By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
A witness, Mr. Ngozika Ihuoma, on Thursday, narrated before the Federal High Court in Abuja, how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under its former Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, mismanaged 222 assets worth N1.63trillion, which he said was recovered by the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, PRTT.
Ihuoma who appeared as the first defence witness, DW-1, in the ongoing trial of the erstwhile Chairman of the disbanded PRTT, Abdulrasheed Maina, told the court that Magu admitted before the Justice Ayo Salami Judicial Commission of Inquiry, that he shared most of the properties based on a presidential directive.
“Magu admitted before Salami that he shared and allocated most of these properties to most of his friends, associates and colleagues under some presidential directives, but failed to make available to the commission the evidence of that presidential directives”.
The witness told the court that he is a management consultant.
He said his firm, Crincad & Cari Nigeria Limited, was contracted by the PRTT for consultancy service.
He told the court that one of the choice properties the PRTT recovered and handed over to EFCC, was grossly undervalued from N6billion in 2011 and sold to renowned lawyer in 2015 for N1bn.
“One of the properties in question located at No 42, Gana Street, Maitama, was illegally acquired by a renowned lawyer while the property was still subject to litigation,” the witness added, insisting that EFCC should be made to account for all the recovered assets.
Led in Evidence-in-Chief by Maina’s lawyer, Adeola Olawale, the DW-1, told the court that the PRTT wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after he assumed office in 2015 and expressed its willingness to make available to him intelligence that would lead to the recovery of over N3trillion hidden in undisclosed accounts in some banks.
He said on the basis of the letter, President Buhari, in January 2016, sent the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the National Security Adviser, NSA, to have a meeting with Maina in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, UAE.
“After the meeting in Dubai, Maina gave the delegation intelligence report that led to the recovery of N1.3 trillion out of the N3 trillion promised to recover.
“The money was reported to the Senate Committee that investigated Maina’s reinstatement back to the civil service in 2017.
“Equally, the task team petitioned the Senate on the need to revisit the 7th Assembly Joint Committee that its report was quashed by the Federal High Court in view of the fact that the 222 choice property valued at N1.63 trillion that was handed over to the EFCC have started to be mismanaged”.
Ihuoma noted that when the ex-EFCC Chairman appeared before the House of Representatives Committee that investigated the reinstatement of Maina back to civil service, he said Magu denied that the anti-graft agency was a member of the PRTT.
He said Magu equally denied that the pension reformed team handed over any recovered property to the Commission.
The witness said he was irked by Magu’s claim, and he accordingly petitioned the AGF, Malami, through his company, informing him that the former EFCC boss lied on oath before the House of Reps committee that the agency was not part of the PRTT, despite the existence of the instrument that established the task force and its terms of reference.
He said it was due to the letter by his company that Malami sent a petiton to President Buhari, “demanding that EFCC should account for the 222 property valued at 1.63 trillion”.
He said Malami’s petition eventually led to the setting up of the Justice Salami led panel of inquiry.
Continuing his testimony, the witness, told the court that Maina gave intelligence report to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, about a plan to siphon N35bn from the Head of Service Pension Office.
He said the intelligence led the Commission to question the former HoS, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita and five other management committee members.
According to the witness, Maina equally gave intelligence report to the then Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and EFCC in March 2013, which led to the mop-up of N15 billion from Customs, Immigration, Prison Pension Office, CIPO.
Ihuoma said that Maina was the only member of the team that was sacked, even though the running cost of the PRTT was not paid by the Federal Government.
He said that one B. G. Kaigama who served in the team, is currently a Director and second in command in Pension Transition Arrangement Department, PTAD.
“G.T Idris, who represented ICPC is now at NIPSS undergoing a one year course leading to his promotion to a rank of full commissioner of police.
“Even Winifred Oyo-Ita who managed the Head of Service Pension Office as interim management committee became the Head of Service (HoS) of Federation where she used that office to stop Maina’s reinstatement since 2017,” the witness added.
He further told the court that another former EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Larmode, who was also a member of the team, was promoted to the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG.
“We stand to say that Maina deserves to be reinstated back as approved by the Federal Civil Service Commission in 2017 and if possible, in line with the recommendations of the House of Representatives to the then President Jonathan, be made to return to service and assist in cleaning up the pension matters now that the issue of pension is going haywire again.
“We believe this trial is not in the interest of pension reformed task team which EFCC was a member,” he said.
Trial Justice Okon Abang adjourned further hearing in the matter to Friday.
Maina is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the EFCC preferred against him and his firm- Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
EFCC earlier closed its case against the Defendants after it called a total of nine witnesses, even as the court ordered Maina to open his defence to the charge.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, EFCC, alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It told the court that the 1st Defendant (Maina) used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
The Prosecution maintained that the Defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.
The Defendants who were arraigned on October 25, 2019, pleaded not guilty to charge.