“On the contrary, we asked the presidential campaign headquarters for funds for the election, because there were agitations from candidates and stakeholders for funds. We were told there were no funds available, but that a series of fund raising activities had been lined up...Up until then, no one other than PW1 and PW2 had told me that the N450million did not come from the fundraising activities conducted by the Presidential Campaign Organisation.”
Dele Belgore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), on Tuesday told Justice Rilwan Aikawa sitting in Federal High Court in Lagos that he never met or dealt with Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources.
He said he was not aware that the N450million he signed for in 2015 came from her.
Belgore, who was the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation coordinator in Kwara State ahead of the 2015 general election, was testifying in his trial before Justice Aikawa.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged him; Professor Abubakar Suleiman, the former National Planning Minister; and Alison-Madueke (said to be at large) with money laundering.
In the nine-count charge, EFCC accused them of making cash payment of N10million to Dr Emmanuel Onucheyo, the Kwara State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), at the time.
The commission said they also paid N10million to Garba Saliu, a Commissioner of Police, on March 27, 2015 without going through a financial institution.
The sums, the commission said, exceeded the amount authorised by law and violated Sections 1(a) and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b).
EFCC said they “directly took possession of the sum N450million,” which they allegedly indirectly spent, adding that they “reasonably ought to have known [that the money] forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act”.
Belgore and Suleiman pleaded not guilty.
Two prosecution witnesses had testified that Alison-Madueke collected N23billion from three oil marketers, Northern Belt Ltd, Actus Integrated Ltd, Midwestern Company, and one Mr Leno Laitan, ahead of the 2015 general election, and that it was part of the money that Belgore signed for.
But Belgore, who said he did not know the companies, explained how he came about the N450million.
“I don’t know any of the said marketers that PW1 claimed provided the money. I never met or dealt with them. PW1 and PW2 (EFCC investigators) said the money was paid out on Diezani’s instructions. I have no information about that. I never met her. I have never spoken with her. I never dealt with or spoken with anybody claiming to be acting on her behalf,” he said.
Belgore said he was made to believe that the money was from the campaign organisation and not from another source.
He said: “On the contrary, we asked the presidential campaign headquarters for funds for the election, because there were agitations from candidates and stakeholders for funds. We were told there were no funds available, but that a series of fundraising activities had been lined up.
“I know that funds were indeed raised. I also know that within a very short time, the headquarters called me and said the funds were available. On March 26, 2015, I received a call from the financial director of the campaign organisation, Mrs Nenadi Usman, that the money had been sent.
“There was no basis, evidence or indication that the money came from any other place other than the presidential campaign headquarters. As a matter of fact, it was during my interrogation in November 2016 that I first heard from PW2 that said funds did not come from the presidential campaign headquarters as I was made to believe.
“Up until then, no one other than PW1 and PW2 had told me that the N450million did not come from the fundraising activities conducted by the Presidential Campaign Organisation.”
Two separate video clips from bank CCTV camera recordings were shown in court. They were tendered by Belgore to prove that he did not leave the bank with the money even though he signed for it.
“I did not see myself in the first and second videos. I could not make out anybody I knew in them,” he said.
The first clip lasted for about 55 minutes, while the second lasted for one and a half hours.
Justice Aikawa adjourned until March 27 and April 10 for continuation of trial.