Mr. Ahidjo Ikem, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) witness, on Friday, informed a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos how the Bishop David Oyedepo-owned Living Faith Church received the sum of N35 million from Major-General Emmanuel Atewe, a former Commander of joint Task Force (JTF). Major-General Atewe is being prosecuted for alleged involvement in a N19.7 billion fraud.
Mr. Ikem is Managing Director of five of the seven companies charged alongside Major-General Atewe, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, former Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Kime Egonzu and Josephine Otuaga for alleged fraud.
The accused are facing an amended 22-count charge bordering money laundering.
Mr. Ikem’s companies charged along with the accused persons are Jaggan Limited, Jaggan Trading Company Limited, Jaggan Global Services Limited, Al-Nald Limited and Paper Warehouse Limited. Other companies charged are Eastpoint Integrated Services Limited and De-Newlink Integrated Services Limited.
At the resumed trial of the accused persons on Friday, Mr. Ikem Justice Ayokunle Faji that his five companies were used by Major-General Atewe to launder the said sum of N4. 9 billion from the JTF’s account.
While being led-in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, Mr. Ikem said he first met Major-General Atewe at the Aso Rock Villa Chapel, where they both worshipped, when the latter was Commander, Brigade of Guards.
Sometimes between July and September 2014, the witness told the court, Major-General Atewe was appointed JTF Commander and invited him to Balyesa State. There, Mr. Ikem added, Major-General Atewe told him that he had won a Federal Government contract for maintenance of security and building of barracks. The JTF Commander, the witness further said, asked if he has a company into which the , he should supply it, as the money for the contract could be paid.
He stated that he gave the names, addresses and bank details of his five companies to Major-General Atewe.
The witness explained to the court that his companies had no contractual agreement with JTF, were not registered as contractors and never supplied goods or rendered service to the JTF.
Shortly after his visit to Bayelsa State, added the witness, he was re-invited by Major-General Atewe, who told him that money would be sent to the accounts of his companies and on receipt, he should notify him.
Two or three days after his visit to Balyesa State, he started receiving notifications of transfers into his companies’ accounts. He informed the JTF Commander, who told that they would meet in Abuja.
When Major-General Atewe got Abuja, said the witness, he joined him at Niger Barracks, where he was introduced to Kime Engonzu (the third accused person) and said any money received should be handed over to him.
Mr. Ikem, who is the first prosecution witness in the matter, said he received a total sum of N4. 915, 163, 104, which he changed to $21,500,000 at a Bureau de Change operated by a man named Jimoh. He claimed to have handed the cash to Egonzu as directed by the JTF Commander.
The witness also told the court that he collected the sum of $950, 000 from one Chijioke, a friend to Major-General Atewe, and gave it to Egonzu.
The witness said the sum of N4.1 billion was converted to dollars, while the balance was given to some companies and a church as instructed by Major-General Atewe. The sum of N35 million, he explained, was paid to Living Faith Church, while N103 million was paid to INP Limited. The sum of N107 million was transferred to First Investment Limited, while Lord Firm Limited, Ocean Gas, and Sisco Nobort were paid the sum of N99 million, N88 million and N297 million respectively.
When asked by the prosecutor the reason for paying the companies and the church, the witness said he only carried out the instructions of Major-General Atewe, who gave no specific reason.
The witness said in the course of the Investigation of the matter, he was invited by the EFCC and wrote four statements.
However, Justice Ayokunle Faji, adjourned the matter till March 21, 22 and 23, following Mr Akpolobokemi’s complaint that he was experiencing health challenges midway through the trial.
In the charge, the anti-graft agency alleged that the accused conspired together to defraud NIMASA of N19.7 billion, using the seven companies.
The EFCC alleged that the accused committed the fraud between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015.
The offense alleged to have been committed by the accused persons contravened the provisions of Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 as well as provisions of Section 390 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C. 38, Laws of the Federation, 2004.