A prosecution witness, Ibinabo Micheal-West, on Monday, told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) recovered over N100 billion from International Oil companies (IOC).
He said this at the resumed trial of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a former NDDC Executive Director, Tuoyo Omatsuli, and three others over fraudulent mismanagement of the commission’s N3.6 billion.
During Examination-in-Chief, led by the EFCC prosecutor, Ekene Iheanacho, Mr Micheal-West told the court that he was the owner of a company; Starline Consultancy Ltd., who were contractors to NDDC.
According to him, the oil companies who operated in the Niger Delta region had refused to pay the commission its due payments and indebtedness which the commission had been making frantic efforts to recover.
He further stated that the commission had contracted his company to assist them to recover the debt owed them by the IOC’s.
“We executed the job, the oil companies were stubborn, we served them demand notices and also wrote petitions against them to the National Assembly.
“After the meeting with the National Assembly, the oil companies started paying, each time an oil company paid, they would send us a payment advice.
“We were paid 10 per cent of any amount that was recovered from the oil companies and we worked for about two years; between 2014 and 2016.
“In total, we recovered over N100billion and we were paid N12billion as our commission,” he said.
When asked whether the third and fourth defendants played any role in the recovery of the debts owed to NDDC, he replied in the negative.
The witness, however, told the court that when he was paid the N12 billion, the executive director finance of NDDC complained to him of incessant harassment by Niger Delta youths.
He said that he further pleaded with him, to help cushion the effect of the frequent harassment, which he paid N3.6 billion into a Diamond bank account for that purpose.
Mr Micheal-West also admitted transferring some money to the third and fourth defendants amounting to over N1billion.
During cross-examination by the first defendant’s counsel; Kehinde Aguda, SAN, he denied the payment to the Niger Delta youths as being a proceed of a crime.
When he was asked if the money was meant to bribe officials of the NDDC, he denied it.
When further asked whether it was the executive director works of NDDC that approved the money that was paid to him, he replied:
“The board approved all the money paid to me, the first defendant (Omatsuyi) did not give me any account details to pay any money to him.”
Norrison Quakers, counsel to the second, third and fourth defendants, during his examination-in-chief asked the witness whether he knew him, to which he replied in the positive.
The witness told the court that he knew Mr Quakers when they were invited to the EFCC office and were asked to look for a SAN to bail them.
“We pleaded with Quakers to bail the Managing Director of Building Associates Ltd., Mr Francis Momoh, which he did, and we paid for his services,” he said.
Justice Saliu Saidu adjourned the case until June 11 for the continuation of trial.
Tuoyo Omatsuli, who was a former Executive Director of the NDDC, was charged alongside Francis Momoh and two companies; Don Parker Properties Ltd, and Building Associates Ltd.
They were arraigned on Nov. 28, 2018, on 45 counts bordering on corruption, gratification, fraud and money laundering.
They had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bails.
According to the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offence between August 2014 and September 2015.
The first defendant was alleged to have procured the third and fourth defendants (Momoh and Building Associates), to utilise a total sum of N3.6 billion paid by Starline Consultancy Services Ltd into an account operated by the fourth defendant.
The prosecution averred that they ought to have known that the said sums, formed part of the proceeds of their unlawful activities which included corruption and gratification.
The offence, the EFCC said, contravenes the provisions of Sections 15(1), 15(2), 15(3) and 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended by Act No 1 of 2012.
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