The EFCC on Wednesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, made a payment of N75 million to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, from the N1.2 billion the governor received from a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said it froze Ozekhome’s account because the money was suspected to be proceeds of crime. Ozekhome had urged Justice Abdullazeez Anka to unfreeze his firm’s account which the court ordered at EFCC’s instance on Feb. 7.
Opposing the application, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, argued that Ozekhome ought to have reasonably known that the money he received as part payment for legal fees was proceeds of “fraudulent activities”.
He said: “EFCC received an intelligence showing that one Mr Ayodele Fayose received N1.2 billion from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) through the then Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro.”
He said Obanikoro conveyed the money in an aircraft to Akure airport for delivery to Fayose in neighbouring Ekiti. Oyedepo said it was investigated and it was discovered that the sum of N137 million was paid into an account no. 1003126654 operated by Fayose on June 26, 2014.
“On August 22 and 27, 2014, the sum of N50 million and N118 million was also credited to the account.” Oyedepo said having discovered that the funds were proceeds of crime, EFCC approached Justice Mohammed Idris of Lagos division for an order to freeze the account pending conclusion of investigations.
The lawyer said that the order by Justice Idris was not appealed by either Fayose or the bank where the money was lodged. “The N75 million is from the proceeds of the alleged crime fraudulently taken from the ONSA and kept in Fayose’s account from where it was transferred to Ozekhome. “ EFCC is empowered to freeze any money suspected to be proceeds of crime even if it is not in possession of the person committing the unlawful act.”
He argued that nothing had been showed to contradict the fact that the money came from ONSA, adding that Ozekhome could not also claim not to know the source of the money. Arguing his application to unfreeze the account, Ozekhome said it was not a lawyer’s duty to investigate the source of his legal fees. Besides, he said as at the time Fayose paid him the money, the governor’s account had been unfrozen by an order made by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Ekiti Division of the court on Dec. 13. 2016.
He said that the judge on Jan. 31 also refused EFCC’s application to stay execution of the judgment of Dec. 13, 2016. Ozekhome said EFCC obtained the order freezing his account 47 days after Fayose transferred the N75 million. “The account frozen by Justice Idris had been unfrozen by Justice Taiwo and made operational after it was found that material facts were suppressed,” he said.
The Senior Advocate said that the N75 million was part payment for the professional fees having handled eight cases for Fayose and his aides.
He said that the total sum owed his chambers by Fayose was N250 million and that he wrote Fayose demanding payment of the fees, and that the governor sought for his understanding because his account was frozen.
He also said when Justice Taiwo unfroze Fayose’s account, he (Ozekhome) sent the governor a reminder to pay the money after which he made the N75 million.
“There was no encumbrance on the account from which the money was transferred,” Ozekhome said, recalling that the bank in Ekiti also allowed Fayose to withdraw N5 million in cash from the account.
He said it was wrong for the EFCC to conclude that the money was a proceed of crime when Fayose, who enjoys immunity as a sitting governor had not been tried or convicted. Justice Anka fixed April 3 for ruling.