By John Okiyi Kalu

My attention has been drawn to a publication by the Alex Otti Campaign Organization titled “ALEX OTTI, OBANIKORO, N1.2BN: EXPOSED! DOCUMENT USED FOR THE TRANSACTION, OTTI IS CLEAN (DOCUMENT ATTACHED)”.

In the said publication, which must have been made in a haste to attempt to clear the name of the embattled APGA factional Governorship candidate in Abia State, the author(s) stated as follows, among other things:

“The truth is that Musiliu Obanikoro, the prosecution witness in the case between the EFCC and former Ekiti State overnor, Ayodele Fayose, who Okiyi and Ememanka had quoted as indicting Dr. Otti, in his testimony to the court could not have said what was attributed to him by these garrulous rascals, except if he had been bought over by the Abia State government to do a hatchet man’s job.”

That statement is shocking and surprising to me given that my only public comment on the matter was to share extracts from a PREMIUM TIMES publication with the link supplied.

According to the report published by Premium Times, which I hereby reproduce, Obanikoro expressly stated that he gave verbal instructions to Mr Alex Otti who in turn withdrew a whooping N1.2bn from an account that Obanikoro was not even a signatory to or among directors of the company that own the said account in Diamond Bank.

Permit me to reproduce the relevant portion of that report along with the Premium Times link below:

'On who gave instructions to Diamond Bank for the release of N1.2 billion, Mr Obanikoro replied that “I was the only person that gave instructions to the bank’’.

Defence counsel: "Can you tell the court by what means you gave the instruction and to whom?"

Witness (Obanikoro): "Verbally, to the then MD of Diamond Bank, Mr (Alex) Oti."

Defence counsel: "Was there any time your verbal instruction was reduced into writing?"

Witness: "No"

Defence counsel: "So, I suggest to you that what you are telling this court is that there is no written record for the release of N1.2billion by the bank".

Witness: "Because of the nature of the job."

Defence counsel: "Look at exhibit E9 -E11 and mention the names of the Directors of Sylva Mcnamara".

Witness : "Ezekwe Ikenna, Oshodi Idowu, and Adebiyi Elizabeth"'

Read more

In the light of the above, I am surprised that the Otti campaign team should mention “Okiyi” when the source of the publication is clearly stated. Obviously they are working hard to politicize a criminal trial that Mr Otti is a state witness who is expected to shed light on how money was laundered.

Earlier reports on this trial already confirmed that Mr Alex Otti is a state witness in the matter between EFCC and Ayo Fayose. Senator Musiliu Obanikoro is also a state witness and nobody will ordinarily expect state witnesses to contradict each other in the same matter. Unless there is more to the matter than meets the eye.

According to a Punch Newspaper publication of October 21, 2018, titled “Alleged N2.2bn fraud: Obanikoro, Alex Otti, 20 others to testify against Fayose”, which Otti and his campaign team are yet to dispute, “Ex-Group Managing Director, Diamond Bank, Otti, is to tell the court how sometime in 2014, Obanikoro approached him in his office in Lagos, saying he expected the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay certain sums of money into the Diamond Bank account of a firm, Sylva Mcmanara Ltd, and that he needed the money or most of it transferred to Ekiti”.

In the same Punch report, “Obanikoro is to narrate to the court how Fayose allegedly requested that out of the N2.2bn, N1.2bn should be delivered to him in cash while the remaining N800m should be converted to US dollars”.

In a more detailed report from court filing extracts in the matter, published same day, Premium Times reported as follows:

"Another listed witness in the suit is Mr Otti, the All Progressives Grand Alliance gubernatorial candidate for the 2019 election in Abia State.

“He (Otti) was the Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc, he recalled that sometimes in 2014, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the then Minister of State for Defence came to his office in Lagos to explain that he was expecting certain sums of money from Central Bank of Nigeria into the account of Sylva Mcmanara Limited,” the EFCC said.
“He called the Head of Operations who confirmed the receipt of the funds and the credit of same into the account domiciled at Apapa as specified by the transfer instrument. Senator Musiliu Obanikoro requested he needed the money or most of it in Ekiti. The bank offered to transfer the funds electronically into Ekiti but Senator Obanikoro preferred that the money be delivered cash in Ekiti.
“The bank then charged a fee of 5% and then made arrangement to transfer the cash to Ekiti the next day.
“However, Senator Obanikoro called later that his partner rejected the fee on the ground that it was too high and they would rather take delivery of the money in Lagos and fly it to Ekiti. An arrangement was made by the bank and cash were made available and the cash was taken away from Lagos.”

In the light of the above, how is a certain “Okiyi” or “Ememanka” involved in this matter? To the best of my knowledge, Okiyi merely asked if it was believable for someone to withdraw over a Billion Naira from an account belonging to another person on the strength of a verbal instruction issued by a third party who is neither a signatory to the account nor a director in the company of the affected account.

What I expected Mr Alex Otti and his people to do is simply to show up in court and contradict Obanikoro with documentary evidence. If for any reason they believe the report from Premium Times is false and non representative of what transpired in court, then they should demand retraction from Premium Times or sue them for libel. Dragging “Okiyi” into their mess is a childish attempt to politicize a criminal trial where Otti is a state witness.

Lawyers can argue this out, but being a state witness in a criminal trial could mean that you were involved in an alleged crime but have agreed to cooperate with the authorities to nail a target, in this case, Ex-Governor Ayo Fayose, in exchange for your non prosecution over your involvement. If that is the case, it is not my business.

What my business is that Mr Otti has severally claimed that past PDP governments in Abia State, before the emergence of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, messed up the state’s finances. Bearing in mind that Otti was a member of the PDP in Abia State until August 2014, with his membership card number 16 issued in Arochukwu, I am also aware that the biggest state government account, FAAC, was domiciled in Diamond Bank at the request of Otti and this is the account from where workers salaries and other projects were executed.
Did Otti play any role in “messing up Abia State” as repeatedly alleged by him? As an active participant in the management of this key account, when will he summon courage to witness against anyone he knows to have been involved? How much did he charge for whatever transactions he has with those running Abia before Ikpeazu! Could it be because he does not want to indict himself or his friends that he has refused to testify or bring forth verifiable evidence beyond making unsubstantiated allegations?

It is my personal position that rather than smear everyone with his tall tales of mismanagement of Abia State, let Otti man up and speak up against his accomplices, if any. Otherwise he should quit the Governorship race and go and clear his Obanikoro and Diamond Bank mess. In between, Otti should also help the Catholic Church owners of Modern Ceramics (MOCERAM), Umuahia, exit the debilitating facility of N250m taken from Diamond Bank that has now turned to more than N1.7bn debt.
O metara buru!

Thank you.

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