For those who say Nigeria is a country where wonders shall never end, they had vindication yesterday when former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu, told the Federal High Court in Abuja that the $9.7million and £74,000 seized from his house in 2017 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), were part of monies he received as bride price for his daughters and gifts.
Testifying as his own witness at the resumed proceeding at the trial court, the former NNPC boss, who is facing money laundering charges, opened his defence, saying that people gave him monetary gifts on occasions such as birthdays, thanksgiving services, and other celebrations he hosted after he left office. Yakubu said he received the monies in tranches of not more than $10,000 and not more than £5, 000.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), Yakubu said: “Yes my lord, I confirm that the monies were contained in a safe taken from my property. As I stated in my statement with the EFCC, the money found in the safe, is mine. The money was not received in bulk. It was received in tranches of not more than $10,000 and not more than £5,000. Substantial part of that amount was given to me after I left service. It was given to me on such occasions as birthdays, thanksgiving services, and other celebrations that I hosted after leaving my office. I also hosted marriages of my daughters.
“In fact, over 98 per cent of the money came from gifts. The purpose of keeping the money was to think of business ventures I will embark on, but it was not my intention to go into business investment without going through a financial institution. Since the money was given to me unexpected, I kept the money in safety, in a safe, pending when I decide on specific business venture to embark on. And as soon as the decision is crystallized, the business would be funded through the financial institutions.
“For over 25 years, I had reason by virtue of my schedule to travel to many parts of the world. I was entitled to estacodes in United States dollars. Any saving I made during the trip, I came back and saved. The other two per cent of the funds recovered from my safe was from such savings I made from travels. The prevailing rate of dollar at that time was average of N150 to a dollar and N250 to Pound Sterling. That was about the bank rate at that time. When I was asked the time frame within which the safe was placed in the location, I told them that it was within 2010 to 2014,” Yakubu said.
Acting on a tip-off by a whistleblower, officials from the anti-graft agency raided the defendant’s guest house situated at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State, and recovered the alleged loot in hard cash. EFCC said it discovered the sum of $9.7million and £74,000 that Yakubu hid in a fireproof safe inside the house. A Federal High Court in Kano, on February 13, 2017, issued an interim order that forfeited the recovered monies to the federal government.
The EFCC later filed a six-count criminal charge against Yakubu but the trial court, on May 16, 2019, struck out counts 5 and 6 of the charge based on a no-case-submission that was made by the defendant.
Also, following an appeal by defendant, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal further struck out counts 1 and 2 of the charge and ordered Yakubu to open his defence with respect to only counts 3 and 4 of the charge.
Under cross-examination by the prosecution counsel, MS Abubakar, Yakubu told the court that he joined NNPC in 1980 and became the Managing Director of a subsidiary of NNPC Warri Petrochemical & Refining Company in 2007. “I was appointed the Executive Director in charge of Exploration and Production in 2011 at NNPC headquarters. I became the Group Managing Director of NNPC in 2012 and retired in 2014.” The former NNPC boss told the court that he made a total of four statements to the EFCC. Trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed adjourned the case to July 22 for EFCC’s lawyer to respond and for further cross-examination of the defendant.