Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
Former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu has said 98 per cent of the $9,772,800 and £74,000 cash recovered from a safe in his house in Kaduna State was gift from well-wishers.
Yakubu said two per cent of the money is from the savings he made from the estacode he received while in office.
The ex-NNPC GMD spoke before a Federal High Court in Abuja while testifying as the first defence witness in his trial on charges of money laundering. He formally opened his defence on Wednesday.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), Yakubu said: “Yes, my lord, I confirm that the money in a safe, which is referred to in counts three and four of the charge, was taken from my property.
“As I said in my statement to 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 dollars and not more than £5,000.
“And the substantial part of the amount was given to me after I left office and it was given to me on the occasions of birthday, thanksgiving service and other celebration I hosted after leaving office.
“Yes, it also included mariages of my daughters. Approximately the substantial amount of about over 98% was given to me.
“The purpose of keeping the money is actually because since it came to me unplanned, the plan was to think of business venture I will embark on after my retirement.
“Since the money was given to me unexpected, I kept the money in safety in the safe pending when I will decide on the business venture to embark on, and as soon as that decision is crystalised, the business will be funded through a financial institution.
“For over 25 years, I had reasons, by reason of my schedule, to many parts of the world outside Nigeria, and so, I was entitled to estacode in US dollars.
“And any savings I made during the trip, I came back with whatever I have and saved it. The money I saved from my travel constitutes 2 per cent of the money.”
Under cross-examination by the prosecutor, Mohammed Abubakar, Yakubu said he joined the service of NNPC in 1980, became the Managing Director of Warri Petrochemical and Refining Company Ltd in 2007.
The witness said he was appointed Executive Director in charge of Exploration and Production at NNPC headquarters in 2011, be came GMD of NNPC in 2012 and retired as GMD, NNPC in 2014.
Yakubu said his brother, Bitrus Yakubu was present when EFCC officials conducted a search in his premises in Kaduna, where the money was found.
“I was told that the EFCC stormed into my property, took the safe and asked my brother to accompany them.
“When I reported at the EFCC office in Kano, my brother was there,” he said.
When asked how many statements he made to the EFCC while being interrogated, Yakubu said two, but when confronted with copies of the statement, they turned out to be four.
Yakubu explained that he initially said two because he made the statements about four years ago and had forgotten their number.
At a point Raji objected to Abubakar asking the defendant a question on a document relating to the ongoing trial of businessman, Olajide Omokore and others before another court, and in which Yakubu had testified as a protection witness.
READ ALSO: Andrew Yakubu’s $9.7m stands forfeited to FG—Appeal Court
Raji argued that the content of the document did not relate to counts three and four, which are now left in the original six count charge on which Yakubu was arraigned in 2017.
He said by virtue of the April 24, 2020 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, the defendant was only required to enter his defence in relation to counts three and four and therefore, can not be asked questions on a document that bears no link with the two counts.
Responding, Abubakar argued otherwise, insisting that the documents related to the two surviving counts in the charge.
Abubakar was still making his submission when the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed noted that both lawyers had taken much of the courts time.
Justice Mohammed then adjourned till July 22 for the prosecution to conclude his reply on the defence’s objection to cross examining the defendant on Exhibit J.
Yakubu was charged with money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a six-count charge on which he was arraigned on March 16, 2017.
The alleged offences include failure to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution, which borders on money laundering and intent to avoid a lawful transaction under law, transported at various times to Kaduna, the aggregate sum of $9,772,800 and £74,000.
EFCC said the money was recovered by its agents from a safe allegedly hidden by the defendant in a house in a community Kaduna State.
In a ruling in May 2019 Justice Mohammed partially upheld Yakubu’s no-case submission by striking down two out of the six counts.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, in the April 24, 2020 judgment partially upheld Yakubu’s appeal by striking down another two counts and ordered him to return to the trial court to enter his defence in relation to the remaining two counts.
Yakubu and the EFCC have since appealed the decision at the Supreme Court.