By Innocent Anaba
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja was told that there was never a time the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDCC, Mr. Nicholas Mutu undertook to refund the N400million paid to Starline Consultancy Services as commission.
The prosecution witness, Adamu Yusuf, had while being led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Ekeke Iheanacho told the court that Mutu had undertaken to refund the N400million and had even paid N150million.
Trial judge is Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo.
However, under cross examination by counsel to Mutu, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, Adamu admitted that there was nowhere Mutu had undertaken to refund the said money.
According to Ikwueto “You told the court that 1st defendant undertook to refund the total sum and has so far refunded N150million, it was not written in his statement of August 15 and 16, 2018, in those two days he was in the Economic and Financial Crimes, EFCC, custody.
Adamu in response admitted, “I cannot remember if there is any other statement written by him, the statement did not contain the admission or undertaking by him to return N400million, we cannot force him to write and he had not promised to return it.
“As a member of the investigative team, we conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation to which to the best of my knowledge, it was true that the jobs given to Starline Consultancy Services and Tarib Consultancy Services was carried out.
“On the letter which NDDC gave to the Starline Consultancy Services Ltd, the MOU dated July 14, 2020, there was nowhere the National Assembly was featured on the offer letter.
“There was nowhere in the scope of work where there was a requirement for the consultant to co-op or liaise with the National Assembly in carrying out its job, paragraph five of the scope of work is the reason he (contractor) decided to co-op the National Assembly.
“The MOU provided for the payment of 10 percent of all monies recovered for the NDDC, the percentage as stated in the contract we discovered that there was a lot of promises and agreements between the contractor and government officials, the commission was worried over the payment of 10 percent commission. I am not aware of any complaint that the agreed commission was not paid, we could not get the correct figure from the NDDC but we learnt that the contractor recovered over a N100billion. I am aware that the contractor said he recovered over N200billion, the contractor is not an agency of the National Assembly.”
On whether the contractor petitioned the National Assembly seeking its assistance to recover his commission, he said: “It was established that the contractors petitioned the National Assembly and following that petition, the contractor’s agents appeared before the National Assembly and after the appearance I can’t say whether anybody made any demands on the contractor.”
Adamu further admitted that he cannot say whether there were any demands on the contractor to pay anybody, noting that “payments were made and the beneficiaries accepted the payment. I know the contractor, Mr. Ibinabo in the cause of the investigation and Mr. Bosun Arebuwa. He was appointed to be a partner in the execution of the contract, there was a sub contract between Starline and Tarib consultants in the agreement, there was no fixed amount or percentage written on the agreement, the agreement says that the payment due each partner shall be agreed by the partners.
“We were not shown any agreement on what was agreed as payment, Tarib issued invoices after every recovery, the invoices are in our office, the recovery was not once and the payment to each partner was not also once.”
Mr. Arebuwa had told the court that his statement was dictated by Adamu, he, however, denied that the statements made by Arebuwa was dictated to him, adding “I was involved in the taking of the statements of the witness, Bosun Arebuwa but that he made the statements before his lawyer.”
It will recalled that Arebuwa had in his evidence before the court told the court that his statement made to the EFCC was dictated to him by Adamu.
He confirmed that these monies were paid from the commission the consultants recovered, adding “I can confirm that Bosun was paid more than N700million. I can’t confirm he was paid N840million as commission, Bosun facilitated the payment to Starline, in the cause of investigation, we discovered that Starline transferred money to the second defendant. The money paid to Starline and A World was not part of the commission.”
Adamu also admitted that the intervention of the National Assembly greatly helped in the recovery, but noted, “I can’t recall if Shell paid because of the intervention of the National Assembly, I came across CIDAC Global Ventures in the cause of our investigation. It is not true that CIDAC was engaged and facilitated payment by Shell and received over N775million as commission for the job done. There was no discussion or agreement, no MOU between Starline, A-World and the defendants. We didn’t investigate other payments. The payment to Starline was to appreciate by the National Assembly members but we could not discover other members that benefitted.”
Adamu also admitted that prior to the NDDC contract that “I saw other huge transactions to A-world before this transaction as it was a going concern.”
He admitted after being confronted with facts that CIDAC was engaged to handle Shell Development Company, when they were proving stubborn. He, however, disagreed that Shell agreed to pay due to the intervention of CIDAC, noting that CIDAC received payment on behalf of an interested party.
His words, “We invited Shell and they made a statement but I don’t know where their statement is, I can’t say whether there was any demand by the 1st defendant or any member of the National Assembly on the contractors before or after they appeared before the committee. I investigated the contents of the documents, mapping and identification means identifying the companies in the Niger Delta, I am not an IT person, from the available evidence before us that is the first time that Starline and Tarib are working together. Starline was engaged in June 2014 but the MOU between the two companies was in April 2014. We want to see whether proceeds from the contracts were paid as taxes.
I have never owned a company, never run a company neither am I a chartered accountant. Income is the total amount generated with a period while profit is the amount generated after expenses tax is based on profit. A-World has been receiving funds huge funds most of it not from NDDC contractors, the company was established before the NDDC contracts and has been receiving huge amounts of money in their accounts before this project.”
He admitted that he did not at any time confront him with any documents that were prepared to cover up the payments.
He said, “The contracts were awarded to Starline and the contract was duly awarded and executed. Starline wrote to the National Assembly to help them recover these monies and the National Assembly committee exercised their legislative mandate to invite the companies. We are not questioning the payments made to Tarib as they were all for services carried out.
“Chairman of Tarib, Micheal Ibinabo made a statement in my presence and listed seven companies he made payments to, there was no documentary evidence to show demand for gratification. There was no evidence that monies were paid to the 1st defendant (Mutu) by Tarib.”
The matter was adjourned to February 2 and 3, 2022, for continuation of trial.