N8.5bn fraud: Atewe gave N35m to Winners’ Chapel – Witness
An Abuja – based businessman, Mr . Nkem Ahidjo, claimed on Friday that N35 m out of the N8 . 5 bn allegedly diverted by retired Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe was paid to the Living Faith Church , popularly known as Winners ’ Chapel .
Atewe served as the Commander of the military Joint Task Force , Operation Pulo Shield , in the Niger Delta before his retirement .
He was last week re – arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for an alleged fraud of N8 . 5 bn, which the EFCC claimed was perpetrated during the operation .
He is facing 22 counts before Justice A. O . Faji of the Federal High Court in Lagos .
The other defendants in the case are a former Director – General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency , Patrick Akpobolokemi ; Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga .
The EFCC accused them of conspiring among themselves to divert N 8 . 5 bn from Operation Pulo Shield between September 5 , 2014 , and May 20 , 2015 , using six companies.
The six companies were listed as 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 .
They had been arraigned on three occasions and had on each occasion pleaded not guilty to the offence .
In a bid to prove its allegations , however , the EFCC called Ahidjo as its first witness on Friday.
Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor , Mr . Rotimi Oyedepo , Ahidjo introduced himself as a businessman , who dealt in stationeries, printing, and general contracts.
The witness said he carried on his trade under his five companies based in Abuja , adding 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 .
He claimed to have known Atewe from Villa Church in Abuja , where they both worshiped, as of when the retired general was still a Guard Commander .
The witness said , being a pentecostal , he also attended Living Faith Church , and Atewe also worshiped there.
He said he cultivated a good relationship with Atewe, to the extent that he attended “ midnight church ” in Atewe’ s house in Abuja, three times a week.
Ahidjo narrated to the court how Atewe moved to Bayelsa between July and September 2014 where he served as JTF Commander .
“ He invited me to Bayelsa and I went. He told me that the Federal Government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I have any company into which account money could be paid. And being somebody I knew very well from Guard Commander to Major General , I provided the companies that I listed earlier , ” Ahidjo said .
The witness said on a second invitation and visit to Atewe in Bayelsa , Atewe told him that three payments were about to be made into his accounts and as soon as they were made he should acknowledge the payments and await further instructions .
He said 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 upon Atewe’ s return to Abuja , he invited him to his office at Niger Barracks in Abuja, where he introduced , Engozu , who is the 3 rd defendant , as the person that would take delivery of the money from Ahidjo.
Ahidjo said in view of the volume of the monies , Engozu advised him to change the money from naira to dollar before delivery , and he according contacted a Bureau de Change operator , named only as Jimoh .
“ Each time I received it ( money) , I would call a BDC operator , named Jimoh . I knew him before this time . He would change the money , I would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars . Once I changed it, I would wait for instruction either from Major General Atewe or Mr . Kime. That was what we continued to do until the end of the transaction in 2015 , ” Ahidjo said .
He said he received a total of N4 , 915 , 163 , 103 within the period , out of which about N4 . 1 bn were converted to dollars and delivered to Engozu , who in turn issued a receipt for each payment based on Atewe’ s instruction .
Ahidjo said of the remaining amount, he was instructed by Atewe to transfer N35 m to Winners ’ Chapel ; N103 m to INP Ltd ; N170 m to First Investment Ltd ; N 99 m to Lord Fem Ltd ; N88 m to Ocean Gas and N297 m to Cisco Nobot .
Asked by the prosecutor the purpose of the transfer to Living Faith Church , Ahidjo said , “ I don ’ t know what it was for ; it was on the instruction of Maj. Gen. Atewe. All these monies , I don ’ t question what they were meant for . It is not my money, so I can ’ t question what it was for . Maj. Gen. Atewe asked me to act on instruction . ”
Justice Faji adjourned till March 21 , 2017 , for Ahidjo to continue his evidence.
Source: The Punch