Friday, 2 February 2018

N600m Fraud: EFCC Presents Two More Witnesses Against Ex-Naval Chief, Jibrin

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 presented two witnesses - Abdulkarim Idris Wakili and Nweke Cyril Chidi, to establish the culpability of Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, former Chief of Naval Staff, in a case of N600million fraud preferred against him before Justice A. S. Umar of the FCT High Court, Maitama, Abuja.

He is standing trial alongside Rear Admiral Bala Mshelia, Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu (all retired) and Habor Bay International Limited on a 4-count charge of criminal conspiracy.

The Naval Chief whilst in office allegedly bought a house worth N600million from the account of Naval Engineering Services without budgetary provision.

It was also alleged that, the documentation for transfer of ownership of the property was done such that a private company owned by the family of the first defendant (Vice Admiral Jibrin) became the buyer.

The offense contravenes Section 26 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Act 2000.

At the hearing of the case, Jibrin’s counsel, Y. C. Maikyau, SAN, told the court that the EFCC did not serve him with the summary of the statement of the subpoenaed witness, Abdulkadir Idris Wakili, a representative from Budget Office, who is to testify as the 4th prosecution witness.

At the last adjourned date, November 29, 2017, Y. C. Maikyau, SAN, told the court that, the defence was not ready for cross-examination of the prosecution witness because it was not prepared for it.

“In the subpoena tendered to us, it was not mentioned what the witness is coming to say. We have not been given the opportunity to prepare our questions for cross-examination”, Maikyau said.

Other counsels in the defence also aligned themselves with the submission of the learned silk following which Justice Umar ordered the prosecution to furnish the defence with all the materials required for the trial.

At the sitting today, Wakili, who was subpoenaed testified as PW4, while Chidi testified as PW5.

In his testimony, Wakili told the court that “the purchase of the guest house for the Ex-Chief of Naval Staff to the tune of N600million by the Nigeria Navy was not appropriated in the 2013 and 2014 budget by the budget office of the federation”.

He stated this in response to a question by Faruk Abdallah, counsel to EFCC, on whether there was a virement for the purchase of the said guest house for the Nigeria Navy.

The prosecution further presented another witness, Nweke Cyril Chidi, an operative of the EFCC, who told the court that “sometimes in 2015 the EFCC received an intelligent report from the Nigeria Financial Intelligent Unit, NFIU, indicating a suspicious transaction report of N750million by a commercial bank against one Peter Oguebie of Fetus Ogwu Nigeria Limited of allegation of money laundering.

Chidi told the court that, he was among the team assigned to investigate the case.

“We wrote to Fidelity bank, Eco bank, Diamond bank and Zenith bank requesting for account opening package of Festus Ogwu Nigeria Ltd, for which response were received and analyzed”, Chidi said.

He went further: “Peter oguebie Eco bank account revealed that the sum of N750million was reported as suspicious transaction which was credited on March 17, 2014 and the fund came from Mr. Peter’s account with Fidelity bank.

“We further analysed the account of Festus Ogwu domiciled with Fidelity bank and the analysis revealed that N750million came in two tranches from Festus Ogwu’s Diamond bank and Zenith bank accounts.

“We further analyzed Festus Ogwu Diamond bank account and it revealed that, N600million was credited into the account by Naval Engineering Services Ltd on March 13, 2014 while the account has a balance of N70million. It was also revealed that, the N600million was part of the funds reported as suspicious transaction.

“In the course of investigation, we wrote to Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, for incorporation details of Naval Engineering Services Ltd. The response received and analyzed revealed that the Directors and share holders are senior officers of the Nigeria Navy among who are the 2nd defendant, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba (then chief of naval staff).

“The analysis further revealed that the 2nd and 3rd defendants are signatories to the account and they equally signed the instrument for the transfer of N600million to Festus Ogwu Nigeria Ltd.

“We invited the Managing Director of Festus Ogwu Nigeria Ltd. He reported on September 29, 2015 and was interviewed by the team. Mr. Peter informed us that, the N600million which was credited to his account by Naval Engineering Services Ltd was for the sale of his house located at No. 7 Colorado Street, Maitama, Abuja.

“He (Festus) further made voluntary statement under caution. He reported with documents relating to how he acquired the property and sold it. The documents include deeds of assignment and power of attorney between Festus Ogwu Nigeria Ltd and Harbor Bay International Ltd., for the purchase of the property at plot 2717.

“Investigation revealed that, the Directors of Harbor Bay International are Lami Jibrin and Abdulkadir Jibrin, wife and son to the 1st defendant (Vice Admiral Jibrin) respectively.

“The 2nd and 3rd defendant informed us that the 1st defendant directed them to transfer N600million for the purchase of the property which will be used at Chief of Naval Staff Guest house. It was further revealed that the document was prepared by Bushi and Bushi Law firm owned by General Ishaya Vouka.

“We invited him and he confirmed to us that he prepared the deeds of assignment and power of attorney between Harbor Bay and Naval Engineering Services.

“We invited the Managing Director who informed us that, she did not know anything about the property until January 2016, when the 1st defendant told her that, the house was bought for him as retirement benefit by the Nigeria Navy and the property be handed back to them”, Chidi stated.

Jibrin’s counsel, Maikyau under cross-examination opposed Chidi’s testimony saying the statement obtained from his client by the EFCC was “taken under inducement, promises and treat”. He urged the court to conduct trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness.

After heated arguments by counsels, Justice Umar granted Maikyau’s application for trial-within-trial prompting Abdallah (EFCC’s counsel) to present Nweke Chidi as the first witness in the trial-within-trial, PWT1.

Chidi told the court that the 1st defendant’s statement was willingly volunteered and signed by him, and was not under any form of duress during interrogation.

Abdallah tendered the 1st defendant’s statement of April 4, 2016 as evidence and was admitted as exhibit TWT1A.
Thereafter, Justice Umar adjourned to February 19, 2018 for continuation of the trial-within-trial.

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