The trial of erstwhile Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to Kwara State governor on Millenium Development Goals, MDGs, Alhaji Ope Saraki, commenced on Thursday, November 19, 2020 with the prosecution calling its star witness, Kunle Adimula.
Saraki, a cousin to the immediate past president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, allegedly collected a sum of N11,180,000 (eleven million, one hundred and eighty thousand naira) meant to execute some projects under the MDGs, a sum which exceeded the cash payable to an individual. The offence is contrary to Section 1 and 16 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.
The Ilorin Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had on March 24, 2020 arraigned Saraki on one-count charge, bordering on money laundering before Justice Babangana Ashigar of the Federal High Court, Ilorin, Kwara State.
The charge reads: “That you, Ope Saraki, sometime in February 2019, whilst being the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Kwara State on Sustainable Development Goals at Ilorin within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court did receive cash payment of N11,180,000.00 (Eleven Million, One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira) from one Kunle Adimula, an employee of Kwara State Government which sum exceeded the cash payable to an individual and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 and 16 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.”
Testifying, Adimula narrated how the defendant received the sum of N11,180,000.00 (Eleven million, one hundred and eighty thousand naira) cash sometime in 2019.
“My Lord, I am an employee of the Kwara State Government. I was deployed to the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), Alhaji Ope Saraki. I have known him since year 2012.
“On the 8th of February 2019, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on MDGs, in person of Alhaji Ope Saraki instructed me to collect the sum of N11,180,000 (eleven million, one hundred and eighty thousand naira) only from the Controller of Finance and Accounts, CFA Ministry of Planning, Mr. Shiru Mohammed and hand over same to the defendant. The instruction was complied with almost immediately”, he said.
Adimula who was led in evidence by counsel to the EFCC, Sesan Ola, further told the court that he was issued a receipt after he handed over the money to the defendant, which he gave to the CFA, Mr. Muhammed.
A copy of the receipt was shown to the witness which he identified and tendered as evidence by the prosecuting counsel. The document was admitted in evidence as Exhibit EFCC 1 as its admissibility was not opposed to by the defence counsel led by Dr. Joshua Olatoke, SAN.
Under cross-examination by the defence, Adimula insisted that he acted strictly on instruction by collecting the money and handed over the same to the defendant.
When asked whether he was aware that the project was budgeted for and approved by the Kwara State House of Assembly, Adimula said it was not within his purview to know, but to ensure that instructions given by his boss were complied with.
The case has been adjourned till January 13, 2021 for continuation of trial.