By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, revealed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, how Chairman emeritus of DAAR Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, lodged ex-Councillors Forum in a hotel with N6million, prior to the 2015 presidential election.
The anti-graft agency brought the Chief Accountant of Top Rank Hotels where the ex-Councillors were allegedly lodged by the defendant, to testify as the fourth prosecution witness, PW-4, before the court.
The PW-4, Mr. Johnson Ejohwemu, told the court that though the hotel rooms were booked for the “delegates” in February 2015 by a firm, Pomatek Standard Investment, he said the N6million Cheque was issued by Daar Investments & Companies Ltd.
Dokpesi is answering to a six-count charge the EFCC entered against him and his firm, DAAR Investment and Holdings Ltd, owners of African Independent Television, AIT and Raypower FM.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants received funds totalling N2.1billion from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, for Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential media campaign.
According to the charge which was signed by the Deputy Director, Legal and Prosecution at the EFCC, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, the fund was released to the defendants by the detained former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd, between October 2014 and March 19, 2015.
The funds were allegedly transferred from an account the office of the NSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to a FirstBank of Nigeria Plc account owned by DAAR Investment and Holding Company Limited
The prosecution maintained that the transaction was in breach of section 58 (4) (b) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and punishable under section 58 (6) and 7 of the same Act, as well as under section 17 (b) of the EFCC Act, 2004.
In his evidence-in-chief, the PW-4, Mr. Ejohwemu, said: “My lord, I know Top Rank Hotels Limited. I was the Chief Accountant of the hotel at Area 11 branch in Garki Abuja from 1999 till March 2017.
“I know Daar Communications Ltd because we had a business relationship that dates back early 2000. The relationship requires referring guests to us for accommodation purpose.
“After due reconciliation of the bills they make settlement. In February 2015, we got a booking from Pomatek Standard Investment for accommodation purposes for some delegates. They said the delegates were from ex-Councillors forum.
“Subsequently, a cheque of N6million was issued by Daar Investments & Companies Ltd.
“The period of the booking was February 25 and 26, 2015. The payment was for our hotel to provide accommodation and feeding for the ex-Councillors.
“We did provided accommodation for them on the said dates. The N6m was in First Bank cheque. The liaison person between the hotel and Bomatek Investment was one Madam Mute Olori”.
When he was shown exhibit-B by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, the witness confirmed that the cheque payment was made on February 16, 2015.
“After the event, we prepared the bills. What was consumed was about N3.4million. The balance of N2.6m was returned back to Madam Olori in cash”, he added.
While being cross-examined by the defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, the witness said their hotel would never give accommodation to criminals.
“We were helping to provide accommodation to Daar Communications Ltd and Daar Investments Holdings because they are reputable organisations.
“We refunded the excess payment because it was the proper thing to do and we turned it the way we did because it was convenient and proper.
“Neither this transaction nor any other one from the defendant had been a source of embarrassment to the hotel.
“I don’t know why the ex-Councillors met and I don’t know the source of the money that was paid for their accommodation”.
Asked if he knew why Dokpesi is on trial, the witness said: “I heard on news that the defendant is on trial because money meant for the purchase of arms was diverted for political purposes”.
Asked if he was aware that what he heard on news is not the charge before the court, the witness said, “My lord I don’t know”.