The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal office, on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 arraigned Gbenga Makanjuola, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, before Justice Babs O. Kuewumi sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on an amended 11-count charge bordering on alleged conspiracy, accepting cash payment beyond threshold and money laundering to the tune of N3.5billion ((Three Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira).
Makanjuola is charged alongside Kolawole Shittu, cashier to the Senate President; Robert Chidozie Mbonu, a former Managing Director, Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, SGBN (who is at large), Melrose General Services Limited and Obiora Amobi, Operation Manager, Melrose General Services Limited.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Gbenga Makanjuola, sometime in December 2016 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did accept cash payment of the sum of $500, 000. 00 (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars Only) from Kolawole Shittu without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
In view of their pleas, the prosecution counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, asked the court for a trial date and also prayed that the defendants be remanded in prison custody.
Iheanacho also told the court that he had received bail applications from the defence counsels on behalf of their clients.
He, however, added that he had responded with a counter-affidavit to the bail applications.
Iheanacho, therefore, urged the court to refuse the bail applications by the defendants.
“My Lord, the defendants were not responding to invitations until we threatened to revoke the administrative bail granted them.
“One of the defendants absconded after granting him an administrative bail. This is what necessitated the amendment of the charges today,” he further said.
However, counsel to the second and fourth defendants, Paul Erokoro, SAN, told the court that he had filed bail applications dated September 26, 2018 on behalf of his clients.
Moving the bail application today, he said
“My Lord, they are full-time staff of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The second defendant is a lawyer and a former House of Representatives member. My Lord, they cannot jump bail.”
He, therefore, urged the court to grant his clients bail. Also, counsel to the third defendant, Omeoga Chukwu, urged the court to admit his client to bail in the most liberal terms.
“He has been reporting monthly to the EFCC office for about two years since he was granted an administrative bail,” he pleaded
Consequently, Justice Kuewumi remanded the defendants in Ikoyi prison and adjourned till October 9, 2018 for ruling on the bail applications.
The EFCC had submitted a report to President Muhammadu Buhari linking the Senate President and some of his aides to the diversion of the sum of N19bn from the N522.74bn Paris Club refund.
The Federal Government had, in December 2016, approved the sum of N522.74bn to be paid to the 36 states of the federation as part of the reimbursement of the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan from 1995 to 2002.
However, the EFCC had discovered that the loan refunds were illegally diverted through the account of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Investigation revealed that following receipt of the fund, the NGF, in alleged connivance with Saraki, had remitted huge sums of money to private consultants who eventually laundered about N19bn.
Investigation further revealed that a sum of N3.5bn was allegedly lodged into Melrose General Services’ company account number 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank from the NGF.