By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Full-blown trial of the former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, kicked-off before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, with a police officer, Mr. Victor Ehiabhi, narrating how he helped the defendant to receive N26million from Office of the National Security Adviser in 2014.
Ehiabhi who testified as the first prosecution witness, PW-1, identified himself as an Intelligence Operative with the Force Intelligence Bureau.
He told the court that he was deployed from the bureau’s Very Important Persons Protection Unit, to serve as Fani-Kayode’s security aide, prior to the 2015 presidential election.
In his evidence-in-chief, the PW-1, said he was accompanied by Fani-Kayode’s domestic staff to receive the money from office of the NSA at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the money which was stuffed inside a Ghana-Must-Go bag, was handed to him at a time the defendant was out of town.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Johnson Ojogbane, the witness said: “On November 21, 2014, on that fateful day, my principal travelled out of town and he detailed me to be within town.
“The gardener and other domestic staff were also around within the premises. The house is at Aso Drive Abuja.
“One of the gardeners, called Francis, called me on phone and told me that the defendant had called him on phone that I should accompany him (Francis) and another domestic staff, Esther, to the National Security Adviser’s office at the Villa.
“And not too long after, the defendant himself called me and told me the same thing.
“The driver named Kenneth was directed to drive us to the venue.
“We moved to the venue at Suleiman Barawo Street in the Villa.
“While at the venue, the driver, Kenneth, and the gardener, Francis, were asked to stay in the compound while I and Esther walked into the building.
“We identified ourselves as personnel of the defendant.
“The staff in the office asked who was Victor. I answered I was the one.
“They asked me to tender my identity card and I did.
“The man in the office brought out a paper and asked me to endorse it on behalf of the defendant.
“The sum of the N26m was written on the document for the defendant.
“I initially decided not to endorse the document on behalf of the defendant.
“But the man in the office insisted that since I was the policeman I should be the one to endorse the document, so I signed it.
“The man in the office brought out the sum of N26m in N1,000 denominations, and put it in one ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bag. He gave it to us, Esther and I, for the defendant.
“We took it out of the office and beckoned on Francis and Kenneth to take it to the booth.
“So we departed from the house and departed to house of the defendant with the money.
“On getting to the house, we took it inside the house.
“As of the time the money was taken to the house, the defendant had not returned. As I said earlier he had travelled out of town.”
The PW-1 told the court that Fani-Kayode, upon his return to Abuja, invited him and others involved in moving the money home and thanked them.
“The defendant had called me on phone and told me to ensure maximum security within the house until his arrival.
“On the same day, at about 11pm, the defendant returned. When the defendant returned from his journey, he acknowledged the money and he sent for us, myself, Esther and thanked us.
“Subsequently I was invited by the EFCC. On getting to the office of the EFCC, I was asked if I ever worked with the defendant and I said yes.
“While answering the question, the personnel brought out the document that I signed at the Office of the National Security Adviser on November 21, 2014.
“There and then I was made to write a statement”, he added.
Meanwhile, counsel to the defendant, Mr. Wale Balogun, applied for an adjournment to enable him to cross-examine the witness.
Consequently, trial Justice John Tsoho adjourned the matter till June 6.
The former Minister who was the Director of Media and Publicity in the campaign team of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2015 election, is facing a five-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him over alleged N26m fraud.
He was accused of illegally receiving N26million from the detained former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, before the election to organise media campaign for Jonathan.
EFCC maintained the he committed an offence contrary to section 17(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 17(b) of the same Act.
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