Tuesday, 6 June 2017

N3.2bn Fraud: How Kalu, Other Used Ficticious Names To Withdraw Funds From Govt. House -Witness

An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) witness, Mr. Romanus Madu, today , told a Federal High Court,sitting in Lagos,south west  Nigeria how his name and other ficticious names were used to syphon several millions of Naira from Government House, Umuahia, Abia State, during the tenor of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, as the Governor of the state.

Madu, a fourth prosecution witness, who is currently a Permanent Secretary in the Government House, Umuahia, Abia State, stated this while being led-in-evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), during the continued trial of Dr. Kalu, his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and his former Finance Commissioner, Mr. Udeh Jones Udeogu, who are standing trial of alleged N3.2 billion fraud.

At the resumed trial of the former Governor and his former commissioner for finance, Madu told the court presided over that while he was a cashier and later an Assistant Chief Accountant of the Government state House, Umuahia, Abia State between 2003 and 2007, he was only in-charge of payment of approved bills, cheques and other works assigned to him by the second defendant, who was then Director of Finance, Government House.

He also told the court that during his tenure as Cashier, the Government House then  operates three accounts which was domiciled at Mammy Bank, Citizen Bank and Standard Trust Bank (STB), now UBA Plc, adding that the only signatories to the accounts were the Chief of Staff to Governor Kalu Orji, and the Director of Finance (the second defendant).

Madu also told the court that as a cashier in the Government House, he only keep funds called imprest, which he said is used for office maintanace, while the bulk of funds received are being kept by the then Director of Finance, and he does no know what the bulk funds are used for.

He also told the court that each time he received a cheque of magnitude amount, he always handed it over to the then Director of Finance, (UdehJones Udeogu), and that each time he handed over such cheques, the Director of Finance does not make any acknowledgement.

He further told the court that he only came to know about some applications made to bank for drafts, when he was invited by the EFCC for questioning on the financial activities of the Government House.

He said; "there was a time we were invited by the EFCC, and we were asked to write statement, and some papers, cheques,and applications made in my name were shown to me,  for issuance of bank drafts from fidelity bank".

The prosecutor tendered a bulk of documents from the bank, and it was admitted as 'Exhibit E69.

Continuing with his evidence, the witness, stated that from Exhibit E14, bankdrafts of N104.3 million were purchased in the tranches of N26 million, N21.5 million, N21.3 million, N21.5 million and N15 million respectively, when in Exhibit E1, 18 and 25, bank drafts of the sum of N70 million were purchased in two tranches of N31 million and N39 million.

He told the court that when questioned by the EFCC of his role in the transaction, he said he told the Commission that he was not one that applied for the bankdrafts, as both the handwritings and signatures were not his own.

When asked by the prosecutor if he knows other names used in purchasing the bankdrafts, such as Ozor Owugwe, Obasi John, and Ogbonna J.

The witness responded that such names are not existing in the Government House.

In the exhibits shown to the witness, Ogbonna J. was said to have applied for a bankdraft of N19 million, while one R. I. Madu was said to have applied for bankdrafts of N31 million and N30.8 million, respectively.

Upon showing the witness applications written to the bank for the purchase of the bankdrafts, the witness said both the handwriting and the signatures in the applications are not his, neither other names used in purchasing the bankdrafts exist in the Government House Umuahia, Abia State.

However, attempt by the prosecution to let the witness compare the handwriting on the applications was opposed by the defendants' counsels.

In opposing the application, counsels to the defendants, Mr. Awa Kalu, Chief K. C. Nwofo both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), said the witness having said that the handwriting was not his, he cannot make any comparisons on it, especially, since he is not a forensic expert.

They also argued that the prosecutor was asking the witness a leading questions on the applications.

The defence team cited Section 72 of Evidence Act to support their submissions, while urging the court not to grant the application for the comparison of the handwriting on the applications used in purchasing the bankdrafts.

However, the prosecutor, Mr.Jacobs (SAN), while urging the court to discountenance the defence opposition, saying that the same Section 72 empowered him to ask the witness questions on the applications, since he has been able to identify that both the handwriting and the signatures are not his own, and other name used are unknown in the Government House.

He also cited a case of Alake and the State from the 1992, 3 Nigeria Weekly Law Report (NWLR) Part 265, to support his submission. While adding that the questions he asked the witness are not a leading one.

He therefore urged the court to discountenance the defence opposition and grant his application by allowing the witness to do the comparison of handwriting in the applications.

Upon the submissions of both parties, the presiding judge, Justice Muhammad Idris, adjourned the matter till tomorrow for ruling and continuation of trial.

Kalu alongside his former aide, Udeh Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, are being tried by the EFCC before the court on an amended 34 count-charge of alleged N3.2 billion fraud.

In the amended charge marked FHC/L/56C/08, Dr. Kalu and other accused persons were alleged to have allegedly diverted about N3.2 billions from Abia State Government's treasury between 2001 and 2005.

They were also alleged to have used the following banks to perpetrate the alleged fraud, Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc,( now Heritage Bank), the defunct Standard Trust Bank, now United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).

The alleged offences according to the EFCC are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the same Accounts which domiciled with Mammy Bank, Citizen Bank and Standard Trust Bank (STB) now UBA Plc, adding that the signatories to the accounts were the Director of Finance and Chief of Staff.

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