former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu, who is standing trial for money laundering charge, yesterday told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that $9.7 million and £74,000 found in his house in 2017 were parts of monies people gave to him as gifts.
Yakubu, who opened his defence in the ongoing trial, said he received the monies in tranches of not more than $10,000 and not more than £5,000. The former NNPC boss, while testifying, told the court that people gave him monetary gifts on occasions such as birthdays, thanksgiving services, and other celebrations he hosted after he left service.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, on the strength of a tip-off by a whistleblower, raided the defendant’s guest house situated at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State, and recovered alleged loot which was in foreign currencies. EFCC said it discovered the sum of $9.7 million and £74,000 that Yakubu hid in a fireproof safe inside the house. Following the discovery, a Federal High Court in Kano, on February 13, 2017, issued an interim order that forfeited the recovered monies to the Federal Government.
Though the anti-graft later preferred a six-count criminal charge against Yakubu who was GMD of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014, 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. Likewise, following an appeal by the defendant, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal further struck out counts 1 and 2 of the charge and ordered him to open his defence with respect to only counts 3 and 4 of the charge. At the resumed proceeding at the trial court yesterday, the defendant mounted the witness box to narrate his own side of the story.
Led in evidence by his counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), the defendant 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% 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 crystalized, 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 2% 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.” While being cross-examined by the prosecution counsel, M.S. 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.” He said his brother, Bitrus Yakubu, was present when EFCC conducted the search at his house in Kaduna from where the safe and money was found. Attempt by counsel to the EFCC to cross-examine on a document before the court, marked as Exhibit-J, was resisted by the defence counsel who insisted that it related to counts of the charge that were struck out.
The trial judge, Justice A. R Mohammed, later adjourned the case to July 22 for prosecution counsel to respond and for further cross-examination of the defendant.