A Federal High Court in Lagos was on Monday given a graphic account of how a top Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) executive, Mr. Tuoyo Omatsuli, used the activities of Niger Delta youths in the region to get N3.6 billion paid into an account, allegedly for corrupt purposes.
The trial of Omatsuli, a former Executive Director on Projects in NDDC, and Francis Momoh resumed before Justice Saliu Seidu sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
A prosecution witness, Ibinabo Micheal West told the Court how he transferred in tranches the total sum of N3.6 billion to the fourth defendant company, Building Associate Limited, owned by the second defendant, Momoh on the instruction of the first defendant, Omasuli.
Ibinabo West, a business man working in PortHarcourt futher told the court that he was awarded a contract with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to recover debt owed by the oil companies operating within the Niger Delta region.
“The oil companies were to remit a three percentage annual budget to the NDDC which they were not remitting in full rather they were doing it at will. My services and company Starline Consultancy Services was awarded the contract to recover the debt owed the Commission by the oil companies and I was given a four years mandate. I was also going to be paid ten percent of the recovered money”.
Testifying further, Ibinabo said “I recovered over One Hundred Billion Naira, and I was paid about Twelve Billion Naira. While I was receiving payments, I was approached by the then Executive Director Finance, directing my attention to the harassment by the Niger Delta Youth, that they sometime lock up their gates and made several demands, so he said in order to cushion the effects on them, each time I am paid, I should appreciate them, so they can reach out to the youths”.
“A Diamond Bank account was sent to me belonging to Building Associate Limited and I transferred a total amount of N3.6 Billion Naira to that account in tranches.
Ibinabo, who is the fourth prosecution witness, also told the court that his attention was drawn by the then Executive Director of Finance that the EFCC was investigating the works of NDDC and Starline Services. “The first defendant called me, that he would send the third defendant and I should give a sub consultancy make up Letter to Building Associate Limited, which was to explain the money I gave to them, to reach out to the youth and I obliged”.
The Sub Consultancy make up letter, Offer of Contract Letter and Acceptance Letter were tendered by the prosecution counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, and admitted in evidence by the court.
Ibinabo, during cross-examination by the defence, told the court when asked if all the money paid to him by NDDC was proceeds of crime. He responded, that the money was earned, as he worked for it, and the money he paid for the Niger Delta youth, are not illegal funds, or money used to bribe NDDC officials to release his funds, and the said money was not paid directly into the first defendants accounts.
Counsel to the second, third and fourth defendant, Norrison Quakers, during cross examination asked the witness if he knew him and how? The witness told the court that he knows the SAN, while at EFCC office, “I, the first defendant and the third defendant were asked to bring a SAN to take us on bail, so I paid the SAN to take the third defendant on bail as I already had another SAN taking me on bail”.
He further asked if he made a statement at the EFCC office. Ibinabo admitted that he made statements to the EFCC when he was invited by the Commission, the counsel sought to tender the statements made at EFCC. Justice Seidu admitted it in evidence and marked it exhibit ET 09 A & B.
The witness further told the court that he wrote in his statement that the Director of Finance instructed him to pay the money into Building Associate Limited account, he told the court that he participated in the bid to get the contract for the recovery of the debts, as he has another oil Company and is abreast of the activities of NDDC, and the contract was gotten on his own without any influence from the defendants.
The defendants, who were charged alongside their companies, Don Parker Properties Limited and Building Associates Limited respectively, were arraigned on November 10, 2018 on a 45-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N3,645,000,000 (Three Billion, Six Hundred and Forty-Five Million Naira).
The defendants pleaded “not guilty” to the charges preferred against them and were subsequently granted bail on November 16, 2018 in the sum of N100 million each with two sureties in like sum.
Justice Seidu adjourned the case to June 11, 25 and 26, 2019 for continuation of trial.