An Accountant with the Rural Electrification Board in Jalingo, Taraba State, Abdulrahman Mohammed, has admitted to having withdrawn N282 million naira for the former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame.
Mr. Mohammed, former head of the accounts department in the Taraba State liaison office in Abuja, who is now a key witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the prosecution of the former governor of Taraba State, made this admission in an Abuja high court hearing being presided over by Justice Adebukola Banjoko on Wednesday.
He said told Justice Adebukola Banjoko that he issued, withdrew and gave the former governor of Taraba State, 20 Zenith Bank PLC cheques valued over N282 million.
The former governor is currently facing a 41-count charge of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and gratification totaling one billion, three hundred and sixty million naira in the Abuja High Court.
While Rotimi Jacob, the prosecution counsel examined Mr. Mohammed, the later said Mr. Japheth Wubon, the former permanent secretary of the liaison office in Abuja would instruct him to prepare a Zenith Bank cheque, withdraw money and then take to the former governor at his lodge on T Y Danjuma Street, Abuja.
Mr. Mohammed said that a driver and at least two police escort always accompanied him on the assignment. He also told the court that the money was either received by the governor or his steward and never had a receipt or voucher that was signed by the governor.
Mr. Mohammed identified two exhibits labeled “M” and “S” as the Zenith Bank financial statements and copies of the cheques he signed and with which money was paid.
According to him, the money he withdrew for the ex-governor in 2006 include: N15.5 million on March 13, N25 million on May 4, N5 million on June 16; twenty five million twenty thousand Naira on June 29, , N3 million on July 21, five million ten thousand Naira on October 10, , N10 million on October 31, N20 million on November 7 and twenty five million ten thousand naira only on November 13 .
In his testimony, Mr. Mohammed said the 2007 withdrawals he made for the ex-governor include: N25 million on January 8, N15 million on January 18, N25 million on January 30, N20 million on February 19, two million and ten thousand naira on March 7, N4 million on March 21, N6 million on March 24, N20 million on March 30, and N20 million on May 7.
On the other hand, the defence counsels, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Lateef Fagbemi, objected to the cheques being tendered as evidence.
He maintained that since the monies were withdrawn from Zenith banks with the cheques, they could not be tendered as evidence by the witness.
“The witness is a staff of Taraba state government and not an employee of Zenith Bank. The document to be tendered is ordinarily in possession of Zenith Bank, how did the witness come in possession of these cheques?
“To me, it is a mystery. This is a criminal matter and the process by which the guilt of the accused is arrived at must be seen to be pure and clean. I urge your Lordship to reject these documents,” Mr. Fagbemi said.
But Mr. Jacobs, the prosecuting counsel, cited Section 147 and 148 of the Evidence Act. He stated that as long as “the witness wrote and signed the cheques during the period under scrutiny, he has link to the exhibit. I therefore urge my Lord to discountenance the objection”, Mr. Jacob said.
The judge adjourned the case till April 30, May 24 and 25, 2012, for further hearing.