Two witnesses presented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, narrated how the former Governor of Niger State, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, and two others: Tanko Beji and Umar Nasko, withdrew N800 million with 80 cheques, from N2 billion Ecological Fund meant for the state.
The former governor and the others are currently facing a money-laundering trial before Justice Mikail Aliyu of the Niger State High Court, Minna.
The defendants are being prosecuted for the diversion of the N2 billion Ecological Fund.
The two witnesses, Muhammed Nma Abubakar, third prosecution witness, and Isaac Gado, fourth prosecution witness, both staff of Zenith Bank Plc, 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 the Chief of Staff to the former governor.
According to a statement made available to Ripples Nigeria by Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Abubakar narrated that in 2014 he was approached by an account owner, I.D SABIN Investment Nigeria Limited, who dropped about twenty cheques for delivery to the Manager of Zenith Bank, Minna 1 branch.
“I immediately handed them over to my dispatch rider and he delivered it to the branch manager, Isaac Gado. The value of the cheques was N10 million each,” he said.
Similarly, the fourth prosecution witness, Gado, confirmed to the court that the said customer the bank, I.D SABIN Investment Nigeria Limited had issued his colleague, Abubakar, the third prosecution witness, with about twenty cheques in the sum of N10 million each.
His words: “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.”
He 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.”
“The same process was followed in respect to the total of eighty cheques bearing the same amount. In total, that should amount to N800 Million (Eight Hundred Million Naira) because there were eighty cheques. After the withdrawal of the cash, the same amount will 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 was made from the account and the cash delivered to the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Umar Nasko,” the witness added.
The prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdallah applied to tender sixty out of the eighty original cheques to the court in evidence.
The presiding judge, Justice Aliyu admitted the cheques as Exhibit C1 to C60, while the case was adjourned to Thursday, October 14, for ruling on the admissibility of other documents and continuation of trial.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, Justice Ailyu admitted in evidence, documents tendered by the fourth prosecution witness, which include account opening documents; certificate of Identification of I.D Sabin Investment Nigeria Limited, with the account number 1013331525; and documents of the Ministry of Environment, Parks, Gardens, Forest and Resources with account number 1013403497.
Others include 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.
Meanwhile, counsel to the third defendant objected to the admissibility of the documents because they were brought to court by the fourth prosecution witness, who is a branch manager at Zenith Bank.
However, the prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdallah prayed the court to admit the documents as evidence.
On his part, Justice Aliyu admitted and marked all the documents relating to I.D Sabin Investment Nigeria Limited as Exhibit D1 to D52, and documents relating to the Ministry of Environment, Parks, Gardens, Forest and Resources with account number 1013403497, as Exhibit E1 to E36.
Also, documents relating to Accountant General Statutory Account with account number 1011272451 were admitted and marked as Exhibit F1 to F21.
The Judge also admitted and marked the 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 Aliyu adjourned the matter to October 15, 2021, for cross-examination of the fourth prosecution witness.
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