How $6.2million stolen from CBN was shared, court documents reveal

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Documents have shown how the $6,230,000 cash allegedly stolen from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on February 8, 2023 was shared.

A special presidential investigative team, led by Jim Obaze, that probed the tenure of the immediate past CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had claimed that the $6.2 million was removed from the apex bank’s vault under the guise of paying election observers.

In the court documents, sighted by The Nation, investigators described the theft as an insider’s job, allegedly effected by mainly, CBN officials with the connivance of two outsiders, identified as Adamu Abubakar and Imam Abubakar.

In the documents, investigators claimed that a personal assistant to Emefiele, while being the CBN Governor, – Odoh Eric Ocheme  – allegedly got $3,730,000 from the money, while the remaining $2,500,000 was shared by three others.

Ocheme was alleged to have claimed he needed to settle other interests within the apex bank, which informed why he got the lion share.

Emefiele is accused of complicity in the theft in a 20-count amended charge filed against him before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), allegation he has since denied by pleading not guilty to the charge.

However, during a hearing in the case, a Deputy Director and Head of the Service Delivery Division of the CBN, Michael Onyeka Ogbu, who was in charge of the apex bank’s Abuja branch, where the cash was withdrawn, has since confirmed the withdrawal.

Testifying in the case on February 12, Ogbu said he allowed the payment on being convinced that it was authorised by the necessary persons.

Ogbu recalled that on February 8, 2023 there was a request for payment, addressed to the Abuja Branch Controller (which he was at the time).

He said: “On that day the request for the payment of $6,230,000 was received in my office by my Office Assistant, who brought it to my attention.

“When I received the document, I found that it is from Banking Services Department.

“The Director, Banking Services signed the memo, and the content of the memo contained an instruction for the Branch Controller to pay the sum of $6,230,000 to a staff of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation , with the identity and the name of the person mentioned.

“The memo said the payment was for international election observers and that we should debit an account –  Naira Forex Account – with the naira equivalent of $6,230,000.

“The memo also said that the money will be refunded in the second quarter of 2023 by the Federal Ministry of Finance. It went on to say ‘find attached the approval of the governor of the CBN for the payment.’

“The attachment had the approval of the governor of the CBN. It also had the approval of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the request letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”

Ogbu said that after going through the documents and was satisfied, he minuted on it to the  Head of Business  Services Unit for processing and payment.

On whether the money was eventually released, Ogbu said: “Payment was eventually made. The $6,230,000 was paid on the 8th of February 2023. The payment was in cash.”

In one of the court documents, it was revealed that some of the beneficiaries invested their shares of the loot, estimated at about N1.4 billion in real estate, part of which has now been recovered.

One of the investigators, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, gave details of investigators’ findings and progress made so far, in an affidavit filed along with an extradition charge pending against Adamu Abubakar, Imam Abubakar and Odoh Eric Ocheme before a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Adamu Abubakar, Imam Abubakar and Ocheme are said to be at large and are believed to have fled the country, which informed the initiation of extradition proceedings against them before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police said: “We commenced investigation into the case and obtained copies of the withdrawal slip as well as the accompanying documents, Central Bank of Nigeria memos, dated 07/02/2023 and  31/01/2023 respectively,  staff identity card of one Jibril Abubakar, letter dated 2/01/2023 purportedly written by Muhammadu Buhari to Boss Mustapha and letter dated 20/01/2023 purportedly written by Boss Mustapha to Mr Godwin Emafiele, which the Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja Branch relied on in making the payment.

“Investigation at the office of the President as well as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in the Stale House revealed that the letters purportedly written by Muhammadu Buhari and for Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha did not emanate from the offices respectively, while Jibril Abubakar, whose identity card was used to cash the money in question is not a staff of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“We watched the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) footages of the 08/02/2023 being the day the money in question was cashed, and the payee (Jibril Abubakar) could not be identified by the staff of either the CBN or that of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, where he falsely represented himself to be working.

“A further study of the Closed-circuit Television (CCTV) footage revealed that a staff of the Abuja Branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria, identified as Abdulmajeed Muhammad received the impostor (Jibril Abubakar) at the gate of the bank when he arrived on the fateful date: 08/02/2023.

“Abdulmajeed Muhammad was consequently arrested and in his statement made on 15/12/2023, he admitted helping the impostor into the Abuja Branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria, but claimed that he did that innocently, the impostor having been referred to him by Bashirudeen Maishanu; a Senior Staff of the CBN.

“Abdulmajeed Muhammad further revealed that prior to 08/02/2023 when the impostor came to cash the money in question, he (Abdulmajeed Muhammad) had been invited by Bashirudeen Maishanu to explain the procedure of public officials making cash withdrawal from the CBN as those persons claimed to be officials from the office of the SGF and that the then president had approved certain fund for official assignment.

“We visited Kuje Correctional Centre, where we interviewed Godwin Emefiele, who purportedly approved the memos authorising the payment, as then CBN and he denied seeing, talk less of approving such memos.

“We also arrested some concerned staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who denied any involvement in the crime, before we finally arrested Bashirudeen Maishanu, who corroborated the account of Abdulmajeed Muhammad and further confessed to have been involved in the crime which, according to him was perpetrated by himself and the first to third defendants/respondents – Adamu Abubakar, Imam Abubakar and Odoh Eric Ocheme.

“Bashiru Maishanu further confessed that himself, the first and second  defendants/respondents (Adamu Abubakar and Imam Abubakar) shared the sum of  $2,500,000.00 from the stolen money, while the third defendant/respondent (Odoh Eric Ocheme), being a fellow staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, kept the balance of $3,730,000.00 claiming that he had other interests to settle in the CBN.

“Bashirudeen Maishanu further confessed that both himself, and the first and second defendants/respondents jointly invested the United States dollars equivalent of the sum of N1, 440,000,000.00 into real estate business of Afrolyk Global Ltd.

“The Managing Director of the said Afrolyk Ltd, Aminu Lawal has been arrested and he confirmed the investment by Bashirudeen Maishanu, Adamu Abubakar and Imam Abubakar, and already refunded the sum of $200 000 00 to the Special Investigator’s team as part of the money he (Aminu Lawal) received as part of the purported investment.

“Cash of about $400,000 00 has also been voluntarily returned by Bashiru Maishanu from part of his remaining share of the money in question.

“The money (the $6,230,000) was received in cash from the Central Bank at Nigeria and also shared in the same cash by the defendants/respondents and others, making it difficult to trace the monies without arresting the defendants/respondents.

“It was later revealed that the third defendant –  Odoh Eric Ocheme – was the Personal Assistant to Godwin Emefiele as the CBN governor while the  first and second defendants (Adamu Abubakar and Imam Abubakar) are businessmen and associates of Bashirudeen Maishanu.”