By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Trial of the former Head of Service of the Federation, HoS, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, resumed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, with the first prosecution witness, PW-1, Rouqayya Ibrahim, narrating how the defendant and some government officials allegedly diverted N14 billion pension fund.
This came as erstwhile governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, who was accused of diverting public funds totaling about N1.126 billion, will on Friday, open his defence before an Abuja High Court sitting at Gudu.
The witness in Oronsaye’s case, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi, told the court that the pension fund was siphoned through 66 illegal bank accounts.
The PW-1, an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said the fraud was discovered in 2010, within the period Oronsaye held sway as the HoS.
Meanwhile, in her evidence-in-chief before trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole, Ibrahim disclosed that one of the methods the defendants used for perpetrating the fraud included payments to “ghost” pensioners and disbursements of funds for non-existing contracts.
She told the court that the N14 billion pension fund was siphoned through payments of non-existing allowances to fake members of staff and to the National Union of Pensioners and Association of Federal Civil Service Retirees.
The witness said investigations revealed that apart from one firm, Innovative Solutions Uptrach Communications Limited, which seemed to have genuinely executed a contract, other firms were paid for non-existing jobs.
In a bid to further illustrate before the court how the fraud was allegedly perfected, the witness sought to make use of a chart, a move that was vehemently opposed by the defence lawyers.
The request was subsequently turned down by the court on the basis that the prosecution earlier notified the court that he would not tender the chart which bore Oronsaye’s photographs, into evidence.
Justice Kolawole further ruled that the procedure of using the chart to demonstrate her evidence was unknown to law, adding that the situation envisaged under section 239 of the Evidence Act, whereby a witness could be allowed to use a document to refresh his or her memory had not arisen.
The matter was yesterday adjourned till June 21 to conduct trial-within-trial on an alleged confessional statement that was made by the 2nd defendant, Afe.
Afe’s lawyer, Mr. Oluwole Aladedoye had insisted that his client made the statement under duress.
He contended that apart from the statement Afe made on November 24, 2011, two other statements he also made on February 24 and March 16, 2011, were obtained through “oppression”.
“The two statements were made through oppression. The second defendant was induced, threatened, harassed to make these statements”, Aladedoye added.
Meanwhile, erstwhile governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, who was accused of diverting public funds totaling about N1.126billion, willon Friday, open his defence before an Abuja High Court sitting at Gudu.
Dariye, who currently represents Plateau Central in the Senate, is answering to a 23-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
The defendant had earlier expressed his intention to file a no-case-submission on the matter.
However, at the resumed sitting yesterday, Dariye, through his lawyer Mr. Garba Pwul, SAN, told the court that he was ready to enter his defence to the charge.
EFCC closed its case against him after it called 10 witnesses that testified before the court.
Among those that testified before trial Justice Adebukola Banjoko included a former detective with the Metropolitan Police Service, MPS, London, Mr. Peter Clerk.