Buhari’s signature forged to move $6.2m from CBN – Ex-SGF

Boss Mustapha

The immediate-past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said on Tuesday that $6.2m was released from the Central Bank of Nigeria in February 2023 using a forged document.

The money, he said, was released for foreign observers ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Mustapha stated this when he appeared as the fourth prosecution witness in the ongoing fraud trial of the immediate-past CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, before the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja.

The EFCC arraigned Emefiele on amended 20 counts bordering on forgery, criminal conspiracy, conferring undue advantage, and breach of trust, among others.

Specifically, the EFCC accused Emefiele of impersonating the SGF to illegally obtain a sum of $6.2m from the CBN.

The EFCC alleged that on February 8, 2023, Emefiele connived with one Odoh Ocheme, who is now on the run, to obtain $6.2m from the CBN, claiming that it was requested by the SGF “vide a letter dated 26th January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.”

According to the EFCC, Emefiele allegedly claimed that the SGF requested the CBN to release “a contingent logistic advance for $6,230,000.00 in line with Mr. President’s directive.”

The anti-graft agency alleged that Emefiele, in January 2023, forged a document titled: “RE: PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE ON FOREIGN ELECTION OBSERVER MISSIONS,” dated 26 January 2023 with Ref No. SGF.43/L.01/201.

At the resumed trial on Tuesday, the ex-SGF was led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN).

Mustapha told the court that the document with which the $6.2m was moved out of the CBN came neither from his office nor from the office of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mustapha said, “All through my service year as the SGF, I never came across these documents claimed to have been signed by Buhari. From the face value of this document, having served for five years and seven months as SGF, this document did not emanate from the President for the following reasons:

“A correspondence that has the seal of the Nigerian President does not carry a reference number. The seal is the authority.

“Secondly, I have looked at it and read the document. FEC decisions are not transmitted by letters. They are transmitted through extracts after conclusions are adopted.

“Thirdly, I am the custodian of FEC; the President will not refer executives’ conclusions to me.

“Also, in all the five years and seven months, I never heard of the terms ‘special appropriation provision’ referred to. The term known to me, My Lord, is ‘appropriation’ as provided by the Appropriation Act normally passed by the National Assembly and when the government finds a gap it brings supplementary appropriation.

“In all the correspondences I have received from Buhari, it has never had ‘please accept the assurance of my highest regard’. I am his subordinate, my correspondences do not carry that.

“And lastly, looking at the signature, it is a failed attempt at reproducing Buhari’s signature. I will leave that to the experts.”

Mustapha also told the court that the Federal Government had no business with foreign election observers.

He said, “Nigerian government has no business with foreign election observers. I have managed two election cycles and I know that for a fact. INEC has the sole responsibility for that. “

Furthermore, the ex-SGF pointed out that the approval for the $6.2m was never on the agenda of the Federal Executive Council held on January 18, 2023, and could not have been approved.

He said, “My Lord, there was a meeting on January 18. The Vice President presided over the meeting. My role as secretary was to prepare the agenda of the meeting and on that, there was a 16-point agenda. There was no agenda for payment to foreign election observers. Consequently, if it was not an item on the agenda, it can’t be discussed and it will not appear in the conclusion of the meeting of January 18. There was no such approval, conclusion, or transmission for the payment of the money.”

When the prosecutor asked him to confirm if the letter conveying the presidential directives for the approval of the money emanated from him, Mustapha responded in the negative.

He also said Abubakar Jubril who was said to have received the money in cash was never a staff of his office.

Mustapha said, “To the best of my knowledge, this letter did not emanate from the OSGF. I did not sign it. My Lord, I said it didn’t emanate from me for the following reasons: I am not privy to the operations of the Central Bank. The heading is defective, it presupposes, that there was a previous correspondence before you will say RE. I am not aware of the content of this letter. There was no FEC approval.

“Thirdly, there were references where I was said to have introduced a principal officer, I am not aware of the special task force on logistics set up by govt.

“I do not know Jubril Abubakar, a principal officer who was alleged to be the coordinator of this task force. I didn’t introduce Jubril. The letter does not conform to the standard with which we write our letters at the OSGF. The reference number is always very clear, so you will know the department the letter is from. We paragraph our letter and number them. I can only end my letter with ‘please accept my assurances’ if I am writing to a superior officer. I could not have written to the Governor of the CBN using those words. I also wouldn’t have addressed him as Dear Sir.”

When the prosecutor asked if the $6.2m paid to Jubril Abubakar was received by the SGF’s office, Mustapha said, “Not one dollar was brought to my office. Not the amount and no part of it was brought to me.”

During cross-examination, the counsel for the defendant, Mathew Bukkaar (SAN), asked if there was any memo to make payments to any government agency.

In response, the ex-SGF said, “No My Lord, if it is related to this transaction. There could have been others, but not this.”

Emefiele’s counsel then asked if it was a practice in the OSGF to send staff to any bank to receive cash for whatever purpose.

Responding, the former SGF said, “It is not a usual practice. I have six permanent secretaries if there is a need. They would have done that. “

Earlier, during cross-examination, Ogbu Michael, a Deputy Director at the CBN, who was formerly a Branch Controller at the time, told the court that he authorised the payment of the $6.2m after the approval from the banking services department.

He said the money was paid in cash and was expected to be refunded in the second quarter of 2023.

When asked by Burkaa if he authenticated the identity card used for the payment of the money, Ogbu said, “I went by the payment instructions and did not go beyond the identity card attached to the document. The money was paid in USD cash to Jubril. “

Bukaar further asked if the identity card presented was either the national identity card, driver’s licence, passport or voter card, Ogbu stated that none of the identity cards was attached to the document.

He said, “The instructions were to pay with the ID indicated.”

Burkaa asked if Ogbu was aware the former SGF, Buhari, and the CBN Deputy governor were standing trial on the matter, he said he was not aware.

Justice Hamza Muazu adjourned till March 7, 11, and 25 for continuation of trial.