By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — Full-blown trial of former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, kicked off before the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, with a police officer, Mr. Victor Ehiabhi, narrating how he helped the defendant to receive N26 million 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 Barau 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 N26 million 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 denomination, 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 boot. So we departed for the house of the defendant with the money.
“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.
Meanwhile, counsel to the defendant, Mr. Wale Balogun, applied for an adjournment to enable him 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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