HomeCourt room newsEmefiele’s Trial: Documents Used to Pay Election Observers $6.2m Forged, Ex-SGF Testifies

Emefiele’s Trial: Documents Used to Pay Election Observers $6.2m Forged, Ex-SGF Testifies


Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha has said that ex-President Muhammadu Buhari’s signature was forged by those who withdrew $6,230,000 as authorised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on February 8, 2023.

Mustapha, who testified on Tuesday in the trial of former CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, said his signature was also forged.

The SGF said he knew nothing about the money said to have been withdrawn for the payment of foreign election observers.

Mustapha, who spoke as a prosecution witness, told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama that it was not the business of the Federal Government or the office of the SGF to request funds from the CBN for the payment of foreign election observers.

He said it was solely the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deal with issues relating to election observers and other election-related matters.

A Deputy Director in the CBN, Michael Onyeka Ogbu, had told the court on Monday that the money was handed in cash to an official from the office of the SGF, named Jibril Abubakar, upon approvals by President Buhari and Emefiele, following a request by the SGF.

The prosecution is accusing Emefiele of being behind the withdrawal.

Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Mustapha identified Emefiele (who was seated in the dock) when asked if he knew who the defendant was.

Mustapha, who said he is a lawyer and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1980, said Emefiele was the Governor of the CBN when he served as the SGF from 2017 to 2023.

Asked if he knew anything about the transaction relating to the payment of the $6,230,000, he said: “I wish to state that, up until when I left office, I knew nothing about this transaction.”

Mustapha was then shown a document, marked as Exhibit PD7, said to be a letter from President Buhari, approving the payment and asked if he recognised the document.

Mustapha said he was seeing the document for the first time in the court.

He added: “On the face value of this document, having served (as the SGF) for five years and months, I can say that this document did not emanate from the office of the president.”

The witness explained that correspondence that has the seal of the President does not carry a reference number as the seal serves as the authority.

Mustapha added: “Looking at the signature, it is a faint attempt at reproducing President Buhari’s signature.”

The former SGF also faulted the document on the ground that it purported to convey a decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is not normally conveyed via letters.

He said: “I have looked at it. I have read it. Federal Executive Council decisions are not transmitted by letters. They are transmitted through extracts after conclusions are adopted.

“I am the custodian of the record of the Federal Executive Council. So, for that reason, the President will not be referring the conclusion of EXCO to me.

“In all the five years and seven months that I served, I have never heard of the term – Special Appropriation Provision – that was refered to here (in the letter).”

The witness said he was only familiar with appropriation, as provided by the Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly and Supplementary Appropriation.

He also faulted the concluding part of the letter, saying that it was unusual for the President to end his letter to the SGF by saying: “Please, accept the assurances of my highest regard.”

Mustapha said being the President’s subordinate, his letter to the SGF can not end in that manner.

The former SGF also said the Nigerian government has no business funding foreign election observers.

He added: “That I know as a fact because I have managed two election circles. INEC has the sole responsibility in that area.”

On the claim in the letter that the decision to approve money for foreign observers was taken at the 187th FEC meeting held on January 18, 2023, the witness said it was not true.

He agreed that there was actually a FEC meeting on January 18, 2023, but that the meeting was presided over by the Vice President because the President was away.

The witness also said the issue of payment to foreign observers never featured on the meeting’s agenda, which he prepared as the SGF.

Mustapha said: “My role as the secretary is to prepare the agenda for the meeting and on that day, there was a 16-point agenda. There was no item on the agenda that has to do with payment to foreign election observers.”

When shown another document, marked: Exhibit PD6, said to be his letter conveying the presidential approval to the Governor of the CBN, Mustapha also faulted it.

He said: “To the best of my knowledge, this letter did not emanate from the office of the SGF. If it did not emanate from the office, then, I did not sign it. No, I did not sign it.”

Mustapha also explained why he said the letter was not from his office.

He said having not been privy to the internal operations of the CBN, he could not have written in the letter “Attention, Director, Banking Services.”

He also noted that the heading of the letter was defective, pointing out that the heading said: “Re: Payment for foreign election observers,” which presupposes that there was a previous correspondence.

Mustapha denied knowledge of any Special Task Force on Logistics, which the letter claimed was set up by the Federal Government, and Jibril Abubakar, a Principal Executive officer, who is alleged to be the coordinator of the task force.

He also denied introducing any Jibril or Jibril Abubakar to the Governor of the CBN as claimed in the letter.

Mustapha said: “Again, this letter did not conform to the standard in which we write letters in the office of the SGF.”

He said the reference in any letter from the office of the SGF is usually very clear and each paragraph is numbered.

He said neither the whole $6,230,000 nor part of it was brought to him.

On why he gave a specimen of his signature to the EFCC during his interrogation, Mustapha said: “I gave my specimen signature to the EFCC because they needed it for further verification since I denied the authorship of the letter allegedly written by me, that is Exhibit PD6.”

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer, Matthew Burkaa (SAN), Mustapha denied knowing Jibril Abubakar, who Ogbu claimed came to collect the money in cash.

He said no official of the CBN, Garki branch, where the money was paid out, contacted him to inquire if he knew the said Jibril Abubakar.

On whether he and Emefiele were not given the money, Mustapha who said he could only speak for himself, maintained that he was not given any money.

He said he had no discussion with Emefiele about any such money, adding that it is not the usual practice for the SGF to receive money from the CBN for election observers.

Mustapha stressed: “The issue of observers is that of the INEC. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a request from the office of the SGF for money from CBN for election observers.”

Burkaa also cross-examined Ogbu, who while testifying on Monday, claimed that the money was processed for payment to Jibril Abubakar because of the approval of the President, which was conveyed by a letter from the SGF to the CBN Governor, accompanied by the CBN Governor’s endorsement and further instruction by the Director, Banking Services Department.

When asked if he saw Emefiele signing the document, he said no.

Ogbu also said Jibril Abubakar’s BVN was not verified before the money was paid to him, and that they only worked with his work identity card as contained in the instructions for payment.

The witness defended the payment of the money, saying that he acted correctly and with due diligence and that the transaction was not fraudulent.

Ogbu, who is the Branch Controller in charge of the Garki branch, Abuja where the money was paid out, said his branch has CCTV and that there is CCTV footage of February 8, 2023, showing Jibril Abubakar who received the money.

The witness said he had seen the CCTV footage and that it showed the officer who counted the money and handed it to the receiver.

He said the CCTV footage also showed how Jibril Abubakar received the money and left the banking hall.

Ogbu added: “The footage showed the teller who paid, that is, the person called Usoro. Jibril was the person nominated by the SGF. He was the one authorised in the document to collect the money.”

He noted that the Controller of the branch where the money was paid and the Director of Operation are not standing trial because of the transaction.

Ogbu also said he was not aware that the Deputy Governor, Operations and Director, Bank Service Department, are standing trial.

He said: “I am not aware that the person who collected this money is standing trial.

“I am not aware that Boss Mustapha, the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation is standing trial in respect of this transaction.

“I did not pay any money directly to the defendant. I am not aware that part of the money is traced to his account.

“He (the defendant) did not call me to ask me to make the payment while he was the governor.

“My evidence that the defendant approved the payment is based on the documents presented to me, not that I saw him approve it.”

Ogbu maintained that he only acted based on what he saw on paper.

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