Army, SSS, Police Shared Diezani’s $115m Bribe – Witness

The Federal High Court in Lagos Thursday heard how several individuals and public officials shared in an alleged bribe of $115m paid by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, to compromise the 2015 general election.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) named the officials Thursday during the trial of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Dele Belgore before Justice Rilwan Aikawa.

In two documents it tendered before the court, the anti-graft agency said the persons benefited from N450 million and N155, 220,000 out of the $115m (about N36 billion) Diezani cash.

The disbursements, which the EFCC claimed were bribes, were contained in a document titled, “Security and Transportation per State”, and another one titled, “Kwara State”.

According to the first document, the Resident Assistant Inspector-General of Police (IGP) in Kwara State at the time got N1 million cash, the Commissioner of Police (COP) in Kwara State at the time received N10m cash, while the Deputy COP in charge of Operations got N2 million cash.

Also, the Assistant Commissioners of Police in charge of operations and administration in Kwara State, received N1 million cash each.

The document also showed that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara State for the 2015 general elections got N10 million cash, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Administrative Secretary in Kwara State at the time received N5 million cash.

According to the document, INEC’s Head of Department, Operations and “his boys” were given N5m, while “other officers” received and shared N2m among themselves.

Also listed as beneficiaries of the alleged bribe in Kwara State were the “OC Mopol” and “his men”, who got N7 million, “2iC Mopol” and men in the state, who got N10m; the Director of the State Security Service (SSS) and his men, who got N2.5m.

The military in Kwara State was bribed with N50m, according to the document, while other security agencies including the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) got N20m..

An EFCC investigator Usman Zakari, who brought the document, told the court that it was recovered from Belgore.

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Belgore is accused of collecting N450m from Diezani and distributing same to beneficiaries in Kwara State.

The EFCC said he handled the cash without going through any financial institution, contrary to sections 1(a), 16(d), 15(2)(d) and18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

According to the commission, the offence is punishable under sections 15(3)(4), and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

Standing trial along with Belgore for the offence is a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman.

The SAN and the don were arraigned on charges of money laundering on February 8, 2017 but they pleaded not guilty.

Zakari is the second witness to be called by the EFCC in its efforts to prove its case.

Testifying before Justice Aikawa on Thursday, the witness explained that Belgore volunteered the list to the EFCC when he was invited and interrogated by the anti-graft agency.

The investigator pointed out Belgore’s endorsement on the document, stating: “document supplied by me, Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN).”

The second document the EFCC said it recovered from Belgore, also showed showed beneficiaries of a sum of N155, 220,000 and the breakdown of what they got.

Among them were 15 electoral officers who each received, 250,000; 15 supervisors, who got N100, 000 each; state Returning Officers who got N1m, among others.

The two documents were tendered by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, and admitted in evidence as Exhibit 7 and 7A, against Belgore and Suleiman, as their lawyers, Mr. Ebun Shofunde (SAN) and Mr. Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN), raised no objection.

In his evidence, Zakari told the court that the EFCC’s findings showed that the money was disbursed in cash to the beneficiaries.

“My Lord, the mode of payment, as contained in Exhibit 7, is cash payment. The payments were not done through any financial institution,” Zakari said.

Meanwhile, Justice Aikawa entertained Belgore’s application seeking the dismissal of the charges on the grounds that the EFCC failed to attach an affidavit showing that it had concluded investigation in the case before bringing the case to court.

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Moving the application on Thursday, Belgore’s lawyer, Shofunde, argued that the failure of the EFCC to attach an affidavit saying it had concluded investigation before filing the charges was a fundamental breach of the Federal High Court Practice Direction and which had rendered the charges incompetent.

He urged Justice Aikawa to quash the charges and free his client.

But in opposition, the EFCC lawyer, Oyedepo, argued that the current law governing criminal cases in the country was the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

He argued that the ACJA did not list filling of the said affidavit as one of the conditions that must be fulfilled before a criminal charge could be filed in court, stressing that the provisions of the ACJA were superior to that of the Federal High Court Practice Direction.

Besides, he referred Justice Aikawa to Section 221 of the ACJA which barred a judge from entertaining any application challenging the competence of charges in a criminal case in the middle of trial and Section 396(2) of the Act, which barred a judge from ruling on any such application until judgment is delivered in the case.

While urging the judge to dismiss the application, Oyedepo said granting it would “amount to slaughtering justice on the altar of technicality.”

Justice Aikawa adjourned till July 7 for ruling.

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