Alleged N3.4bn NIMASA fraud: Prosecution Witness Cross Examined
A witness, Mr Fredrick Ugor, Tuesday, told a Federal High Court in Lagos that monies paid into the account of a company, Penniel Engineering Ltd, charged alongside a former Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, was said to be meant for intelligence gathering.
The witness, who is a staff of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), gave the evidence under cross examination in the ongoing trial of Akpobolokemi and five others over alleged N3.4 billion fraud.
(Other defendants are: Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Felix Bob-Nabena, Captain Warredi Enisouh and a firm, Al-kenzo Ltd.)
They were charged on a 22-counts of allegedly converting N3.4 billion belonging to NIMASA for their personal use.
They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
The prosecution has since opened its case and is still leading evidences.
The witness (Ugor) had testified before the court on Feb. 18 how various sums of monies were paid into the account of a company called Peniel Engineering Ltd by NIMASA’s Committee on intelligence (COI).
Under cross examination on Tuesday by second defence counsel, Mr Onyeke Edoka, the witness told the court that funds paid into the account of Peniel Engineering Ltd was meant for intelligence gathering.
Defence asked the witness :”As a witness who works in NIMASA, do you have anything to tell the court in relation to the charge and the second defendant?
The witness replied, “I am not in a position to do that”.
Defence then asked the witness if in the payment to Peniel Ltd, there was any intention to disguise the source of the funds and the witness replied “I would not know”.
Defence: “Will I be correct to say that when the money came in, you knew it was from the Committee on Intelligence?
Witness: “No, I knew it was from NIMASA.”
On whether there was any attempt to disguise the source of the money, the witness again replied that he was not in a position to know.
When defence counsel asked how the witness knew monies were to be paid, the witness replied, “because my boss told me that some money will come in for intelligence gathering.”
On whether he received any instructions from the second defendant to transfer, convert, or remove the funds from the jurisdiction of the court, the witness replied, “Not at all.”
Defence: “To the best of your knowledge, was the second defendant a beneficiary to any of the funds paid into the account?
When defence counsel asked the witness if he was informed that the monies disbursed was for intelligence gathering, the witness replied in the affirmative.
Defence: “You were informed that the account will be used as a Special Purpose Vehicle to warehouse funds to be used for security related purposes.”
Witness replied:”That is what I have in my statement.”
Defence: “Will I be correct to say that you were aware of the security challenges the maritime sector was facing at the time the money was paid, such as hijacking, and sea piracy.
Witness replied “Yes”
When defence counsel retorted that in the statement of account of Peniel with all the entries and exits, non of them relates to the second defendant, the Witness replied “That is correct.”
Defence: “There was never a time you wrote a letter on Peniel letter head, requesting for monies to be paid”
Witness replied “No”.
When defence counsel asked if it was stated anywhere that Peniel was to carry out any security operations or for services in all of exhibits N1 to N15, the witness replied No.
Defence asked: “From your perspective will I be correct to say that there was a reduction in security operations at the time these payments were made”
At this point, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, raised objection on the grounds that the witness was in court to give evidence and not to express an opinion.
Justice Ayokunle Faji sustained this objection and asked defence counsel to rephrase his question.
Defence then asked the witness if he was familiar with maritime security issues in NIMASA between 2014 and 2015 and the witness replied “I am aware by virtue of my work”.
Defence: “Will I be correct to say that there was a reduction in these activities between 2014 and 2015”
Witness replied: “There were times we had constant attacks and other times few, so cannot categorically say that. ”
The court has adjourned until Feb. 28 for continuation of trial.
According to the charge, the defendants were said to have committed the alleged offences between December 2013 and July 2015.
The offences contravened Sections 15 (1), (3), and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibitions) Amendment Act, 2012.