Legal Nigeria

EFCC: Fayose paid Ozekhome from N1.2b Dasuki’s slush fund

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose paid an intial N75million to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) ,Mike Ozekhome, from an alleged N1.2billion the governor allegedly received from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).The commission said it froze Ozekhome’s account because the money was suspected to be a proceed of crime.Ozekhome prayed Justice Abdullazeez Anka to unfreeze his firm’s account, which the court froze at EFCC’s instance on February 7.Opposing the application, EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo argued that Ozekhome ought to have  known that the money he received was proceeds of “fraudulent activities”.He said: “EFCC received an intelligence report that Mr Ayodele Fayose received N1,219,490,000 from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) through the former Minister of State for Defence Musiliu Obanikoro, who conveyed the money through an aircraft to Akure airport.

“It discovered that  N137million was paid into an account,  1003126654, operated by Fayose on June 26, 2014.“On August 22 and 27, 2014, N50million and N118million were also credited to the account.”Oyedepo said having discovered the funds were “proceeds of crime”, EFCC approached Justice Mohammed Idris of the court’s Lagos division for an order freezing the account.The lawyer said the order by Justice Idris was not appealed by either Fayose or the bank, where the money was lodged.“The N75million is from the proceed of the alleged crime fraudulently taken from  ONSA and kept in Fayose’s account from where it was transferred to Ozekhome,” he said.Oyedepo said EFCC could freeze any account suspected to have received criminal funding even if it was not in possession of the person committing the unlawful act.He said nothing had been shown to contradict the fact that the money came from the ONSA,adding that  Ozekhome cannot claim ignorance of the source of the money.

Arguing his application to defreeze the account, Ozekhome said it was not a lawyer’s duty to investigate the source of his legal fees.Besides, he said at the time Fayose paid him the money, the governor’s account had been defreezed by an order made by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the court’s Ekiti Division on December 13.He said the judge, on January 31, also refused EFCC’s application to stay execution of  the December 13 judgment.Ozekhome said the EFCC obtained the order freezing his account 47 days after Fayose transferred the N75million.“The account frozen by Justice Idris had been defreezed by Justice Taiwo and made operational after it was found that material facts were suppressed,” he said.The Senior Advocate said the N75million was part-payment for professional fees having handled eight cases for Fayose and his aides.He said the total sum owed his chambers by Fayose was N250million.Ozekhome said he wrote Fayose demanding payment, and that the governor sought  his understanding because his account was frozen.The SAN said when Justice Taiwo defreezed Fayose’s account, he (Ozekhome) sent the governor a reminder to pay the money.“There was no encumbrance on the account from which the money was transferred,” Ozekhome said.He said it was wrong for EFCC to conclude that the money was proceeds of crime when Fayose, who enjoys immunity, had not been tried or convicted.Besides, Ozekhome said EFCC never served him with the order as required by the court’s rules, adding that the freezing of his account brought opprobrium on him.“They did it in bad faith,” he said.On whether EFCC violated Justice Taiwo’s order, Oyedepo said nowhere in the judgment did the judge set aside Justice Idris’ ruling.Justice Anka adjourned till April 3 for ruling.Source: The Nation