Emefiele’s $6.2m trial: How Buhari’s signature was forged – Ex-SGF

Boss Mustapha, the Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), has alleged that the signature of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari was forged by individuals who withdrew $6,230,000, as authorized by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on February 8, 2023.

The SGF made this assertion yesterday while testifying in the trial of former CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, stating that his own signature was also forged.

As a prosecution witness, Mustapha stated in a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama that it was not the responsibility of the Federal Government or the office of the SGF to request funds from the CBN for the payment of foreign election observers.

He emphasized that he had no knowledge of the funds purportedly withdrawn for the payment of foreign election observers.

The SGF said it was solely the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deal with issues relating to election observers and other election-related matters.

Michael Onyeka Ogbu, a Deputy Director at the CBN, had testified in court on Monday that the funds were handed over in cash to an official from the office of the SGF, named Jibril Abubakar. He said the action followed approvals by President Buhari and Emefiele, as per a request made by the SGF.

Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Mustapha, dressed in a blue kaftan and a cap, identified Emefiele, who was seated in the dock, when asked if he knew who the defendant was.

Mustapha, who said he is a lawyer and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1980, said Emefiele was the Governor of the CBN when he served as the SGF from 2017 to 2023.

Asked if he knew anything about the transaction relating to the payment of the $6,230,000, he said: “I wish to state that, up until when I left office, I knew nothing about this transaction.”

Mustapha was then shown a document, marked as Exhibit PD7, said to be a letter from President Buhari, approving the payment and asked if he recognised the document.

Mustapha said he was seeing the document for the first time in the court.

He added: “On the face value of this document, having served (as the SGF) for five years and months, I can say that this document did not emanate from the office of the president.”

The witness explained that correspondence that has the seal of the President does not carry a reference number as the seal serves as the authority.

Mustapha added: “Looking at the signature, it is a faint attempt at reproducing President Buhari’s signature.”

The former SGF also faulted the document on the ground that it purported to convey a decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is not normally conveyed via letters.

He said: “I have looked at it. I have read it. Federal Executive Council decisions are not transmitted by letters. They are transmitted through extracts after conclusions are adopted.

“I am the custodian of the record of the Federal Executive Council. So, for that reason, the President will not be referring the conclusion of EXCO to me.

“In all the five years and seven months that I served, I have never heard of the term – Special Appropriation Provision – that was refered to here (in the letter).”

The witness said he was only familiar with appropriation, as provided by the Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly and Supplementary Appropriation.

He also faulted the concluding part of the letter, saying that it was unusual for the President to end his letter to the SGF by saying: “Please, accept the assurances of my highest regard.”

Mustapha said being the President’s subordinate, his letter to the SGF can not end in that manner.

The former SGF also said the Nigerian government has no business funding foreign election observers.

He added: “That I know as a fact because I have managed two election circles. INEC has the sole responsibility in that area.”

On the claim in the letter that the decision to approve money for foreign observers was taken at the 187th FEC meeting held on January 18, 2023, the witness said it was not true.

He agreed that there was actually a FEC meeting on January 18, 2023, but that the meeting was presided over by the Vice President because the President was away.

The witness also said the issue of payment to foreign observers never featured on the meeting’s agenda, which he prepared as the SGF.

Mustapha said: “My role as the secretary is to prepare the agenda for the meeting and on that day, there was a 16-point agenda. There was no item on the agenda that has to do with payment to foreign election observers.”

When shown another document, marked: Exhibit PD6, said to be his letter conveying the presidential approval to the Governor of the CBN, Mustapha also faulted it.

He said: “To the best of my knowledge, this letter did not emanate from the office of the SGF. If it did not emanate from the office, then, I did not sign it. No, I did not sign it.”

Mustapha also explained why he said the letter was not from his office.

He said having not been privy to the internal operations of the CBN, he could not have written in the letter “Attention, Director, Banking Services.”

He also noted that the heading of the letter was defective, pointing out that the heading said: “Re: Payment for foreign election observers,” which presupposes that there was a previous correspondence.

Mustapha denied knowledge of any Special Task Force on Logistics, which the letter claimed was set up by the Federal Government, and Jibril Abubakar, a Principal Executive officer, who is alleged to be the coordinator of the task force.

He also denied introducing any Jibril or Jibril Abubakar to the Governor of the CBN as claimed in the letter.

Mustapha said: “Again, this letter did not conform to the standard in which we write letters in the office of the SGF.”

He said the reference in any letter from the office of the SGF is usually very clear and each paragraph is numbered.

He said neither the whole $6,230,000 nor part of it was brought to him.

On why he gave a specimen of his signature to the EFCC during his interrogation, Mustapha said: “I gave my specimen signature to the EFCC because they needed it for further verification since I denied the authorship of the letter allegedly written by me, that is Exhibit PD6.”

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer, Matthew Burkaa (SAN), Mustapha denied knowing Jibril Abubakar, who Ogbu claimed came to collect the money in cash.

He said no official of the CBN, Garki branch, where the money was paid out, contacted him to inquire if he knew the said Jibril Abubakar.

On whether he and Emefiele were not given the money, Mustapha who said he could only speak for himself, maintained that he was not given any money.

He said he had no discussion with Emefiele about any such money, adding that it is not the usual practice for the SGF to receive money from the CBN for election observers.

Mustapha stressed: “The issue of observers is that of the INEC. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a request from the office of the SGF for money from CBN for election observers.”

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