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Turaki’s trial: We shared contract funds with NASS members, ex-Director tells court

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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA

Former Director of Procurement at Ministry of Special Duties, Mr Gambo Muazu, on Monday, exposed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, how key members of the National Assembly, partook in sharing of kickbacks from contractors.

Muazu, who appeared as the seventh prosecution would, PW-7, in the ongoing trial of erstwhile Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Taminu Turaki, SAN, said the contractors were mandated to remit part of profits they made from contracts they secured from the Ministry, to assist the lawmakers in their political campaign in 2015.

Turaki who served as a Minister between 2013 and 2015 is answering to a 16-count charge bordering on criminal misappropriation and money laundering.

He is facing trial alongside his former Special Assistant, Sampson Okpetu, and two firms- Samtee Essentials Limited and Pasco Investment Limited.

EFCC alleged that the ex-Minister used the two companies that belonged to his aide, Okpetu, and looted public funds to the tune of over N700million, while he was in office.

The prosecution alleged that he illegally removed over N150m from the account of the Federal Ministry of Labour under the guise of funding SURE-P technical vocational education/training.

The anti-graft agency told the court that about N200m out of the sum of N359m paid to the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs for a special sensitisation project was diverted by the Defendants in 2015.

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More so, it alleged that the former Minister connived with the then Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry for Special Duties and Inter-Government Affairs, late Taiye Haruna and one Okunriboye Titus who was an accountant in the Ministry, to divert funds from accounts of the Ministry, into accounts that belonged to the firms.

At the resumed proceedings in the case on Monday, the PW-7, Muazu, told the court that he became a part of the deal in 2014 after he was invited by the then Permanent Secretary, Haruna.

He told the court that Haruna introduced him to one Abdulrahman Yusuf whom he identified as a friend to the Minister.

The witness said it was Yusuf that assisted to change kickbacks that were received from various contractors into dollars.

“Thereafter the money was paid into the account of two firms, Drilled Tiger Construction and ABYS Motors Limited, and later transferred to the Permanent Secretary who then sent the dollar equivalent to the lawmakers”.

The witness told the court that the Ministry had before it awarded some of the contracts that touched on constituency projects, reached an agreement with members of the National Assembly that some of the contracts would be given to them, especially leaders of the House of Representatives.

“The House members then submitted the names of companies. There were over 5000 companies that bided for the contracts and some of them passed the pre-qualification stage.

“The successful companies were asked to give part of their profits to be forwarded to the lawmakers to assist them in their campaign in 2015.

“While some of the companies complied and brought part of the profits they made from the contracts, some did not.

“At the end of the day, the monies collected were changed to dollars through Bureau De Change operators and forwarded to members of the NASS”, the witness added.

While being cross-examined by Turaki’s lawyer, Chief J. K. Gadzama, SAN, the witness told the court that though he partook in the contract racket, he was neither arrested nor charged by the EFCC.

He told the court that two of his personal companies got some of the contracts, adding that he had since 2019, made refunds to the anti-graft agency.

He told the court that he returned N45m to EFCC on July 9, N25m on May 13, N5m on October 15, and another N5m on November 29, all in 2019.

“I have finished refunding the money. I know that what I did was wrong and against the code of ethics for public servants.

“I have returned a lot of money to the EFCC”, he added.

Meanwhile, the PW-7, told the court that the 1st Defendant, Turaki, did not participate in the negotiation or execution of any contract, and was not a signatory to any account of the Ministry.

“The 1st Defendant did not at any time instruct me to give anybody money. I am not aware that he benefited from any of the companies that were awarded the contracts”

The witness said part of the money he refunded to the EFCC was from the companies.

“The money does not belong to the government. It was part of profits made by the companies”.

He further insisted that all the companies that were awarded contracts by the Ministry were all pre-qualified.

Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the case till Tuesday for further hearing.

EFCC had in the charge before the court, alleged that Turaki’s wife, Halima and one Abdullahi Maigwandu Bagudu, helped to launder some of the looted   funds outside the country

It alleged that about 185m of the funds were transferred to ABYS Motors Limited between September 19 to November 28, 2014, by late Haruna and the PW-7.

In count 16 of the charge, EFCC alleged that Turaki, had on or about February 3 and 12, 2015, transferred N133.6m to Drilled Tiger Construction, a company that was operated by Yusuf, who is currently at large.

Vanguard News Nigeria 

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