EFCC Opens Money Laundering Case Against Former Anambra Gov, Obiano With Two Witnesses

Willie Obiano

Willie Obiano

The alleged money laundering case filed against the former governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, was on Tuesday, opened by the antigraft agency, with two witnesses that testified before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Obiano, who piloted the affairs of Anambra State from March 2014 to March 2022, is facing a nine-count charge the anti-graft agency preferred against him.

The EFCC had among other things, alleged that the erstwhile governor looted over N4 billion from the treasury of the state.

It told the court that the funds were siphoned from Anambra State’s Security Vote Account, converted into dollars and handed to the defendant in cash.

At the resumed proceeding in the matter, the Commission presented a banker, Mr. Tochukwu Aloysius Nnadi, as its first prosecution witness, PW-1.

Nnadi, told the court that he was a bank manager at Awka, the capital of Anambra state.

Narrating what he knew about the case, the witness said he and others manage customers accounts and interface with various security and anti-graft agencies in terms of enquiry on a customer’s account.

“We usually comply by providing the requested information.

“I know the defendant in this matter. He is the immediate past governor of Anambra state.

“In April 2022, I was informed by our compliance unit that I was needed at EFCC in respect of activities of the past administration of Anambra state.

“I went there with two of my colleagues. The EFCC told me that my invitation was in respect of an ongoing investigation.

“I was told that it was because I was the manager of the branch that handled most of the financial activities of the then state government.

“The state government maintains various accounts with our bank and one of such accounts was for security votes.

There was really nothing special about the security votes account. It was like every other account that we managed for the state government.

“The account was mostly funded by the office of the Accountant General of the state and bulk of the funds came from Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the state.

“Payments into the account was made on weekly basis and all transactions out of the account were always based on the advice of the account operators.

“The payments we made out of the account were to various entities and corporate organisations.

“We supplied documents containing names of all the beneficiaries,bto the EFCC,” the witness added.

However, he declined request by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, to mention names of some of the beneficiaries in the open court, saying it would amount to a breach of his “oath of secrecy.”

“The accounts were mostly funded every week. Cash withdrawals, Manager’s cheques, transfers and drafts were instruments that were used to remove the funds, based on instructions from the operators of the accounts.

“Some of the documents I submitted to the EFCC, included the certified true copy of the statements of account, cover letter for the statements of account, packages used to open the account, as well as certificates of identification for each of the accounts,” the PW-1 told the court.

Meanwhile, the bundle of documents from the bank, totaling 794 pages, were tendered and admitted in evidence by the court as Exhibit PW-1 (A1- A 794)

Another bundle of documents dated June 1, 2023, showing the debits that were made from the accounts, were also admitted in evidence.

The defence lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, said his client would reserve his objections to the Exhibits and raise them in his final address.

When the witness was asked to read to the court, from the exhibit, some of the names on the list of beneficiaries of funds that were transferred out of the account, he mentioned; Moment of Peace Ventures, Easy Diamond Integrated Links and Nasda Ventures.

Answering questions under cross examination, the PW-1 told the court that all the transactions that involved his bank, were done in compliance with the mandate on each account.

He said the mandates were also in accordance with the banking practice.

Shortly after Nnadi concluded his evidence and was dismissed, an Onitsha-based business woman, Mrs. Chinwe Patricia Egbunam, mounted the box and testified in the matter.

Mrs. Egbunam told the court that she is a trader that specialized in “Turkey wears.”

She told the court that she had on May 20, received a call that she was needed at the EFCC office over some money passed through the account of her company, C.I. Party Ventures Nigeria Limited.

“When I got to the EFCC, I told them that did not know anything about the money but that I knew that I told my account officer, Mr. Ugochukwu Otibelu, to help me to upgrade my account to enable me to meet requirement of the embassy of Turkey.

“It was to upgrade the account it to enable me to be able to travel and the upgrade was for him to help me and post money into my account.

“My account officer accepted my request and collected my company account and cheque.

“However, at the EFCC, I was told that about N156. 8million passed through my account from the Anambra State Government.”

While being cross-examined, the witness told the court that the arrangement was for her account officer to facilitate the inflow of funds into her company’s account.

She told the court that she did not touch the money that was wired into the account as it did not belong to her.

More so, the witness told the court that the directors of the company account were her family members.

“Outside the fact that the defendant was the governor of Anambra State, I never had any dealings with him.”

Asked to tell the court about the security situation in the state while Obiano held sway as hovernor, the witness said: “I currently stay in Anambra. There is usually no movement in the state every Monday because of a sit-at-home order.

“I know ESN and IPOB and they operate fully in Anambra state.

“During the tenure of the defendant, there was serious insecurity in Anambra state and I know that the government worked with organizations and churches to maintain peace in the state.

“This was because churches, organizations and even mosques were under threat during that period,” the witness added.

Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned further hearing in the matter till Wednesday.