N2.3bn NIMASA fraud: Fashion designer got N546m for undisclosed service

N2.3bn NIMASA fraud: Fashion designer got N546m for undisclosed service

The trial of former director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and five others kicked off on Monday, with a startling revelation of how a fashion designer, Chukwuemeka Benjamin, was paid N546 million for services not rendered by the maritime agency.

Akpobolokemi is standing trial before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the

Federal High Court Lagos, alongside five others in a N2.3 billion charge preferred against them by the EFCC.

The three – Teslim Adekunle, a compliance officer with Zenith Bank plc, Chukwuemeka Benjamin and Usaini Sabo – have been presented so far before the court in the matter.

Adekunle appeared before the court on Monday while Benjamin and Sabo appeared before Justice Buba on Tuesday.

In his own testimony, Adekunle told the court that, between August and October 2015, his bank received nine requests from EFCC in respect of the following accounts: Southern Offshore Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited, Aroward Consulting Limited, Avant Guard Security Solution, Green Lemon Limited, Ace Prosthesis Limited, O2 Services Limited, Suco Global Limited, and the Committee on International Shipping and Port Security (ISPS).

According to Adekunle, money flowed into accounts of the aforementioned companies from the account of the Committee on ISPS. The witness was tendered a bundle of documents he identified as the request letters from EFCC, response from his bank, and the statement of accounts in question.

In exhibit P10, the witness said that on March 5, 2015, there was an inflow of the sum of N21.2 million into the nine customers’ account from the Committee on ISPS. Also, on May 4, 2015, there was another inflow of the sum of N16 million into same account from ISPS.

Another N21 million was again paid into that same account, but as of the time the last lodgement was made, there was a balance of only N1404.93 in the account.

When the witness was asked how the money earlier credited into that account was disbursed, he said that on June 19, 2015, there was an outflow of the sum of N10million and N11.2million to the account of one Uchenna Obi domiciled at Diamond Bank.

Other beneficiaries of the money are: November 6, 2014, Extreme Bartex Nigeria Limited (318,000,000); November 27, 2014, Avant Guard Security Solution (N94,000,000); November 28, 2014, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited (N207,000,000); January 8, 2015, Suco Global Limited (15,000,000); March 15, 2015, O2 Services Limited (N21,200,000), and May 4, 2015, O2 services Limited: (N16,000,000).

After reviewing and explaining the contents of the exhibit, prosecuting counsel Rotimi Oyedepo asked the witness to explain the procedure for cash lodgement and disbursement in his bank and the witness said, all funds were disbursed based on instructions of the customer, either in the banking hall to conduct his transaction or by use of internet banking.

At the resumption of the trial on Tuesday, another witness, Chukwuemeka Benjamin, general manager of one of the companies that allegedly benefitted from the disbursements from the ISPS, gave his testimony.

He told the court how his company, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited received the total sum of over N546 million from NIMASA for a service that was never executed.

The witness, a fashion designer by profession, told the court that he and the third accused person, Ekene Nwakuche, were secondary school mates.

He further told the court that he approached Nwakuche when he learned that he had a job with NIMASA and asked him if there was any contract available that he could handle.

Thereafter, Benjamin said Nwakuche started giving him some business, and the first came through a credit alert of N21.2 million from NIMASA.

The witness said he asked for the purpose of the lodgement in his account but Nwakuche only told him to hold on that he was awaiting instructions from his boss, the second accused, Captain Ezekiel Agaba.

Benjamin told the court that after a while, Nwakuche provided him with some specific account numbers and instructed him to transfer the said money into the accounts provided.

The witness also told the court that sometime in November 2014, he received another inflow of the sum of N318 million from NIMASA with the same instruction to transfer the sum into certain account numbers provided by Nwakuche.

The last lodgement the witness received from NIMASA was for the sum of N207million with the same instructions of moving it into some specified account numbers.

Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo asked the witness if there was any contract agreement between his company and NIMASA and the witness said, no.

Oyedepo showed the witness exhibit P7 and the witness confirmed to the court that he was the signatory to the account, and Oyedepo also showed the witness another document alleged to be forged and addressed to the director-general of NIMASA: the first accused person.

The prosecuting counsel later called the third witness: Usaini Sabo, who told the court that he operated as a middleman between buyer and seller in Bureau De Change.

When he was asked to explain the events of December 1, 2014, he told the court that he received the sum of N40 million in two transactions through Avant Guard Security Solution, one of the companies that allegedly benefitted from the disbursement of funds from the ISPS.

The witness said that he also received the total sum of N238.8 million from another company: Southern Offshore Limited.

When the counsel for the second accused person asked him again if he had a licence to conduct his business, Sabo told the court that as an agent, he doesn’t require licence to conduct his business.

The witness was subsequently discharged and Justice Ibrahim Buba adjourned the matter to February 2, 5, 16, and 19, 2016, for continuation of trial.

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