On Monday, February 12, 2024, Ogau Onyeka Michael, the first prosecution witness in Godwin Emefiele’s trial, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, or CBN, testified before Justice Hamza Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, Abuja, about how the former CBN head authorized the payment of $6,230,000 in cash for foreign election observers during the most recent general election in 2023.

Michael disclosed this information during his testimony in Emefiele’s current trial. The former head of CBN is on trial before Justice Muazu on 20 revised counts related to criminal breach of trust, corruption, forgery, and collecting money under false pretenses totaling $6,230,000.

Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, the prosecution’s attorney, guided Michael, a former branch controller of the CBN, Abuja branch, through the testimony process at the trial, which resumed on Monday. He identified the documents the prosecution had given him and stated that he had worked on them.

He claims that on January 8, 2023, his office received a $6,230,000 payment request, and the then-CBN boss cleared the paperwork for the money to be sent out in cash to foreign election observers.

“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,” he said.

Continuing, Michael explained that: “It stated that the payment was for election observance and be paid cash in the 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.”

While attempting to present all six documents as exhibits, Oyedepo informed the judge that two documents bearing the signatures of the President and the former SGF were photocopies. As a result, she only attempted to present the four original documents, hoping the other two would be tendered later when the case was ongoing. To go to the CBN building and obtain the original copies, he also requested a 30-minute standdown from the court.

Mathew Bukka, SAN, the defense attorney, opposed Oyedepo’s prayers. He moved to postpone the case until February 13 and contended that Oyedepo’s requested 30 minutes would need more than 30 minutes for the prosecution to obtain the original documents from the CBN.

After hearing both sides’ arguments, Judge Muazu postponed the case to February 13, 2024, to continue the trial.

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