The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has presented two more witnesses in the ongoing trial involving erstwhile governor of Niger State, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, and two others: Tanko Beji and Umar Nasko, over alleged diversion of N2bn Ecological Fund.
At the continuation of the hearing on Wednesday, 13 October, 2021, Mohammed Nma Abubakar and Isaac Gado, third and fourth prosecution witnesses (PW3 and PW4) respectively, gave their testimonies before Justice Mikail Aliyu of the Niger State High Court, Minna.
TheFact Nigeria recalls that the first prosecution witness, PW1, in the trial, Muhammad Ndawuye Nmadu, had, in March, told the court that auditors could not trace the address of contractors that got paid the sum of N1.7bn from the Niger State government in 2014. Nmadu was a retired auditor general of the state from 2007 to 2020, whose responsibility as auditor general was to audit the books of account of the State.
PW3 and PW4, both staff of Zenith Bank Plc, in their testimonies, narrated how 80 cheques drawn in the name of Saidu Nma were cashed and the proceeds delivered to one of the defendants, Umar Nasko, who was then Chief of Staff to Babangida Aliyu as governor of Niger State.
Under cross examination, Nma Abubakar narrated how, in 2014, he was approached by an account owner, I.D SABIN INVESTMENT NIGERIA LIMITED, with about twenty cheques for delivery to the Manager of Zenith Bank, Minna 1 branch. Abubakar immediately handed the cheques to his dispatch rider for onward delivery to the Manager of the said branch, Isaac Gado. According to Umar, the value of the cheques were Ten Million Naira each.
On his part, the fourth prosecution witness, Gado, corroborated Nma Abubakar’s testimony, adding, that “The account holder, I.D SABIN, drew the cheques in the name of Saidu Nma. Before that, I had received calls from the then Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Saidu Ndayako, and the then Chief of Staff, Alhaji Umar Nasko, who informed me to expect the cheques”.
Gado said the two officials informed him that once the cheques were confirmed and cashed, the cash should be delivered to Umar Nasko, “and that was what happened.” Gado also disclosed that the same process was followed in respect to the total of eighty cheques bearing the same amount.
“In total, that should amount to N800m (Eight Hundred Million Naira) because there were eighty cheques. After the withdrawal of the cash, the same amount would be delivered to the Chief of Staff. Saidu Nma performed the withdrawal because the cheques were drawn in his name. I collected the cheques, and confirmed that they were properly drawn and signed according to the mandate. Thereafter, withdrawal is made from the account and the cash delivered to the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Umar Nasko,” the witness added.
Prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdallah applied to tender sixty out of the eighty original cheques to the court in evidence, which
Justice Mikail admitted as Exhibit C1 to C60.
The case was adjourned to October 14, 2021 for ruling on admissibility of other documents and continuation of trial.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, 14 October, Justice Mikali admitted in evidence documents tendered by the fourth prosecution witness, PW4, which include account opening forms and account opening documents; Certificate of Identification of I.D Sabin Investment Nigeria Limited, with the account number 1013331525; Ministry of Environment, Parks, Gardens, Forest and Resources with account number 1013403497; Accountant General Statutory Account with account number 1011272451; North-South Power Company Limited with account Number 1013224306 and Government House Security Account with account number 1012424374.
Counsel for the third defendant had objected to the admissibility of the documents on the grounds that they were brought to court by the fourth prosecution witness, PW4, Isaac Gado, a branch manager at Zenith Bank.
However, prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdallah prayed the court to admit the documents in evidence.
Justice Mikail admitted and marked all the documents relating to I.D Sabin Investment Nigeria Limited as Exhibit D1 to D52, while documents relating to the Ministry of Environment, Parks, Gardens, Forest and Resources with account number 1013403497 as E1 to E36.
Also, documents relating to Accountant General Statutory Account with account number 1011272451 were admitted and marked as F1 to F21.
The Judge further admitted and marked account opening documents, account opening forms, certificate of identification of North-South Power Company Limited with account Number 1013224306 as G1 to G22 while the documents for Government House Security Account with account number 1012424374 were admitted and marked as H1 to H71.
Justice Mikail adjourned the matter to October 15, 2021 for cross-examination of PW4.