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N3bn fund diversion: Witness opens can of worms on ex-HoS, Oyo-Ita, others

A prosecution witness in the trial of a former Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, on Thursday, before Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja, blew the lid on how the defendant and her subordinates diverted public funds into their private companies.

 

Oyo-Ita, the first defendant, is facing criminal prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside her special assistants, Ugbong Effiok (seventh defendant), and Garba Umar (fourth defendant).

Others are six companies: Frontline Ace Global Services Limited, Asanaya Projects Limited, Slopes International Limited, U and U Global Services Ltd, Prince Mega Logistics Ltd, and Good Deal Investments, on 18 counts bordering on misappropriation, official corruption, money laundering, and criminal diversion of funds to the tune of over N3bn.

Hamma Bello, the eighth prosecution witness in the case while being led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdullahi, and H.M. Mohammed, told the court that Oyo-Ita used Slopes International Limited and Good Deal Investments Limited – fifth and sixth defendants respectively, to fraudulently award government contracts to herself through the fourth defendant, Umar.

The first entry transaction of Good Deal Investment Limited in February 2019 showed that N42,748, 201.47 was paid into its Zenith Bank account.

The witness said, “We called for the account statements of these two companies, upon analysing them, we realised he (Umar) was paid several sums of money from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing where he is an employee.

“And upon interviewing the fourth defendant, he admitted that he was also a contractor. He also admitted to have paid the first defendant on several occasions from the proceeds of the transaction.”

On April 27, 2019, the witness disclosed that a transfer of N20, 2027, 142 was made in the name of Ibrahim Madu to the Zenith Bank account of Asanaya Projects Limited.

The mandate card of the account bears the signature and photo of the seventh defendant, Effiok.

Investigation, according to the witness, also revealed that the seventh defendant incorporated Asanaya Projects Limited in his name with the knowledge of the first defendant and that approvals were granted, and payments made to the seventh defendant either through his personal account or to the account of the company.

The witness said, “The seventh defendant, upon interview, confirmed he had never travelled for most of the funds he received, and that the first defendant was aware of and benefitted on several occasions from the funds. The account of U and U Global Services Limited was also opened by the seventh defendant.

“In summary, from 2015 to 2018, U and U Global Limited received several payments in the form of Duty Tour Allowances and estacodes. Sometimes, payments from the Federal Government were made directly to the account, for instance, on March 24, 2016, he received N40, 313, 453. 58. This particular payment was from the Federal Government.”

Further in his testimony, the witness stated, “Exhibit O is the Fidelity Bank account of Prince Mega Logistics Ltd. On March 27, 2018, and April 6, 2018, there were four entries, N4, 950, 000; N3,946,000, N4,676,000 and N1,478,000, from Thomson Titus Okure, who used to be a colleague of the seventh defendant in the Account Department.

“There were also outward payments to Ignom, Minaro Blessing, Winifred Oyo-Ita, Olarenwaju Godman Olushola and the seventh defendant is the sole signatory of this account.”

Speaking further, he said, “I also want to add that we invited the first, second and seventh defendant at different times to our office and interviewed them.

“In the case of the first defendant, we printed chats from her phone and saw conversations she had with contractors, subordinates, and permanent secretaries. She also voluntarily made a statement to the EFCC.”

The matter was adjourned till April 30, 2024.

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