The trial of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Emeka Mba who is facing a 15-count charge of money laundering and procurement fraud to the tune of N2.8 billion commenced on Tuesday with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, presenting its first witness, John Ejim.
Mr. Mba is standing trial alongside a former Director of Finance of NBC, Patrick Areh; Basil Udotai (trading in the name and style of Technology Advisors) and Babatunde Amure (trading in name and style of Divine Partners) before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
They were alleged to have at various times connived and transferred state funds to the tune of N2.9billion from the account of NBC through various proxies for personal gains.
Mr. Mba was also alleged to have used his office as former DG to award contracts without following due procurement process.
Mr. Ejim, an operative of EFCC, while being led in evidence by counsel to EFCC, Ben Ikani, told the court that his investigation was an offshoot of a petition dated December 30, 2015, to the Presidency by one Okey Nwafor and copied to the Executive Chairman of the EFCC.
“The petition alleged among others things: a diversion of proceeds of sale of 700Mhz of Spectrum to an account held by NBC in Zenith bank and that the amount diverted was illegally paid to 5 setup proxies and manufacturers under the digital switch platform”, he said.
When Mr. Ikani sought to tender the document (copy of the petition) in evidence, Mr. Mba’s counsel, S. I. Ameh, objected saying, “the witness cannot be examined on a document he did not make”.
Also counsel to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants – I. F Chude, P. Erukoro and Ikoro M. Ikoro, respectively aligned themselves with the objection raised by Mr. Ameh, while Mr. Erukoro added that there was no evidence of stamp duty paid by the prosecution on the document as stipulated by law.
Responding, Mr. Ikani noted that the witness, as an investigator, was only stating what led to the investigation and that in law, what matters is the relevance of the document tendered.
In a bench ruling, Justice Kolawole overruled the objection saying, “the document sought to be tendered is relevant to the case” and admitted it as exhibit 1.
Continuing, the PW1 said he invited the account officer as well as the compliance officer of Zenith bank who brought along the account opening documents in which it was discovered that Mba was a co-signatory to the account.
“The documents revealed the deposit of a lump sum of N34.1 billion and a transfer of N2.8 billion from the said account to Technology Advisors.
“We invited Emeka Mba and Patrick Areh to further interrogate them on the matter.”
“I attended to Patrick Areh who volunteered his statement after I availed him a copy of the petition,” Mr. Ejim stated.
Mr. Ikani sought to tender the document (2nd defendant’s statement) in evidence, but its admissibility was objected by Mr. Chude, who said that the statement was not voluntarily obtained.
Justice Kolawole, thereafter, adjourned to March 8, 2017 for a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of the statement.