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Prosecution commences trial in cases against Emefiele, Sirika

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The prosecution commenced trial on Tuesday, May 28, before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in two criminal cases involving former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, and ex-Aviation Minister, Hadi Abubakar Sirika.

Emefiele was, on May 15 arraigned before Justice Maryanne Anenih on a four-count charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the charge, marked: CR/264/2024 Emefiele is among others, accused of approving the printing of new naira notes between October 2022 and March 2023 without recourse to due process of law.

He was also accused of approving the withdrawal of the total sum of N124,860,227,865.16 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation in a manner not prescribed by the National Assembly.

The alleged offences are said to be contrary to and punishable under Section 123 of the Penal Code Law, Cap. 89 Laws of the Federation, 1990.

Sirika and his brother, Ahmad Abubakar Sirika are facing a 10-count charge bordering on contract fraud in respect of which they were arraigned on May 23 before Justice Suleiman Belgore.

The ex-minister and his brother (staff of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources) were arraigned with two companies – Enginos Nigeria Limited, and Samahah Integrated Investments Limited.

In a count of the charge, marked: FCT/HC/CR/347/2024 the EFCC accused Sirika of awarding three contracts, valued at about N5,772,279,460.00 to a company – Enginos Nigeria Limited – owned by his brother, Ahmad.

In the Emefiele case, the prosecution called its first witness, Ahmed Bello Umar, who said he retired in July last year as the Director of Currency Operations at the CBN.

Led in evidence by prosecuting lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Umar said he knew the defendant as the Governor of the CBN while he served as the Director, Currency Operations.

He explained that the management of the apex bank comprised two major structures – the Committee of Governors (COG) and the Board of Directors (BOD).

Umar further explained that the COD is made up of five members, which include the Governor ( as Chairman) and, the four Deputy Governors of the bank (as members).

He said the BOD is made up of 12 members, which include the Governor, the four Deputy Governors, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGoF) and five external members appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The witness the BOD is the highest decision-making body of the CBN, while the COG takes care of operational matters as it relates to the day-to-day running of the bank.

Umar recalled that sometime in August 2022, the management of the CBN directed his department to come up with a memo on the redesign of the naira notes.

“We prepared the memo for the consideration of the COG and passed it through the line Deputy Governor, (that is Deputy Governor, Operations), which he forwarded to the Governor,” he said

The witness added that the COG deliberated on the memo until October 26, 2022, when its directions and approvals were forwarded to his department

He said after the meeting of the COGs on October 26, the Corporate Secretariat Dept conveyed anticipatory approval from the COGs, pending ratification by the BOGs.

The witness said the COG did not approve all the requests as contained in the memo prepared by his department, adding that while some were rejected, some were modified.

“The proposal for the exercise to take place in 2023 was not accepted by the COG.

“The memo was referred for the consideration of the BOD and it was so considered by the BODs on the 15th of December 2022,” he said.

The witness explained the procedure for the issuance of new notes and coins by the CBN.

He said the procedure to issue new notes or coins requires that the BOD communicates to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the design, form, and devices that shall be contained in the currency.

The witness added that after the approval of the President, the production of the currency will commence.

At that point, Oyedepo applied for an adjournment on the grounds that he wished to attend the burial programmes for the late former Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde.

Defence lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) did not oppose the prosecution’s request for an adjournment, following which Justice Anenih adjourned further proceedings till Wednesday afternoon.

In the trial of Sirika and others, the prosecution also called its first witness, Musa Odiniya, who retired on May 5 last year as the l Director of Procurement in the Federal Ministry of Aviation.

Led in evidence by prosecuting lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) Odiniya took the court through the procurement procedure in the ministry and the process for the award of the contract.

The witness’ testimony ended abruptly when Jacobs told the court that he also wanted to attend Lamorde’s burial events and sought an adjournment.

The three defence lawyers – Magaji, Michael Numa (SAN) and Sunusi Musa (SAN) did not object to the prosecution’s request for adjournment, following which Justice Belgore adjourned till 9 am on Wednesday.

The Nation

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