June 8, 2009

EFCC closes case against Bode George, others

By Abdulwahab  Abdulah

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), prosecuting the former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and five others over alleged inflation and contract splitting, yesterday, closed its case as the defendants open their defence.

The prosecution had during the trial presented 10 witnesses before the court to argue its case, among whom were the investigative officers and some officials from the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the NPA supervisory agency.

George and five other board officials of the NPA — Alhaji Aminu Dabo, Captain Olusegun Abidoye, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminu Tafida, Alhaji Zanna Maidaribe and Alhaji Sule Aliyu — are standing trial over alleged contract splitting and inflation scam.

At the resumed hearing of the case before Justice Joseph Oyewole of the Ikeja High Court yesterday, Chief Olabode George, has already been called into the witness box, but the court adjourned the matter till today for the defence to have an ample time for its case.

The last prosecution witness, Mr Ibrahim Shettima, an Electrical Engineer with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in his evidence told the court all he knew about the investigation leading to the charge of the defendants. According to him, he was co-opted into the technical committee team headed by one Mr Yusuf Olaleye with a specific reference to investigate all contracts awarded in the NPA between year 2001 and 2003, which has to do with contracts on electrical installations at the ports.

However, under cross-examinations by the lead defence counsel, Mr Tunji Ayanlaja, the witness admitted that he never had access to the records or the books of the NPA Board led by Chief George in the period under investigation.

On the alleged wrong pricing and inflation of products supplied to the ports, the witness also said he relied only on the prices of products he got from the internet, available at the time of investigation (2005) but not the year 2003.

Led in evidence by Mr Anthony Omaghomi from Festus Keyamo Chambers, Shettima, a member of the Intelligence and Pricing Sub-Committee, which investigated alleged contract scam in the NPA said there were some contracts that were splitted based on documents he obtained from the policy files of the organisation. He said the policy files contained some letters of award of contracts, bill of quantities and host of others.

Responding to questions from the cross-examinations by Mr Ayanlaja and Dele Adesina, both Senior Advocates, Shettima told the court that he neither had any access to any of the defendants during their investigations nor the Board papers, training and routine mails.

Also, the witness admitted that he is an electricity Engineer and not a quantity surveyor who by training would be an authority to speak on pricing of items.

Meanwhile, the testimony of Aminu Dabo to the EFCC during investigation, which was initially objected to by the defence counsel on the ground that it was merely a certified true copy, was however admitted by the court, after the original copy was presented.

An EFCC officer, Bamanga Bello who had previously testified in the case, was recalled to present the original certified document to the court, after a due court application had been made in that order.

The witnesses that have testified for the prosecution include CSP Ayoola Ajala from the EFCC, Idris Bako (Ministry of Transport), Bamanga Bello (EFCC) and Wali Kurawa (Ministry of Transport). Others include Usaman Jida Shuwa (Ministry of Transport), Yusuf Olaleye (Due Process Office),  Zeuwa Okorocha (Central Bank of Nigeria), Sanusi Mohammed (EFCC), Aminu Alkali (EFCC) and Ibrahi Shema (NIMASA). The matter  continues today.