The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday heard that former Petroleum Resources Minister Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke allegedly shared $115,010,000 (about N37 billion) among individuals in 36 states.

Some who allegedly received the money were a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mohammed Dele Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, who received N450million in cash, the court heard

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) re-arraigned Belgore and Suleiman yesterday on an amended charge in which Mrs. Alison-Madueke was included as a defendant.

She was absent in court. EFCC said she was “at large”.

The first prosecution witness, Mr. Timothy Olaobaju, a banker, said Mrs. Alison-Madueke lodged the sum in a bank and gave instructions that it should be converted to naira and shared.

Suleiman had claimed in a statement after he was first arraigned on February 8 that the N450million was part of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign fund, which came from oil marketers.

He claimed the cash was part of voluntary donations made to the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan by some undisclosed marketers.

The ex-engineer also said neither him nor Belgore benefited from the money.

Suleiman made the clarifications against the backdrop of his arraignment, adding that the EFCC had no business investigating private donations.

But testifying before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, Olaobaju said the money came from Mrs. Alison-Madueke.

He spoke while presenting evidence after Belgore and Sulaiman pleaded not guilty to the amended five-count charge.

Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness said in April 2014, his bank’s managing director gave a directive that certain companies and individuals would pay into an account with the bank.

“The purpose of the payment was not disclosed. Over the period, thereafter, some amounts were paid money into the account. The funds were deposited in dollars. The total sum was $115,010,000.

“On March 27, 2015, there was an instruction from the former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, through our MD, that the fund in the account should be converted to naira and paid to certain individuals.

“The funds were paid according to Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s instructions. The names of the defendants (Belgore and Sulaiman) were on the list sent to our branch. The money was paid in about 36 states of the federation,” the witness said.

Olaobaju said although the defendants were not the bank’s customers, the instruction was that they should be paid.

“The instruction was that the sum of N450million should be paid to Mr. Dele Belgore (SAN) and Prof. Abubakar Suleiman.

“They both received the money and filled the Receipt of Payment as evidence of receipt of the money and acknowledgment of same,” the witness said.

Olaobaju said Belgore and Sulaiman signed separate receipts for the N450 million on March 27, 2015. The receipts were admitted in evidence as Exhibits 1 and 1A.

The witness said no cheque was issued in favour of Belgore and Sulaiman, nor was the money paid into any account.

“To my knowledge, the N450million was not credited into any account,” he said.

Sulaiman, a professor of Political Science and International Relations, and Belgore, a former governorship aspirant in Kwara State, were accused of conspiring between themselves to commit the offence on March 27, 2015.

EFCC accused them of conspiring to take possession of the N450million, which they reasonably ought to have known was part of proceeds of an unlawful act.

The commission said they committed the alleged offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
In the second count, EFCC said they “directly took possession of the sum”; in the third count, the defendants were accused of conspiring to make cash payment of N450 million, which “exceeded the amount authorised by law without going through a financial institution”.

The alleged offence, EFCC said, was contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2) (b) of the same Act.

In the fourth and fifth counts, they were accused of making cash payment of N450 million to Sheriff Shagaya without going through a financial institution.

The sum, the prosecution said, exceeded the amount authorised by law and is contrary to Section 1(a), Section 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

Belgore and Suleiman pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Their trial continues today.

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