A prosecution witness has narrated how a former Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Dibu Ojeriende, allegedly diverted N341.9 million from the National Examination Council (NECO) to set up a personal printing press, school and acquire other assets.
Mr Ojerinde served as the registrar of NECO between 1999 and 2007 before becoming the chief executive of JAMB in April, 2012.
The witness, Jimoh Olatunde, testified at the High Court of Niger State in Minna, where Mr Ojerinde is being tried on 10 counts of official corruption and abuse of office, a statement by ICPC said on Sunday.
According to the statement signed by the spokesperson for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Azuka Ogugwa, the witness appeared before the court on Thursday.
The first prosecution witness, Mr Olatunde, testified that about the over N341.9million stolen money, N216 million was deceitfully withdrawn from the NECO account for payments for 17 fictitious printing contracts, which was in actual sense, used for establishing the printing press for Mr Ojerinde.
The witness, who is a former deputy director and Head of Treasury at NECO, said: “We follow due process for the award of the contracts strictly on paper but I am confirming to this court that I know what went on underneath despite perfection of all the documents and processes.
‘’Let me give you an instance, between 2004/5 most printing contracts were awarded to these 17 companies owned by a friend of Prof. Dibu Ojerinde. He was the one in charge of all printing materials in NECO.
“He brought a handwritten bill of N246, 914, 890 when he wanted to establish a printing press for Prof Dibu Ojeriende and I was directed to pay 87.6 per cent amounting to N216, 297.443 only. We perfected all the documents through the award of fictitious contracts to the 17 companies.”
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Ebenezer Shogunle, Mr Olatunde told the court how he acquired properties in Minna for Mr Ojerinde under various aliases, including Muri Lamidi and a fictitious address in Kontagora, Niger State.
The witness further referred to a multiple storey building known as ‘Tejumola House’, Ojodu, Lagos, which was acquired in 2003, in the name of Doyin Ogbohi Industries Ltd from Intercontinental Bank for N27 million and Sapati International School, Ilorin, Kwara State, which was built at an initial contract sum of N98.6 million.
The witness, who took responsibility for all the illegal withdrawal of funds from NECO, being the Head of Treasury as of the time the alleged fraud took place, told the court that assets were acquired with stolen public funds.
A total of 18 documents including correspondence addressed to the witness as ‘Client Representative’ by the various contractors used for the projects as well as Bills of Quantities were tendered and admitted in evidence.
The witness also tendered some documents to show that several shares in some blue-chip companies acquired for the former JAMB boss were transferred to ‘Madiba’sTrust’, an entity created to consolidate.
While being cross-examined by defence counsel, Ibrahim Ishyaku, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the prosecution witness tendered a list of 17 companies which he said were used to siphon funds from NECO to acquire some of the companies and assets for the benefit of the defendant.
The matter was adjourned until March 7 and 8, 2022 for the continuation of the hearing following a complaint of backache by the witness and further cross-examination by the defence counsel.
Mr Olatunde’s testimony came about two weeks after a prosecution witness, Peter Oyewole, told the Federal High Court in Abuja how the former JAMB registrar allegedly acquired choice assets through associates while in office.
Mr Ojerinde is facing 18 charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja where the ICPC accused him of diverting N5.2billion in public funds during his time as the chief executive of NECO and JAMB.
A long road to trial
Mr Ojerinde’s troubles began after his exit as ex-JAMB chief on August 1, 2016.
His successor, Ishaq Oloyede, after assuming office began to remit unspent revenues to the tune of N5 billion, a feat that was never thought to be possible in the previous years.
This sparked suspicion around Mr Ojerinde’s handling of the organisation’s funds during his time as the JAMB’s head.
Investigations by the ICPC subsequently traced many properties acquired in different states allegedly with proceeds of funds diverted from NECO and JAMB to him.
PREMIUM TIMES reported in April 2020, how multi-billion-naira worth of assets allegedly linked to the proceeds of the alleged fraud was confiscated from him by the ICPC.
The assets seized from him, included schools, filling stations, and houses located in different parts of Ilorin in Kwara State, Ibadan and Ogbomoso in Oyo State, Ile Ife in Osun State, and Abuja.
ICPC had arraigned him at the Federal High Court in Abuja in July 2021 on 18 counts involving diversion of N5.2 billion in public funds during his time as the registrar of the National Examination Council (NECO) till his time as JAMB’s chief executive.
He had contemplated going into a plea bargain agreement. But this could not materialise as talks over the issue quickly collapsed.
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