Robert Azibaola, a cousin to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, has closed his defence in the alleged $40 million fraud charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
His defence team led by Chris Uche, SAN, presented two witnesses before closing its case on February 6, 2019.
Azibaola and his company, One Plus Holdings, are facing a two-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, of a Federal High Court, Abuja.
They are alleged to have received $40 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, during the tenure of Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) without any contract agreement.
Testifying as the first defence witness, Azibaola, under cross-examination by prosecuting counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, had on February 5, 2019, admitted that there was no formal contract between his company and ONSA.
He had also told the Court that his company wrote to the NSA, “but it was not a memo to initiate the agreement, but a memo to carry out the assignment”.
The “assignment”, according to him, was “discreet in nature”, and “it was meant to take care of people sabotaging the nation”.
Specifically, he said, the money was meant for “a specific assignment to resolve issues relating to oil bunkering and theft in the Niger Delta, and it was used for that”.
Before closing its case, Uche presented the second witness, Iyeryfama Jaja, a businessman, and a subcontractor with Monier Construction Company, who narrated how his group benefitted from N5 million out of the $40 million.
In his evidence-in-chief, Jaja told the court that sometime in June 2014, one Wellington from One Plus Holdings, approached him and explained to him that Azibaola had a business deal for the people in the creeks.
He said: “The government wanted us to leave pipelines where multinational companies have their pipes, mostly where there is spillage that comes from the pipe in the creeks of the Niger Delta region.
“When we get this oil, we create a manual canal to the point where we have an oven to extract the oil products.
“Immediately I was offered the proposal, I swung into action by convincing a number of people to leave the alleged illicit act of diverting crude and a number of people who wanted to leave the business submitted their names.
“The names were forwarded to Wellington in anticipation of the compensation to leave the business.”
He added that two weeks later, Wellington came back to ask for their bank account details, which none of them claimed to have; he however, told the representatives from One Plus Holdings to “bring cash if you mean business”.
He further told the court that there were other units, but in his unit they were 13 in number with him being the unit commander.
Jaja, however, disagreed with the court of being labelled as “oil bunkerers” arguing that “we were not oil saboteurs, we were only taking care of the waste that was destroying the environment”.
According to the witness, One Plus Holdings later visited each group in the units for security reasons and shared the money according to their responsibilities.
Jaja further explained to the court that his group was the first beneficiary to receive N5 miilion, and that he personally received that of his unit which he shared.
“I don’t know how much other groups got, but I am aware that everybody got something and left the creek,” he added.
Explaining further, Jaja said he collected the money and settled his boys, adding that he received N500,000 and gave the balance to his second-in-command, who shared the rest of the money according to their ranks.
But when the defence counsel asked if he received any receipt, he said that he was not issued with any receipt, noting that the only document he signed was a document from One Plus Holdings acknowledging the receipt of N5 million.
“Wellington never told me the source of the money, but all he said was that the money was from the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he added.
Under cross-examination by Tahir, he was asked to sign on a piece of paper to establish credibility on the document.
Jaja signed on a paper, which was thereafter, tendered as an evidence and admitted as Exhibit 36.
He admitted that he was one of the beneficiaries of Amnesty International from the beginning when the programme started, adding that he also benefitted from the money given by One Plus Holdings.
The case has been adjourned to February 28, 2019.