An investigative officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Usman Zikari, has revealed to the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos how former Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke shared $115 million with politicians and influential figures across Nigeria, including former Minister for National Planning Abubakar Suleiman.
Mr. Zikari, in his testimony, said the money was stashed in Fidelity Bank’s vault before it was shared amongst the politicians and some Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officers in exchange for compromising the 2015 general election.
He also showed the court a receipt of N450 million which was the alleged sum collected by Dele Belgore, a senior advocate of Nigeria, and Mr. Suleiman. The receipt also showed that the duo signed to acknowledge receiving such sum.
Mr. Zikari explained that sometime in 2016, the anti-graft agency received an intelligence report that three oil marketers – Auctus Investment Ltd, Northern Belt Gas, and Midwestern Oil and Gas – and an individual, Leonor Olaitan, took $89 million to Fidelity Bank on the instruction of Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
The witness added that an unknown aide of the former minister also took $25,776,000 to the bank.
EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo, who led the examination-in-chief, asked the witness to explain to the court what happened to the money after it had been deposited in Fidelity Bank.
Responding, Mr. Zikari said the money was first converted to naira and then distributed to various politicians.
He went further to say that in the course of investigation, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, was invited for questioning.
“Investigation was extended to Fidelity Bank headquarters. The MD was invited and so were several other stakeholders,” the witness said.
“During the interview with the MD, it was revealed that in December of 2014, the MD had a meeting with Mrs. Alison-Madueke, where she told him that an individual would be bringing money, and that he should keep the money and wait for her further instructions,” he added.
The witness claimed that the money was brought in as promised and further instructions to convert and distribute the funds were given via the email address of the former minister’s son, Ogbonna.
He then showed the court a printed copy of the email exchange between the MD and Ogbonna.
Mr. Belgore and Mr. Suleiman are standing trial on a five-count charge for conspiring to take possession of N450 million, “which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.”
The EFCC said they committed the alleged offense on March 27, 2015, contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The defendants were also accused of conspiring to make a cash payment of N450 million, which “exceeded the amount authorized by law without going through a financial institution.”
The alleged offense is contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
Justice Ridwan Aikawa adjourned the matter till June 15.