The trial of three officials of Independent Electoral Commission, INEC – Jummai Lawan Ibrahim, Kabir Bello and Musa Buba Amshi, accused of corrupt receipt of monetary benefits to the tune of N243, 067,000 (Two Hundred and Forty-Three Million, Sixty Seven Thousand Naira) got underway on August 6, 2018 with three witnesses testifying.
Ibrahim and her co-accused are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a-6 count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy and abuse of office before Justice Fadawu Umar of the of State High Court, Maiduguri, Borno State.
Ibrahim, a retired Assistant Director, Public Affairs Directorate of the INEC, in connivance with Bello and Amshi (serving officials of INEC) allegedly conspired to collect slush funds from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.
Testifying, Muhammad Umar, while being led in evidence as PW1 by counsel to the EFCC, Khalid Sanusi, told the court that the accused persons collected bribe from an NGO that was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.
Umar, an Administrative Secretary and Account Officer of the Jalingo office of INEC stated that the second defendant (Bello) asked him to come to Fidelity Bank, Maiduguri Branch, with a vehicle to carry money sent by an NGO called “West African Election Observers”.
He further stated that the following morning Bello called and informed him that money was disbursed and he should come and collect Maiduguri Municipal Council’s share, which sum, N25million, was collected with a break down on how the money was shared.
When asked how elections are funded by INEC, Umar said: “Elections are funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria through statutory allocation and donor agencies”, adding that donor agencies release funds directly to the INEC account.
“Political parties do give money to ad-hoc staff in form of assistance, requesting them to assist their parties. The N25million was collected to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential Election for Peoples Democratic Party’’, he said.
Under cross-examination by counsel to the second and third accused, Zanna Hamza, the PW1 said, he did not tell operatives of the EFCC that, the money was meant to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential Election.
In his evidence, James Hydima, who testified as PW2, narrated how he received instruction from the Head office of Fidelity Bank, that some persons were coming to the branch to receive cash.
Hydima, an Operations Manager, of Fidelity Bank, Maiduguri Branch, informed the court that, “On 27th March 2015, I received an instruction from the Head office of Fidelity Bank, that some persons were coming to the branch to come and receive cash from our branch”.
He said: “I called the Head of Operations in order for him to identify the names of the people receiving the money. The Head Office directed that I should make arrangement to withdraw cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria because the monies were more than our limit
“I brought the sum of N243, 067,000 (Two Hundred and Forty-Three Million, Sixty Seven Thousand Naira) from the Central Bank of Nigeria. I called the Head Office and they identified the first and second accused persons.
“Based on the instruction from the Head Office, I collected Jummai’s Identity card, but Kabir did not oblige me. However, both Jummai and Kabir signed payment slips and payment receipts.
“Jummai later came back with the sum of N7million and deposited it in her personal account.
“The EFCC requested for account opening package, statement of account and certificate of Compliance of Jummai, which the bank obliged”.
Also in his evidence, an Operative of the EFCC, Maiduguri Zonal Office, Dauda Umar, who testified as PW3, told the court that, the office received intelligence report of a case of money laundering to the tune of N23billion involving Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, which sum she allegedly shared through Fidelity Bank across Nigeria.
According to him, out of the said sum, N243,067,000 was signed and collected by the first and second defendants in Fidelity Bank, and was shared at the residence of Musa Buba Amshi, the third defendant.
His words: “On the 20th April 2016, the first accused was invited and she informed our team that, as the State Coordinator of Borno State, she was directed by an NGO called “West African Election Observers” to sign and collect funds from Fidelity Bank, Maiduguri, for 2015 Presidential election”
Giving details on how the money was shared, the PW3 said: “Jummai received N60million, Bunu Mulima N100million, while PW1, Bello and Amshi received N25million, respectively”.
Thereafter, the case was adjourned
The prosecution at the resumed sitting today, August 7, 2018, presented its PW4, Salisu Mohammad Rabiu.
Rabiu, an Operative of the EFCC, attached to the AFF, told the court that, letters were written to Fidelity bank and other banks, Corporate Affairs Commission and INEC.
Documents tendered and admitted in evidence include: a reply letter from Fidelity Bank to EFCC ‘Exhibit A’; refunds made by the accused as ‘Exhibit B-B1-11’; The Corporate Affairs Commission reply to EFCC (which shows the NGO was not registered) ‘Exhibit C’ and withdrawal instruments of Fidelity bank as ‘Exhibits E’.
At this point, Muhammad Umaru, counsel to the first defendant and Zanna Hamza, representing the second and third defendants raised objections on the grounds that, their clients’ statements were obtained by “inducement, duress, threat, intimidation and promise”.
Though the objection was countered by the prosecution who said the statements were voluntarily rendered, Justice Umar ordered for trial-within-trial and adjourned August 8, 2018, for hearing.