INEC Chief Arraigned for N185m Scam, as Ex-Gov Fintiri’s Trial over N2.9bn...

INEC Chief Arraigned for N185m Scam, as Ex-Gov Fintiri’s Trial over N2.9bn Fraud Continues

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A former Rivers State resident electoral commissioner, Gesila Khan Okubama, was this Wednesday arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, at a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The commissioner, together with one other official, Peter Popnen, was arraigned before Justice Salihu Saidu on a five-count charge bordering on gratification and money laundering to the tune of N185, 842,000.  Specifically, the two former officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, got into trouble for allegedly collecting the said sum in the weeks preceding the 2015 presidential election as a bribe.

They are among the over 100 INEC officials that allegedly collected part of the $115million (N23bn) disbursed by a former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, during the countdown to the 2015 presidential election.

Count one of the charge read: “That you  Gesila Khan Okubama, Peter Popnen, Diezani Alison Madueke (Still at large) and others now at large  on or about  the 27th day of March, 2015,  within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire among yourselves to  directly  take possession of the sum of N 185,842,000.00 (One Hundred and Eighty Five  Million, Eight Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand Naira only)  cash  which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful  act to wit: gratification and money laundering  and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a)  of the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

Count two of the charge read: “That you Gesila Khan Okubama on or about the 13thApril, 2016, at Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, 6A Olumeni Street, Off Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt,  within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court knowingly failed to make full disclosure of  your assets and\or interest in: two blocks of two storey buildings of an office complex\shopping plaza situate at Utome-Bosh, Okutukutu\Etegwe community, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, in the Asset Declaration Form you filled at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on 13 April, 2016, and  thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1) (3)(a)  of the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  Establishment Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (3) of the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  Establishment Act 2004”.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to them.

In view of their pleas, prosecution counsel O. Oyediran asked the court for a trial date and pleaded that the defendants be remanded in prison custody.   However, counsel to the 1st defendant, S. Larry, SAN, told the court that he had filed a bail application for his client. He said the alleged offences were bailable and that the defendant had earlier been placed on administrative bail by the prosecution and urged the court to grant his prayers.  Oyediran, however, opposed his prayers.  He said the application was served on him the previous day and he needed time to respond.

In his ruling, Justice Saidu turned down the 1st defendant’s application for bail and ordered that she should be remanded in EFCC’s custody pending the determination of her bail application.  He, however, granted the 2nd defendant bail in the sum of N100, 000.000, 00k (One Hundred Million Naira only) and two sureties in like sum.  The sureties must be resident within Port Harcourt. One of the sureties must have a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, while the second must be a civil servant on the rank of a deputy director and above within the jurisdiction of the court.

The judge adjourned the matter to June 9, 2017, for argument on bail applications and ordered the 2nd defendant to be remanded in prison custody pending the perfection of his bail.

N2.9bn Fraud: Contracts Awarded by Fintiri, Ex-Adamawa Gov, Not Approved – Witness

A prosecution witness, Ibrahim Welye, on June 7, 2017, told a Federal High Court, Abuja, that there were no approvals for contracts awarded by a former Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, for the electrification of Kirshinga village in Madagali local government area of the state.

Fintiri, who was brought before Justice A.R. Mohammed on June 30, 2016, by the EFCC, is standing trial alongside his company, Mayim Construction and Properties Limited, on a five-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N2.9billion.

At today’s proceeding, Welye, a former secretary to the Adamawa State government, revealed that the contract which cost about N75 million had no approval.

“The Ministry of Finance released the sum of N75 million to the Ministry of Rural Infrastructure and Community Development for the execution of the project,” he said, noting that “there was no approval for the project”.

Welye had in a May 11, 2015, petition to the EFCC alleged that Fintiri diverted N497 million for the construction of a lecture hall for the Faculty of Law, Adamawa State University, Mubi, as he only laid the foundation and never completed the project.

When asked by Mahmud Magaji, SAN, counsel for Fintiri, if he still stood by his petition, which reminder he also sent to the EFCC dated November 18, 2015, Welye answered in the affirmative.

“My lord, I stand by the petition written against Ahmadu Fintiri,” he said.

Magaji thereafter took the witness through some exhibit which had to do with instruments showing inflow into the Zenith Bank account of Adamawa State Capital Project from Adamawa State University, Mubi dated June  3, 2014, captioned  “Adamawa State University, Mubi, signed by V.C Alkasum Abba, document for the release of N978,756,000”. He then asked if he still stood by his allegation.

Prosecution counsel Aso Larry Peters, however, objected to the question, noting that “the documents contained in the exhibit are bank printouts, and the witness is not a banker and there is no affidavit by any banker in support of the document”.

“Under Section 90 (1) (e) of the Evidence Act, only a banker can speak to truth of these documents, and the witness, not being a banker, should not be asked a question relating to bank statement,” he said.

Justice Mohammed has adjourned to September 19, 2017, for “continuation of hearing”.

Wilson Uwujaren, head, media & publicity, EFCC

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