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N2.2bn scam: Witness alleges threat to life

…refuses to appear in court

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA— The on-going prosecution of an ex-Director General of the National Gallery of Arts, Chief Joe Musa, over his alleged role in the diversion of about N2.2 billion from the coffers of the establishment, yesterday took a new dimension, as a principal witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, who is equally a Director of Finance at the parastatal, Dr. Henry Achubo, refused to appear in court to testify in the matter yesterday, insisting that his life was in serious danger.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to the anti-graft agency, Sir Steve Odiase, informed the court that the witness who was scheduled to testify as the PW-6 in the matter, refused to come for fear of being killed.

Odiase told the court yesterday that the witness was sternly warned via series of text massages sent to his handset, to stay away from the trial.

According to him, a sample of the threat massage read “Big fool, you bite the finger that fed you. We are waiting. Come and testify. We are watching to see your interest in this case. We failed to attack you last year when you attack our Oga last year; we would not fail on you. Your dead body is bound home, careless and loose idiot.”

The ex-DG, alongside four other top executives of the organisation, are answering to a 14-count criminal charge bothering on conspiracy, fraud and gross abuse of public office.
The EFCC is prosecuting them for allegedly diverting about N2.2billion from the coffers of the establishment between August 2006 and April 2009, as well as falsifying the financial records of the establishment with a view to conceal the crime.

The other accused persons are Mr. Olusegun Ogunba, the Director of Finance, Dr. Kweku Tandoh, the Director of Research and Education, Mrs. Oparagu Elizabeth; the Deputy Director Administration and Mr. Chinedu Obi, the Special Assistant to the Director General.

It would be recalled that a Chief Internal Auditor with the organisation, Mr. Festus Chidi Orji, who earlier testified in the matter, indicted the ex-DG of complicity in the alleged crime.

He had insisted that the 1st accused person, Chief Musa, pocketed about N40m earmarked for staff training exercise, in 2008, adding that monies were intermittently withdrawn from the treasury of the organisation between August 2006 and April 2009, for several fictitious programmes which he said never held.


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