By Soni Daniel
Abuja- As the trial of the cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Azibaola Robert and his company, Oneplus, over the receipt of $40 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser enters the final phase, a witness on Wednesday narrated to a Federal High Court graphic details of how the money was shared to Niger Delta militants to persuade them from further disruption of oil production.
The witness, and second witness called by the defence, who gave his name as Iyerifama Jaja, , told the court that he was one of the operators of illegal refineries also known as (Kpofire Production) who carried out his illicit refining business along with others between Akwa Ibom and Rivers states but were convinced by Robert’s company monetary offer of N5 million to back off from the illegal business.
Jaja, who claims to be holder of National Business and Technical Education Board certificate, said that he was working with an international construction company in Nigeria before venturing into the business of illegal oil refining in the Niger Delta as a means of survival, a development that drastically cut national output from 2.3 billion to about 700,000 barrels per day before the federal government sent the firm to appease them with the cash payout.
The witness: “Sometime in June 2014 I was doing Kpofire products (crude theft, illegal bunkering) when one Wellington came to buy from me and told me that the federal government had designed a solid plan to help us stop illegal oil refining and bunkering.
“At that point, I assured him that I would lead the way to go and tell the others who were deeply entrenched in the business. I needed to get the support of the others because if I accepted it alone and collect the money they would not stop the illegal oil business.
“Thereafter, I was able to convince those within my catchment area and compiled their names and later handed it over to Wellington, the representative of Oneplus Limited for the promised compensation.
“Shortly after that, the company representative asked if we all had bank accounts into which he could pay the money and we told him clearly that we don’t do bank business but deal with cash transactions to avoid any form of backlash.
“After that Oneplus representative brought my own share of N5 million and I collected the cash and shared same to the people within my own group while other group leaders collected for their respective groups.
But under cross examination by the Prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, Jaja combed through a heap of 1000 sheets of papers and identified a document marked AS036A-G and showed the judge the voucher he signed before being handed the N5 million by Oneplus Limited and it was promptly admitted as exhibit.
Although it took close to an hour for Jaja to search through the heaps of papers, the judge still obliged him by standing down proceeding for the period to enable him to find the document he signed when taking the cash from the company.
Jaja’s testimony brought ended arguments by the prosecution and the defence on the case, which has now been adjourned to March 28, 2019 after Justice Nnamdi Damgba asked both parties to file their written address and submit before the date.
It will be recalled that the EFCC had dragged Azibaola Robert and his company, Oneplus, to the court for allegedly receiving the $40 million from the ONSA in 2014 without any contract, thereby violating financial regulations under the agency’s Act of 2004.
Robert and his company deny any wrongdoing, claiming the money was given out from the NNPC to solve oil bunkering and pipeline destruction at the time, which disrupted oil output drastically and reduced the nation’s cash inflows.