A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday admitted in evidence a statement made by one late Justin Erukaa, who worked as Personal Assistant to Musiliu Obanikoro, former Minister of State for Defence, before his death.
In a short ruling, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun admitted Erukaa’s statement and marked it as Exhibit J in the ongoing trial of Ayodele Fayose, former Governor of Ekiti State, over allegations bordering on N2.2billion fraud.
At the previous hearing, Olalekan Ojo (SAN), the second defence counsel had tendered the statement made by Erukaa made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the course of investigating the alleged N2.2billion fraud against Fayose.
Ojo said Erukaa’s statement was relevant to the case, adding that it could be admitted in the absence of the deceased.
“In law, the first litmus test of admissibility is relevance. Obanikoro said in his testimony that he sent Erukaa on errands, including to collect $1million and he came and met him in Ekiti,” Ojo had told the court.
After the judge admitted Erukaa’s statement in evidence, the case proceeded with further cross-examination of Obanikoro, who is the fifth witness to testify for the EFCC against Fayose.
While fielding questions from Ahmed Tafa, who stood in for Ojo, Obanikoro reiterated that he was into farming, noting that his farms are in Lagos, Badagry and Ogun states. He also confirmed knowing a company, MOB Integrated Limited.
“That company is owned by my son,” the former Minister of State for Defence said.
When asked by Tafa if he knew that staff members of MOB Integrated Limited were signatories to the bank account of Fayose’s co-accused, Sylvan Mcmanara Ltd, Obanikoro said: “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
He explained again that Sambo Dasuki, the then National Security Adviser (NSA), entered into an agreement with Taiwo Kareem, who owns Sylvan Mcmanara Ltd., to use the firm’s account for the disbursement of funds for security operations in Lagos.
Obanikoro said after the agreement with Kareem, he took over Sylvan Mcmanara Ltd’s account in supervisory capacity, adding that all the major decisions taken on the account were cleared with him.
“There were three transactions. One was for the security of Lagos; one for election in Ekiti and for election in Osun State,” he said.
When Tafa asked if “matters of elections were matters of security,” Obanikoro said: “They can be.” But when asked if the Office of the National Security Adviser funded his campaign while he was vying for governorship on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, Obanikoro answered: “Not to my knowledge.”
He said he had no records of his transactions with the NSA. He, however, said he would not be surprised if the record of the NSA showed no N2.2billion transaction.
Justice Olatoregun adjourned further proceedings till Tuesday.
The EFCC arraigned Fayose and Sylvan Mcmanara Ltd on October 22, 2018 on 11 counts bordering on criminal breach of trust, stealing and money laundering.
Among other things, the EFCC alleged that on June 17, 2014, Fayose took possession of the sum of N1,219,000,000 to fund his 2014 governorship campaign in Ekiti State, which he “reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing”.
He was also alleged to have on the same day “received a cash payment of $5,000,000 from Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the then Minister of State for Defence, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law” and “thereby committed an offence contrary to sections 1 and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act”.
In another count, Fayose was accused of “using an aggregate sum of N1,151,711,573 to acquire chalets 3, 4, 5 and 9 of the property situated at Plot 100, Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island, Lagos in the name of JJ Technical Service.” Fayose was equally accused of purchasing a property at Plot 1504, Yedsema Street, Maitama, Abuja for N270million from one Rabi Kundili.
The former Governor was also alleged to have purchased another property at 44, Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja for N200millio in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji.
The former Governor and the firm pleaded not guilty to the charges.