Ex-CBN director admits collecting bribes for Emefiele

Former CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, at the FCT High Court, Abuja on August 17, 2023. (Photograph: Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

A former Director of Information Technology with the Central Bank of Nigeria, John Ayoh, on Monday, alleged that he collected on behalf of the former governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, a sum of $600,000 in two installments from contractors.

Ayoh, the second witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, disclosed this while recounting instances where he facilitated the delivery of money to Emefiele, claiming it was for contract awards.

Under cross-examination at the Ikeja Special Offences Court in Lagos by the defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo (SAN), Ayoh admitted to facilitating the alleged bribery under pressure.

The embattled former governor of the apex bank is having many running legal battles both in Abuja and Lagos and is being tried by the EFCC at the Special Offences Court over alleged abuse of office and accepting gratification to the tune of $4.5 billion and N2.8bn.

He was arraigned on April 8, 2024, alongside his co-defendant, Henry Isioma-Omoile, on 26 counts bordering on abuse of office, accepting gratifications, corrupt demand, receiving property, and fraudulently obtaining and conferring corrupt advantage.

Emefiele’s defence, however, challenged the court’s jurisdiction over constitutional matters, urging the quashing of counts one to four and counts eight to 24 against him.

Ayoh, who was led in evidence by the EFCC prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), said the first money he collected on Emefiele’s behalf was $400,000 which his assistant, John Adetola, came to collect at his house in Lekki, Lagos State.

He further told the court that the second bribe of $200,000 was collected at the headquarters of CBN, at the Island office.

He said the money was brought in an envelope, adding that when the delivery person, Victor, was on the bank’s premises, he contacted Emefiele, who insisted on receiving the package directly from Ayoh without involving third parties.

He said when he went to deliver the package, he saw many bank CEOs waiting to see the former apex bank governor.

When questioned if he had ever been involved in any criminal activity, he responded in the negative but admitted that he had facilitated the commission of crime unknowingly.

“I believe I did admit in my statement that I was forced to commit the crime. I don’t know the exact word I used in my statement, but I said we were all forced with tremendous pressure to bend the rules,” he said.

When asked if he opened the envelopes he collected on the two occasions and counted the money to confirm the amount, he was negative in his reply, adding that he did also write in his statement that the money was given to influence the award of contracts.

On whether the EFCC arrested him, the witness said he was invited on February 20, 2024, and returned home after he was granted bail.

Earlier, Emefiele asked the court to quash counts one to four and counts eight to 24 against him, as the court lacks the jurisdiction to try him.

Speaking through his counsel, Ojo, he said counts one to four were constitutional matters, which the court lacked the jurisdiction to determine.

In his argument, citing Sections 374 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and 386(2), the defence counsel told Justice Rahman Oshodi that Emefiele ought not to be arraigned before the court on constitutional grounds.

He, therefore, urged the court to resolve the objection on whether the court had the jurisdiction to try the case or not.

The second defendant’s counsel, Kazeem Gbadamosi (SAN), also relied on the submissions of Ojo.

The EFCC counsel, Oyedepo, however, objected, as he asked the court to disregard the decision of the Court of Appeal relied upon by Ojo, saying that the Court of Appeal could not set aside the decision of the Supreme Court on any matter.

Ruling on the submissions of the counsel, Justice Oshodi said he would give his decision on jurisdiction when he delivered judgment as he adjourned till May 3.