The scheduled trial of Major-General Emmanuel Atewe, the former Commander of a Military Joint Task Force (MJTF), nicknamed Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta, Dr. Patrick Akpolobokemi, a former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and two others standing trial on alleged N19.7 billion, at the Federal High Court, Lagos, was stalled today, due to the absence of presiding judge, Justice Ayotunde O. Faji.
Others standing trial in the alleged fraud are: Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga, on an amended 22 count-charge bordering on the alleged offences.
The presiding judge was said to be on official assignment outside Lagos jurisdiction.
Consequently, the trial of the accused persons has been adjourned till June 19, 20, 27, 28 and 29, 2017.
As at the last trial of the defendants, a witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ahidjo Ikem, told court, how the Living Faith Church, a church established by Pastor (Dr.) David Oyedepo, benefited the sum of N35 million from Major-General Atewe and others alleged N19.7 billion fraud.
Ikem, who is the Managing Director of five companies charged alongside the former JTF Commander and other defendants in the alleged billion of Naira fraud.
The Ikem’s companies charged alongside the accused persons are; Jaggan Limited; Jaggan Trading Company Limited; Jaggan Global Services Limited; Al-Nald Limited; and Paper Warehouse Limited.
Other companies charged with the accused persons are: Eastpoint Integrated Services Limited and De-Newlink Integrated Services Limited.
The EFCC witness narrated how his five companies became the conduict pipe used by Major-General Atewe in Laundering the said sum of N4. 915, 163, 104 billion from the JTF’s account.
Ikem while being led-in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court that he came in contact with the former JTF Commander at the Villa Church, Abuja, where they both worship, when the JTF Commander was Guard Brigade Commander.
He said sometimes between July and September 2014, Major-General Atewe became the JTF Commander invited him to Balyesa State and told him that he had been given a contract by the Federal Government for maintenance of security and building of Barracks, and asked him if he (witness) has a company, he should supply it, as the money for the contract will be paid into the company’s account.
He further stated that he supplied the JTF Commander all his five companies, with their banks’ details and the addresses.
Ikem alsi informed the court that his Companies has no contractual agreement with JTF, and that he is not a registered contractor with JTF, adding that he did not supply any goods or rendered any service to the Task Force.
The witness told the court that not quit long the JTF Commander invited him to Balyesa State again and told him that the money is about coming to his account, adding that once he received that money, he (the witness) should inform him.
He stated further that two to three days after his visit to Balyesa State, he started receiving alerts, and when he called the JTF Commander, he told him to hold on that he is coming to Abuja.
He said when Major-General Atewe came to Abuja, he joined him at Niger Barracks, where he was introduced to Kime Engonzu (the third accused person), and said any money he received should be handed over to Kime.
Ikem who is the first prosecution witness in the matter said, the total money he received was N4. 915, 163, 104 billion, which he changed to $21,500,000 USD, from a Bureau De Change (BDC) Operator, named Jimoh, and handed Kime, who in turn carry out the order of the JTF Commander.
The witness also told the court that he collected the sum of $950, 000 USD from one Chijioke, who is also a good friend of Major-General Atewe, and gave it to the third accused person, (Kime).
The witness said the sum of N4.1 billion was converted to United State Dollars, out of the sum of N4.915,163,103. And the remaining balance was given to some companies and a Church at the order of Major-General Atewe.
He said the sum of N35 million was paid to Living Faith Church, the sum of N103 million was paid to INP Limited, the sum of N107 million to First Investment Limited, while Lord Firm limited, Ocean Gas, and Sisco Nobort were paid the sum of N99 million, N88 million and N297 million respectively.
When asked by the prosecutor what was the reason for paying the companies and church the said money, the witness said they were paid at the order of the Major-General, and that no reason was giving.
The witness said in the course of the Investigation of the matter, he was invited by the EFCC and wrote four statements.
In the charge, the anti-graft agency alleged that the accused conspired to defraud NIMASA of N19.7 billion using the seven companies.
The EFCC alleged that the accused committed the fraud between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015.
The offences is said to have contravened the provisions of Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012. And Section 390 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C. 38, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
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