A prosecution witness, Nkem Ahidjo, on Friday, chronicled the alleged illegal disbursement of funds by Emmanuel Atewe, a Major General, who is charged with N8.5 billion fraud.
Mr. Atewe, a former military commander of the Niger-Delta Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, is charged alongside Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former director- general, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Also charged are two staff of the agency: Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
They are charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 22 -count charge of fraud.
Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, Mr. Ahidjo introduced himself as an Abuja-based businessman, dealing in stationary, printing and general contracts with five companies in Abuja.
He further said that he was a registered contractor with the National Assembly, the National Population Commission and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to which he made supplies.
Mr. Ahidjo claimed to have known Mr. Atewe from the church at the presidential villa, Abuja, where he said he and Mr. Atewe worshipped when the accused was the guards commander.
The witness said he also attended Living Faith Church where Mr. Atewe also worshipped.
Mr. Ahidjo narrated to the court how Mr. Atewe moved to Bayelsa between July and September, 2014 where he served as JTF Commander.
He said:”He invited me to Bayelsa and told me that the Federal Government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I have any company account into which money could be paid.
“Since I knew him very well, I provided the company’s account,” he said.
The witness said that on his second visit to Mr. Atewe in Bayelsa, he was told that three payments were about to be made into his company’s accounts and that as soon as they were made, he should acknowledge the payments and await further instructions.
“He said that within two to three days of the meeting, he started to receive the payments and accordingly informed Atewe who asked him to hold on till he (Atewe) returned to Abuja.
The witness said that upon Mr. Atewe’s return to Abuja; he invited him to his office, where he introduced Engozu, (third accused) as the person that would take delivery of the money from Mr. Ahidjo.
Mr. Ahidjo said that owing to the volume of the monies, Engozu advised him to change the money from naira to dollar before delivery, adding that he accordingly contacted a Bureau de Change (BDC) operator.
He said that each time he received the money, he would call the BDC operator who would change the money and then he would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars.
Mr. Ahidjo said that he received about N5 billion within the period out of which about N4.1 billion was converted to dollars and delivered to Engozu, who in turn issued a receipt for each payment, based on Mr. Atewe’s instruction.
The witness said that out of the remaining amount, he was instructed by Mr. Atewe to transfer N35 million to Winners’ Chapel; N103 million to INP Ltd; N170 million to First Investment Ltd; N99 million to Lord Fem Ltd; N88 million to Ocean Gas and N297 million to Cisco Nobot.
The prosecutor then asked the witness the purpose for transferring the N35 million to Living Faith Church.
The witness replied, “I don’t know what it was for; it was done on the instruction of Maj. Gen. Atewe; I don’t question what the money was meant for.
‘’It is not my money so I cannot question what it is for.”
After the testimony, Justice Ayokunle Faji adjourned to March 21 for continuation of trial.
In the charge, the EFCC accused the three accused of conspiring to divert N8.5billion from Operation Pulo Shield between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015, using seven companies.
The six companies are: Jagan Ltd; Jagan Trading Company Ltd; Jagan Global Services Ltd; Al-Nald Ltd; Paper Warehouse Ltd; Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd. (NAN)