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Cash transactions were irregular in aviation ministry, says witness

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KOLA Olapoju, a defence witness in the on-going trial of former minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode yesterday said transacting in cash does not occur regularly in the federal ministry where the alleged financial infractions happened.

     Olapoju, who is the first defence witness, made the admission while being cross-examined by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Festus Keyamo.

    The EFCC is prosecuting Fani-Kayode before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged money laundering offences he committed while serving as Culture and Tourism minister and later Aviation minister.

   The witness, who is a lawyer and co-administrator of the estate of Fani-Kayode’s late father, had in his evidence in chief, told the court that while the accused was in public service in 2006, he requested for funds from the said estate of his father to pay artisans who effected repairs on their property.

    Olapoju, under cross-examination, recalled that he had known Fani-Kayode for over 20 years and that he had been managing the properties of the estate for about 14 years. He added that there were five beneficiaries, but the beneficiaries are now four.

   “It is not usual for any of the beneficiaries to withdraw funds. It is the core administrator that gives instructions on funds withdrawal,” Olapoju stressed.

    The witness further stated that he had always been in regular contact with Fani-Kayode until he was appointed as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

    At that point, Olapoju said Fani-Kayode, who is also the Media Director of Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation, had given him standing instruction that if he (Olapoju) was unable to get him (Fani-Kayode) at any point in time, he should always take instruction from his Chief of Staff, Aderemi Adedamola Ajidahun on what to do in relation to the estate.

    While speaking on the transactions, Olapoju recalled that Fani-Kayode had asked him to “urgently” get funds from tenants to pay artisans who had effected repairs on the property of the estate.

  He added: “In order to abridge time, I went out of my way to demand that a cheque be issued in my name since I was in Abuja. I cashed the cheque and related with the Chief of Staff who later instructed that the cash be deposited in bank account of the accused by his Personal Assistant, Supo Agbaje. I went to bank with the said Agbaje but I did not go into the banking hall with him.”

    The payments were made on September 21 and 29, 2006.

Olapoju, however, admitted that he did not see the said Agbaje deposit the cash into the account, and that he would not know whether there was any communication between Agbaje and the accused after he had dropped him (Agbaje) off at the bank.

    The second defence witness (Ajidahun) also testified before the court and stated how he was appointed as Fani-Kayode’s Chief of Staff, being an expert in media, hospitality and branding consultancy.

  But in his cross-examination, Keyamo told the witness that he was just out to lie to the court so that his accused-friend would be freed. He denied the allegation and added that a lot of people had wanted to influence him to take certain position in the matter to which he declined.

The matter was thereafter adjourned to March 26, 2015 for the testimony of the third defence witness.


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