BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, accused four directors of Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, of perfecting a subterranean plot to scuttle criminal action it initiated against them before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The directors are facing a 63-count charge of alleged complicity in an illegal diversion of monies meant for supply of learning facilities to all secondary schools across the federation, through the UBEC scheme.
The anti-graft agency alleged that they used bogus companies to defraud the government to the tune of about N787 million.
According to the commission, the diverted fund was earmarked for supply of plastic chairs and tables to all junior secondary schools, aimed at improving standard of education in the country.
However, following poor implementation of the programme, as well as a plethora of petitions alleging sundry malpractices against some officials of UBEC, the EFCC promptly launched an investigation into the matter and subsequently charged seven persons to court.
The four directors on trial are, Molkat Mutfwang, Michael Aule, Andrew Ekpunobi and Prof. Bridget Sokan.
They are facing trial alongside an American contractor, Alexander Cozma, and two companies allegedly used to siphon the funds, Intermakets USA LLC and Intermarkets Nigeria.
The prosecution maintained that the UBEC officials did not only conspire to short-change the Federal Government by sacrificing due process in the manner the contract was awarded, but also that of the six companies that listed in the bidding process, four were non-existent.
Meantime, at the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to the anti-graft agency, Mr Wahab Shittu, pleaded the trial judge in the matter, Justice Adamu Bello, to take judicial notice of the fact that the accused persons were deliberately bent on stalling the criminal trial.
He made the accusation sequel to two fresh applications that were filed by the 6th and 7th accused persons in the matter, Cozma and Sokan, seeking leave of court to travel abroad for different reasons.
Whereas Cozma sought permission to travel to the United States to attend to another trial also initiated against him, Sokan on the other hand, sought leave to visit her grand daughter in the United Kingdom, an application the EFCC urged the court to decline on the premise that it was frivolous and highly unmeritorious.
The commission implored the court to consider the gravity of the allegation against the accused persons vis-à-vis public interest, and go ahead with further examination of the proof of evidence and examination of more witnesses it intend to produce before the court.
Following a vehement opposition to the applications filed by the accused persons yesterday, justice Bello, fixed November 16 to deliver ruling on the separate motions before the trial court.
Among those that have testified in the matter include the Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Ahmed Mohammed and the Director of Administration and Supply, Mrs. Bridget Ojoma Onekutu.