed and recommended April 1616 and Architekon for the various projects they handled.

Question: Are you aware that all the contracts that formed the basis of this charge passed through the vetting committee ?

Answer: I don’t know.

“In the course of your investigation did you see any document which showed that the defendant (Emefiele) either by phone call, email or official communication of CBN made representation that April 1616 and Architekon should be awarded these contracts?

Answer: No.

Question: So as it relates to the award of contract to these two companies, you did not know if all these processes laid down by the CBN were followed?

Answer: You are correct.

Meanwhile, the witness admitted that April 1616 went through a bidding process with other companies and won the various contracts awarded to it.

Agboro further confirmed that he did not visit the contract sites to verify if the jobs awarded to the firms were done.

Question: Since you did not visit, you will not know if the contract was carried out or not?

Answer: Yes.

When asked if he thought it was wrong for payments to be made to the contractors after jobs had been completed, Mr Agboro confirmed that it was not inappropriate to make such payments.

Upon further cross examination regarding the number of people that treated a document for a final award of contracts, the witness confirmed that there are up to 10 persons that minuted on a contract document; whereas only the defendant (Emefiele) out of 10 is charged with criminal offense.

Question: You will agree that of the 10 persons, it is only the defendant that is standing trial?

Answer: Yes.

On the issue of Emefiele’s wife being a Director of Architekon, the witness who claimed that besides documents obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Emefiele himself during an interview confirmed that Margaret Omoyile is his wife, however said he could not recall if Emefiele told him during the same interview that his wife was not a Director of Architekon.

Agboro in addition, admitted that his team did not interview Emefiele’s wife nor his brother-in-law regarding their membership of Architekon.

“You believed what the defendant told you in the interview?

Answer: Yes.

Question: In the interview did he not tell you that Margaret is his wife but that she is not a Director in the company?

Answer: I cannot remember, unless I refresh my memory.

Meanwhile, Justice Hamza Muazu has adjourned further trial till April 25 for further cross examination of the 7th defendant.

Emefiele in the amended charge was alleged to have, on February 8, 2023 knowingly obtained, by false pretence, $6,230,000.00 by falsely representing that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation sent a letter dated January 26, 2023 with Ref No. SGF 43/L.01/201 requested the CBN to provide a contingent logistic advance in the sum of $6,230,000 “in line with Mr. President’s directive.”

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