By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJAâ€”A formerÂ Â Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Dr. Mohammed Shata, yesterday, appeared before an Abuja high court, to explain the roles he played in an alleged N35 million contract scam.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, is prosecuting him for allegedly pocketing N15 million, from a contract awarded to one Royal Estate Inventory Limited, to provide 62,000 rims of Apex typing sheet, meant for the production of national identity cards in 2004.
The controversial contract was allegedly awarded under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, while the accused ex-minister acted as subordinate to late Chief Sunday Afolabi.
The ICPC maintained that the N15 million, which it said was paid into the account of the embattled ex-minister, by a director of the company, identified as Mr. Ikechukwu Odoe, was further used to purchase three Toyota Hiace buses.
The three buses, according to the anti-graft agency, were registered as CY/305/ABC, CY/306/ABC and CY/304/ABC, an allegation that was not denied yesterday by the accused person.
Testifying under cross-examination yesterday, Shata insisted that though he collected the alleged N15 million from Mr. Odighi, that it was however, not connected with the N35 million contract.
He told the court that he collected the money with a view to helping Mr. Odighi secure a political appointment under the then President Obasanjo administration, adding that he went ahead to use the money to purchase the three buses for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Taraba State.
He said though the buses were registered in his name, that it was however, used by the PDP to campaign for Obasanjo and Atiku in 2003.
According to him, â€œMy Lord, this case is a typical witch-hunting exercise by the ICPC. This was how they arrested me in 2004 and kept me in detention for 30 days alongside Chief Afolabi, Dr Nwodo, Alhaji Akwanga and Miss Akerele only to later withdraw the case against us for lack of incriminating evidence against us.
â€œIn respect of this particular case, one Umar Baba Audu and another man from the ICPC came to my house with an invitation for me to appear for interrogation in their office and I went there with a lawyer, Mr Bassey from JK Gadzama chambers where I explained to them the circumstances of the N15 million.