The trial of Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of Federal High Court, Abuja was on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, adjourned till October 14, 2020 for ruling on the admissibility of the testimony, which he gave as prosecution witness in a 2017 trial.
The testimony, presently identified as ‘Exhibit J,’ was given by Yakubu before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of Federal High Court, Abuja in January 2017 where he stood as prosecution witness in a case where some NNPC officials and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd stood trial for illegal crude oil lifting.
At Wednesday’s sitting, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) M.S. Abubakar began with the cross-examination of the defendant, who was to testify on ‘Exhibit J’ as the first defence witness, but was opposed by the defence counsel, Ahmed Raji SAN, who objected to his client’s cross-examination on the exhibit.
To go on with the cross-examination, prosecution counsel argued that the exhibit was relevant in proving whether or not there was a predicate offence of money laundering in relation to count three and four of the charge, as there was an increase in the defendant’s pecuniary resources which he cannot satisfactorily account for, and therefore urged the court to discountenance the objection and allow the cross-examination of the witness on contents in ‘Exhibit J’ to go on.
The defence counsel, however, told the court that the exhibit was irrelevant as it was tendered solely in respect of count-one and two which was struck out by the court, and that counts three and four, which were sustained by the court did not allege accruement of funds by the defendant. According to Raji, there must be a charge and proof of a predicate offence before a charge of money laundering can be meaningful, adding that the evidence the prosecution wanted to establish through cross examination on ‘Exhibit J’ was to prove an alleged predicate offence.
It could be recalled that Yakubu initially faced prosecution on six-count charges by the EFCC, of which the court struck out counts one, two, five and six in a no- case submission by the defence, sustaining only counts three and four, which prompted the EFCC to approach the Supreme Court against the ruling, while the defence also approached the apex court on counts three and four, not struck out by the trial court.
The EFCC , on the strength of a whistleblower information, raided Yakubu’s guest house, situated in Sabon Tasha slum of Kaduna State, and recovered the sums of $9.7 million and £74,000 hid by the defendant in a fireproof safe.