Justice Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has adjourned further hearing in the trial of Muhammad Dele Belgore, SAN, to March 5, 2019.
Belgore is standing trial along with a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, for allegedly receiving the sum of N450 million on March 27, 2015 out of the $115,010,000 paid into Fidelity Bank Plc by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.
At the last adjourned sitting on February 11, 2019 when Belgore opened his defence, he told the court that he did not receive the money.
Consequently, the Judge had adjourned to today for all parties to view the CCTV footage, where the defendant had visited the bank to receive the money.
At the resumed sitting today, the video was played in the courtroom. Thereafter, Belgore told the court that though he had viewed the video produced by Fidelity Bank, Ilorin branch, wherein he was alleged to have taken possession of the said amount, he, however, said he had a number of observations to make.
At that juncture, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, objected to the defendant’s prayer to make any observations on the grounds that the video had not been tendered in evidence, adding that the observations would amount to opinions by the defendant.
The objection was sustained by the Judge.
Counsel to the first defendant, E.O. Shofunde, SAN, therefore, sought to tender the video and its certificate as exhibits.
The video and its certificate were admitted as exhibits 12 and 12A, respectively.
In his further evidence, Belgore said he was appointed as the coordinator for the Presidential campaign of the PDP in Kwara State in 2015 and the money which he was supposed to receive was meant to be used by the party agents, officials and stakeholders in every polling unit, ward and Local Government Areas of the state.
He said: “The money was not meant for me and no one said they were giving me money.
“As a matter of fact, I did not have any intentions to collect the money personally.
“I mentioned that there were agitations from stakeholders in Kwara State to the Headquarters in Abuja and this led to a meeting between the stakeholders and the presidential campaign team.
“There, we outlined what our challenges to the elections were, where we needed to employ personnel and resources so as to be able to tackle those challenges.
“It was identified that more than three quarters of the state were rural communities and it was difficult for party agents to get to some of those places.
“So, it was agreed that financial provision would be made to all these communities to meet the challenges, such that in every nook and cranny of the state, funds sent for the election would be applied to them.”
Belgore also told the court that he did not take any steps regarding the collection of the money from the bank, since he realised that his vehicle could not carry all of it.
He recalled that he denied taking possession of the money when he was being interrogated by the EFCC.
“I still stand by my position,” he added.
Belgore narrated to the court how Usman Zakari, the second prosecution witness, PW2, showed him a copy of the receipt of payment (Exhibit 1A) and wanted him to confirm if it was his signature on it, and that he confirmed that it was his.
He continued: “Zakari further asked me specifically where the money was and I told him I did not have the money and that I had never had it.
“He then said that as far as he was concerned, the document was the only thing connecting me to the money and, therefore, he needed to ask me what happened to it, my role in it and also to recover the money.
“I then gave him an oral account of what happened along the lines of what I have said thus far.”
Belgore further claimed that Zakari said that as far as he was concerned, his name was on the receipt and he had to pay the money.
He also said that Zakari told him to assist in identifying who took the money.
Belgore told the court that he made several statements between November 2016 and February 2017, wherein he denied receiving the money.
Justice Aikawa, thereafter, adjourned to March 5, 2019 for continuation of trial.