‘How I bought N70m property for NIMASA director’
A prosecution witness in the trial of the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Akpobolokemi and others, Eboigbe Etiosa, yesterday informed a Federal High Court, Lagos how he helped one of the accused, Captain Ezekiel Agaba to buy a piece of land in Lekki in 2004. According to him, it cost N70million.
Etiosa who is an estate surveyor and valuer said he helped Agaba, who is the director of Shipping Development at NIMASA to buy the piece of land in 2014 at Northern Foreshore, Lekki from one David Anazodo.
“My Zenith Bank account domiciled with Eric More Branch, Surulere, was credited twice,” he said. Etiosa said he first received N40million on January 15, 2014 from Agaba through a company named Ace Prothesis Nigeria Limited and got the balance of N30million from Aker Integrated Services on January 20, 2014. The witness said he did not know the companies through which money for the land was routed.
“After negotiation, I forwarded my account to Captain Agaba and my account was credited. And it was this money that I used for the property,” he told the trial judge, Ibrahim Buba.
Akpobolokemi was charged along with Agaba, his aides Ekene Nwakuche and Governor Juan as well as Blockz and Stonz Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged them with converting N2,658,957,666 to personal use between December 23, 2013 and May 28 last year, to which they pleaded not guilty.
Also testifying yesterday, a branch manager of Zenith Bank, Bar Beach Branch, Victoria Island, Mrs Rita Ifeadi, explained how payments were made to NIMASA staff even though they were not signatories.
She had earlier testified that some bank accounts opened in the name of contractors by NIMASA were operated by the agency’s staff, and that NIMASA transferred several millions into the accounts, which were withdrawn or transferred by the agency’s staff.
She said an account for Aruward Consulting Services, opened in the names of Philip Enuesike and Ima Udo, were operated by Nwakuche and Juan.
Under cross examination, Ifeadi said an account could be operated by another person in certain circumstances besides the person whose name is on the mandate card.In such exceptional circumstances, she would counter-sign the cheques before the beneficiary will be paid.
She said: “There is an exception. In KYC (Know Your Customer), if you know the people coming to pick up the money, you can confirm it. For some of those accounts, I know who was coming to pick up the money, so I counter-signed the counter-cheques. Once I counter-signed, the teller could go ahead and pay.”
She said Juan, who she said operated the account, was not a signatory to it, adding that since she “marketed” NIMASA for the accounts, she knew who was coming to withdraw from them.
Ifeadi said the exception was made because the account opening forms for NIMASA’s accounts were incomplete.
“It’s a failing on the bank’s part not to regularise the forms. Such errors do occur. And it was not flagged by the Compliance Department,” she said.
She said when the case got to EFCC, the two “agreed they were the people signing on this account.”
Ifeadi said another account was also opened in the name of Extreme Vertex Limited, with Chukwuemeka Onuoha as signatory.
She said N11million was paid to Juan from the account, while N10million was paid to Al-Kenzo Logistics.
From the same account, N100million was paid to Kofa Fada Nigeria Limited (a bureau de change), as well as N85million, among others.
According to the witness, another account belonging to Southern Offshore Limited, with Phillip Okolo and Uche Obilor as signatories, was credited with N212.6million on February 5, 2014 and with N189.7million on March 14, 2014.
On March 3, 2014, N33.8million and N35million were paid to Hussani Sabo from the account; on February 18, 2014, N17.1million was paid to Haji Kawa Investment. On March 23, 2014, there was a transfer of N20million to Sabo, she said, adding that another N20million was transferred to him on March 27, 2014.
On March 28, 2014, another N20million was transferred to Sabo; on March 31, 2014, N10million was transferred to him.Ifeadi said more transfers were made to Sabo on April 16, 2014 (N42.5million and N43.5million). She said on May 14, 2014, N21million was transferred to Sabo three times.
“I never set my eyes on the two signatories to the account,” the witness said. Justice Ibrahim Buba adjourned the trial to March 23, 2016.