By Sandra Umeh
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday called its 16th witness before a Federal High Court in Lagos in the ongoing trial of a former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu, standing trial on charges of N3.2 billion fraud.
The witness, Mr Robinson Imafidon, the Head of Regulatory Liaison, in a first generation bank, narrated how series of monetary transactions were carried out on the account of the Abia State Government House during the tenure of Kalu.
EFCC had on Oct. 31, 2016 slammed a 34-count charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud on Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo (the second accused).
Also charged is Kalu’s company, Slok Nig. Ltd.
The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that since the trial began the prosecution had called 15 witnesses.
Leading the 16th witness in evidence on Monday, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), asked the witness to introduce himself to the court.
In response, the witness said he works as the bank’s regulatory liaison officer and has a work schedule of responding to emails and request from regulators such as the EFCC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Securities and Exchange Commission among others.
He told the court that EFCC had written a letter to the bank, requesting account opening documents of the Abia State Government House, Umuahia.
According to the witness, the document including the statement of account and mandate, were retrieved from the system and after due certification and verification, were sent to the EFCC.
The prosecution then showed the witness a bulk document and asked him to confirm if the certification were from him to which the witness replied in the affirmative.
Jacobs sought to tender in evidence the statement of account of the Abia State Government House, Umuahia, from 2002 to 2007.
The defence did not raise any objections and the court admitted the document and marked same as Exhibits U to U18.
The prosecution asked the witness to identify Exhibit U14, and in response, the witness explained that it is the statement of account of the Abia State Government House, but in an old format.
He told the court that there had been a change from the old format which had the old account number, to a new format which he called Finaco, and which has the new 10-digit account number.
When showed Exhibit B23, the witness told the court that the exhibit was a fund transfer form by the second accused (Udeogo) in which he applied for a draft of N50 million with the debit to be made from the Government House account.
He said on May 31, 2002, there were two cash deposits by the second accused in the sums of N2 million and N7.3 million respectively.
The witness told the court that on June 3, a draft of N10 million was paid by the second accused, while on July 1, there was an issue of a demand draft of N11 million and another draft of N15 million on Aug. 19.
He said on Sept. 16, 2002, there were two cash deposits of N50,000 and N5 million respectively by one M. A Udoh, who was an accountant in Abia at the time.
Under cross-examination, Mr Awa Kalu, counsel to the first accused, asked the witness, “how many times have you testified in all your life ?”
In response, the witness told the court that he had testified several times before law courts but could not recall how many times.
On whether it is the practice for two people to append their signatures on a document as shown in some of the exhibits, the witness replied, “two people may sign, but there are exceptions.
“When one of the signatories is not available then someone else can sign; more so, where the issue is not so significant, then one person may sign.”
Defence counsel then asked that the witness should be showed exhibit B, and asked the witness : “when do you archive a transaction,”
Witness: There was no specific time to archive a transaction, adding that once a transaction was concluded and thoroughly verified, it goes to the archive.
Counsel : Do you know how many of your colleagues have testified in the instant case ?
Witness : No.
Justice Mohammed Idris adjourned cotinuation of trial until April 17.
NAN also reports that Kalu is alleged to have used his company to retain several sums of money in his account illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia State Government.
His company (Slok Nigeria Ltd) and one Emeka Abone, who is said to be at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused.
The accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which funds were said to belong to the Abia State Government.
Cumulatively in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia State Government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.
The offences also contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 (as amended) by the amendment Act No.9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation, 1990.