The Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) Thursday named some top officers of the Nigerian Police Force and civil servants who allegedly benefited from a bribe scandal totaling $115 million doled out by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke. The purpose of the bribe, offered in cash disbursements, was apparently to enlist the police and civil service officers in a scheme to compromise the 2015 general elections in favour of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In a document tendered by the EFCC before the Federal High Court in Lagos, the anti-graft agency stated that the then Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in Kwara State received N1m cash. The EFCC disclosed that, while the Commissioner of Police in Kwara State at the time received N10m in cash, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations got N2m.
The EFCC also alleged that the Assistant Commissioners of Police in charge of operations and administration in Kwara State received N1m cash each.
According to the EFCC document, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kwara State for the 2015 general elections was given N10m, while the Independent National Electoral Commission’s Administrative Secretary in Kwara State at the time received N5m in cash.
The head of Operations Department at INEC, along with “his boys,” were handed N5m, while “other officers”unnamed officials received and shared N2m among themselves.
Other beneficiaries of the Diezani bribe in Kwara State included the officer in charge of the mobile police (Mopol) and “his men” who got N7m, the second-in-command of the Mopol unit in the state, who got N10m, and the Director of the State Security Service (DSS) and “his men,”who got N2.5m.
The military unit in Kwara State received bribe of N50m, according to the EFCC document, while other security agencies, including the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps, got N20m.
An EFCC investigator, Usman Zakari, who brought the document to court, told Justice Rilwan Aikawa that the document was recovered from Dele Belgore, a senior Nigerian lawyer on trial for his alleged involvement in the bribe scandal.
Mr. Belgore is standing trial before Justice Aikawa for allegedly collecting N450m from Ms. Alison-Madueke and distributing the funds to beneficiaries in Kwara State.
The EFCC has accused the lawyer of handling the funds in cash without going through any financial institution, a violation of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The EFCC said Mr. Belgore is liable to be punished under sections 15(3)(4), and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
Standing trial along with Mr. Belgore for the offence is a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suleiman, a professor. The two defendants were on February 8, 2017 arraigned on charges of money laundering, but they pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Zakari is the second witness called by the EFCC in thecase.
Testifying before Justice Aikawa, the investigator Mr.Zakari explained that Mr. Belgore volunteered the list to the EFCC when he was invited and interrogated by the anti-graft agency. He noted that the document, titled “Security and Transportation per State”, was signed by the accused lawyer who stated, “document supplied by me, Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN).”
The EFCC also submitted as exhibit another document recovered from Mr. Belgore containing the names of other beneficiaries from the bribe. That exhibit, simply marked “Kwara State,” showed beneficiaries from a slush fund of N155, 220,000, including a breakdown of what individual beneficiaries received.
Among the beneficiaries were 15 electoral officers who received 250,000 each, 15 supervisors who got N100, 000each, and the State Returning Officer who got N1m.
EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, tendered the two documents which the court admitted in evidence as Exhibit 7 and 7A against Mr. Belgore and Mr. Suleiman. The defendants’ respective lawyers, Mr. Ebun Shofunde and Mr. Olatunji Ayanlaja, raised no objection.
Mr. Zakari testified that the EFCC’s investigation established that the funds were disbursed to the beneficiaries in cash.
“My Lord, the mode of payment, as contained in Exhibit 7, is cash payment. The payments were not done through any financial institution,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Justice Aikawa heard argument in an application by Mr. Belgore seeking dismissal of the charges on the grounds that the EFCC failed to attach an affidavit showing that it had concluded investigation before bringing the case to court.
Moving the application today, Mr. Belgore’s lawyer, Mr. Shofunde, argued that the EFCC’s failure to attach an affidavit stating it had concluded investigation prior to filing charges was a fundamental breach of the Federal High Court Practice Direction. Arguing that such failure rendered the charges incompetent, Mr. Shofunde urged the court to quash the charges and free his client.
Opposing the application, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Oyedepo, argued that the current law governing criminal cases in the country was the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. He argued that the ACJA did not list filing of the said affidavit as one of the conditions to be fulfilled before a criminal charge could be filed in court. He stressed that the provisions of the ACJA were superior to that of the Federal High Court Practice Direction.
In addition, Mr. Oyedepo referred Justice Aikawa to Section 221 of the ACJA which barred a judge from entertaining any application challenging the competence of charges in a criminal case in the middle of trial as well as Section 396 (2) of the Act, which barred a judge from ruling on any such application until the final judgment in the case.
He urged the judge to dismiss the defendant’s application, adding that it would “amount to slaughtering justice on the altar of technicality.”
Justice Aikawa adjourned till July 7 for ruling.