Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, says neither he nor his former principal, ex-President Muhammadu Buhari gave any approval for the disbursement of $6,230,000 to international election observers.
Mustapha disclosed this on Tuesday while testifying as the second prosecution witness in the trial of Godwin Emefiele, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Emefiele is standing trial on a 20-count amended criminal charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The amended charges border on alleged criminal breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, procurement fraud and conspiracy to commit a felony.
In some of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Emefiele, in January 2023, forged a document titled: “RE: PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE ON FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVER MISSIONS,” dated 26 January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.
According to the anti-graft agency, Emefiele made the claim despite knowing it to be false and committed an offence contrary to section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.
Emefiele, on February 8, 2023, in reference to the amended charge marked CR/577/2023, connived with one Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2 million from the CBN, claiming that the SGF requested it “vide a letter dated 26th January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.”
Reacting and led in evidence by Rotimi Oyedepo, Mustapha said he knew nothing about the transaction even after he left office in May 2023.
He said he only got to find out in December 2023 after the press published the news.
On sighting the documents which allegedly emanated from the Office of the President, the former SGF said: “on the face value of the document, I can say having served five years and seven months, this document did not emanate from the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Disputing the authenticity of the letter from the President, Boss said “a correspondence that carries the seal of the President of Nigeria does not carry a reference number. The seal is the authority.”
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“The Federal Executive Council (FEC) decisions are not transmitted by letters. They are transmitted through extracts after conclusions are adopted.
“I am the custodian of the record of FEC, for that reason, the President cannot refer any executive conclusion to me.
“All the years I have served, I have never heard of the term ‘special appropriation provision.’ The two terms known to me are appropriation as provided for by the Appropriation Act passed by the national assembly. The second is when the government finds a gap, it brings a supplementary appropriation.
“In all the correspondences I have received from Buhari, it has never had ‘please accept the assurance of my highest regard’. I am his subordinate.
“The signature is a failed attempt at reproducing President Muhammadu Buhari’s signature. But I will leave that to the experts,” he added.
Recall that a ormer branch controller of the CBN, Ogau Onyeka Michael, narrated how Emefiele, asked the apex bank to illegally pay $6,230,000 to international election observers.
In his confessional statement at Monday’s hearing as first prosecution witness for the EFCC, Ogau revealed that he received a memo on January 8, 2023, requesting payment of the sum, which was already approved by Emefiele.
Ogah had said, “My Lord, all requests for payments are usually channelled to the branch controller, and that is my office. And on that day, my Lord, the request to my office was $6,230,000, and my attention was drawn towards it by my office assistant. It came from the banking services department, and the memo carried the signature of the Director, Banking Services, with an instruction to the branch controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, bearing the name and identity card of the person.
“It stated that the payment was for election observance and should be paid cash in a naira equivalent of the said amount. It further stated that the money should be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance. My Lord, the document also stated that, ‘find attached the approval of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the payment.”
“Also, the memo had an attached approval of the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation and that of the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having gone through the document and satisfied that it met the requirement, I then minuted it to the head of the banking services unit for processing and subsequent payment. Mr. Williams, head of banking services, compiled and made the payment on April 8, 2023, and the payment was in cash. I can identify the document because it also carries my signature,” he added.
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