Fashion designer tells court how ex-NIMASA boss used him to divert N546.8m

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    Patrick Akpobolokemi
    Patrick Akpobolokemi

    A fashion designer, Chukwuemeka Benjamin Onuoha, yesterday told a Federal High Court in Lagos how his company, Extreme Vertevex Limited was used to divert over N546,802,000 million from the coffers of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for a contract that was not awarded to him.

    Onuoha is the second prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of a former Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi and six others over alleged theft of N2.6 billion belonging to NIMASA.

    Akpobolokemi was arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba along with three others – Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan – and three companies, namely Blockz and Stonz Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.

    In a 22-count charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), they were accused of converting a total of N2, 658,957,666 between December 23, 2013 and May 28 2015. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

    At resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Onuoha told the court that the money was paid into his account with Zenith bank even though he did not tender any proposal or carry out any contract for NIMASA.

    Led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Onuoha told the court that the disbursement of the money was facilitated by the 3rd defendant (Ekene Nwakuche) who was his secondary school mate.

    Onuoha who painted a graphic details of how he received the money, stated that sometime in 2003 when the 3rd defendant secured employment with NIMASA, he (Onuoha) approached him and pleaded with him to remember him if there was any contract he could implement.

    He stated that shortly after he made the request, the 3rd defendant called him on phone to enquire if he had any registered company that could be used for transactions as well as the company’s accounts.

    Onuoha told the court that not long after his supplied details of his company and his bank account to the 3rd defendant, he received several alerts from his bank totalling N546,802,000 million.

    He told the court that on August 2014 he received N21,802,000; on November 6, 2014, he received the sum of N318 million and on November 25, 2014 he received alert of N207 million into his account.

    He further said that when he enquired from the 3rd defendant on what the money was meant for, he was told to wait for further instructions.

    Onuoha told the court that he was later instructed to transfer the money to different accounts by the 3rd defendant.

    Under cross examination, by Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN, counsel to the first defendant, Onuoha told the court he had never met the first defendant, (Akpobolokemi) or received any instruction from him.

    Also testifying, a Bureau De Change operator, Hussein Sabo, said on March 2014 he was approached by one Muhammed Darlington who told him that the 2nd defendants, (Captain Ezekiel Agaba) wanted to buy dollars.

    Sabo in his testimony, he said ‘’Darlington collected my account numbers and several millions of naira was paid into the account which I used to buy dollars.

    Sabo also confirmed that on March 3, 2014, monies were paid into his account namely, N33,800,000; N35,000,000; N20,000,000 and N3,000,000 respectively.

    He also disclosed that between the month of March 2014 and December 2014, he received through his account, N85, 305,000, N155,300,000, N13,000,000, N10,000,000, and N84,000,000 respectively.

    However, there was a mild drama in court, when counsel to the 2nd defendant, E G Onyeka, sought to know if the witness (Sabo) could read and write either in Hausa or English languages.

    Sabo, who said he could not read, was asked how he wrote his statement tendered by the EFCC and whether he was assured by the prosecution that he would not be charged to court for making the statement.

    Justice Buba has adjourned further hearing in the matter till February 2,5, 16 and 19 respectively. (Thisday)

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