Ikeja – A former employee of Keystone Bank, Mr Uguru Onyike, on Tuesday said he was coerced to make false allegations of forgery against Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of Bank PHB Plc.
Onyike made the claim while testifying before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of an Ikeja High Court at the resumed trial of Atuche in Lagos.
Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth, are standing trial for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank).
They were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.
Led in evidence by Atuche’s counsel, Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), the witness said he was a former head of operations of the bank’s Central Shared Services (CSS) Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Onyike said that on March 4, 2013, one of his staff members, Mr Joachim Nnosiri, brought to his attention three documents which were earlier subpoenaed by Okunnu in Atuche’s trial.
He said the board resolutions emanated from Futureview Securities Ltd., Tradjeck Ltd. and Extra Oil Ltd. and were addressed to Keystone Bank, the successor of Bank PHB.
According to him, the documents related to the granting of a N10.9 billion loan facility to these companies.
Onyike said Nnosiri claimed that he found the board resolutions in the bundle of documents that were being rearranged in the CSS department and forwarded them to him.
He said that, however, when they brought the documents to the attention of the authorities of the bank, they were detained for over 24 hours and the EFCC was later invited.
“The bank and the EFCC were working together and they told us to write a statement implicating Atuche and that the documents were not authentic.
“One Mr Madaki Abdullahi of the EFCC promised to use us as prosecution witnesses against Atuche.
“Abdullahi said that we should make the statement to be very believable.
“We had a chat and agreed on how to write a statement that could implicate Atuche.
“The two statements were dictated to me by the EFCC and I signed both of them”, the witness said.
He said that after writing the statement, he was later charged alongside Nnosiri and Atuche before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, also of an Ikeja High Court for forgery.
Onyike said he was not happy with the way the bank and the EFCC treated him, noting that he was also placed on an indefinite suspension.
The witness said this prompted him to depose to an affidavit on March 26, 2013, where he retracted the contents of both statements.
Under cross-examination by the EFCC counsel, Mr Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), Onyike, insisted that he had no previous or personal relationship with the Atuches.
He also debunked Pinheiro’s claim that he received cash payments in dollars to testify on behalf of the defendants.
“The EFCC has access to my account. I came here to testify because I know it is my civic duty to do so.
“I am not angry at the bank because at the end of the day, I know that my innocence will be validated and everything will be resolved,” the witness said.
NAN reports that the matter was adjourned till June 25 for continuation of trial. (NAN)