The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on October 4 presented its first witness, PW1, Umar Bello, in the trial of one Olugbenga Obadina, Chairman and Managing Director, Almond Projects Limited, who is facing an eight-count charge of fraud before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Mr. Obadina allegedly collected money to the tune of N2.4 billion from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, under Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) for a phony contract.
He was accused of collecting a sum of N2, 417, 000,000.00 (two billion, four hundred and seventeen million naira), through his company’s account in tranches, between 2013 and 2015 from the account of the ONSA without a contract award.
The offence is contrary to Section 15(2), (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
At the commencement of trial on Tuesday, Mr. Bello, an operative of the EFCC, while being led in evidence by counsel to EFCC, Aso Larry Peters, told the court how Mr. Obadina, as Chairman, Almond Projects paid over N90 million to one Bamiduro Olaitan, an agent, to arrange local and international travels for him.
According to him, “a petition was received by the Commission from the Office of the National Security Adviser dated 28th November, 2016 and was assigned to Special Task Force Team 2, for investigation.”
Mr. Bello stated that the ONSA petition requested the EFCC to investigate 78 companies that received payments from it without any contractual agreement or contact award.
“Almond Project Limited was one of the companies and our investigation revealed that they received N1.553 billion and 2 million dollars”, he added.
The witness also told the court that letters of investigation were sent to banks, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), ONSA, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and parties were also invited for interview.
According to him, responses from banks were received and analysed to see how funds were received and utilized. He said that, investigation revealed that the defendant (Obadina), who is a representative of Almond Project, received more than the amount mentioned in the petition.
“When Obadina was invited to explain the transaction, he said there was a Solar Power Project in Yobe State that he was supposed to execute on behalf of the ONSA and that the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, had given him the 1000 megawatts Solar project to execute”, Mr. Bello stated.
He further told the court that the claim was investigated, but the reply from the ONSA showed that the contract did not exist and payments received by Almond Projects according to the mandate from ONSA, were for renovation of office, supply of equipment and consultancy services.
“The Special Services Office under the OSGF said they had no evidence of the contract, but payments were made based on approvals given by the former NSA,” Mr. Bello added.
The witness also told the court how utilization of the said funds were converted to personal use by the defendant, Mr. Obadina.
“He made payments to his family, friends and associates, paid salaries, office rent and accommodation, paid for travels, bought shares, made payments for loans he took from banks, bought a vehicle (Mercedes Benz), converted money to dollars and made transfers to foreign accounts.
“The defendant also made transfers of over N37 million to his wife and over N271 million to self, with N205 million in property which he later sold and disposed the proceeds”, Bello narrated.
Thereafter, the prosecuting counsel told the court that he had some documents he would like to tender after filing the additional proof of evidence in the course of the trial.
The case has been adjourned to November 23 and 24 for continuation of hearing.