By Moji Eniola
Mr Chukwudi Orji, an EFCC investigator, on Monday at an Ikeja High Court revealed in graphic details how a former Director-General of NIMASA and five other staff members stole N754 million belonging to the agency.
Orji made the revelations while testifying at the ongoing trial of Patrick Akpobolokemi, the ex-DG of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and six others on a 13-count charge bordering on stealing and fraud.
Akpobolokemi’s co-defendants are Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Adegboyega Olopoenia and a company — Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd.
Orji told the court: “Vimsat Committee, a committee of NIMASA had opened an account in Zenith Bank, this account only had two inflows.
“On Aug. 29, 2015, N498.4 million was paid into that account by NIMASA and on May 20, 2015, N318 million was also paid into that account by NIMASA.
“This gave the account a total inflow of N816.2 million. On Sep. 29, 2015, there was a transfer of N11 million into the account of one Lakewood Garden Ventures Ltd from the Vimsat Committee account.
“The money was never used for research work as it was mandated to be, this money was part of the sharing formula of the defendants.”
Orji, explaining the role of Vincent Udoye, one of the defendants in the alleged scam, said:“On March 6, 2015 N7.8 million was transferred from Vimsat account into the Diamond Bank account with number -0020802815 of the fifth defendant (Udoye).
“On June 4, 2015 he transferred N5 million from that account into another Diamond Bank account with number 006567038 which was also operated by him.
“The N5 million transferred was fixed on the same day and was liquidated on Sep. 2, 2014 and he was paid an interest of N24,000.
“The N5 million is still in his account as at the time the EFCC asked for his statement.
“He also transferred N2.5million into the bank account of Adegboyega Olopoenia (the sixth defendant).
“The N7.8 million disbursed by the defendants was part of funds gotten from Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd but the funds were originally from the account of the Vimsat Committee in Zenith Bank.
“All these transfers were done in a bid to conceal the source of the funds.”
Throwing more light on the role of Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd in the alleged fraud, Orji said Adegboyega Olopoenia (the sixth defendant) was a signatory to the account of Gama Marine.
According to him, N10 million was transferred to Vincent Udoye in six tranches from that account by Olopoenia totalling N60 million.
“It was conceived to be used under the guise of award of contract to Gama Marine but there was no contract.”
The investigator also told the court how another fake company called Arrow World Consulting Ltd was used to transfer money from NIMASA by the defendants.
“In relation to Arrow World Consulting, the third (Ekene Nwakuche) and fourth (Governor Juan) defendants were the signatories to the account.
“Our findings were that the accounts of Arrow World Consulting received the bulk sum from the Vimsat Committee account on Feb. 12, 2015.
“They received N230 million and they received another N17 million from the account on May 6, 2015.
“Nwakuche and Juan used fictitious names while operating the Arrow World Consulting account; Nwakuche operated as Philip Emesike and Juan operated as Udoh Emakop.
“When we invited Nwakuche to our office, he confessed to be using the alias Philip Emesike saying he used the name in bank documents.
“He explained to me and my team embers that he used to sign as Emesike and he demonstrated to us how he used to sign the signature.
“N70 million was sent by Nwakuche into the bank account of Dorcas Nwakuche and N70 million was paid into the bank account of Kadice Oil and Gas Ltd.
“The third and fourth defendants also made various transfers to different accounts from the Arrow World Consulting account,” he said.
Orji explained to the court how the EFCC uncovered the forged documents used to carry out bank transactions by Arrow World Consulting.
“Arrow World Consulting did not do any work for NIMASA, I personally led the team to visit the company’s address at 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island.
“I met the younger brother of the original owner of the company who was residing at the premises; I was told that the owner of the company had travelled out of the country.
“Shakespeare Solicitors, the lawyers to the real owner of Arrow World Consulting came to the EFCC office with a power of attorney and made a statement.
“The lawyers commenced an action at the Ikeja High Court against Zenith Bank in which judgment was given in favour of the real owner of Arrow World Consulting.
“The real owner of Arrow World was awarded N10million damages by Justice F. Bankole-Oki against Zenith Bank for opening the account without the consent of the owners — the number of that suit is LD/1872/CMW/2016,” Orji said.
Oyedepo, the EFCC prosecutor, sought to tender as evidence, a letter written by Shakespeare Solicitors on the alleged fraud to the EFCC in which a copy of the judgment was attached.
Mr Seni Adio (SAN), lawyer to Nwakuche, however, objected to the tendering of the letter as evidence, saying the letter is irrelevant to the charge of the defendants and also not part of the original proof of evidence.
Justice Raliatu Adebiyi, in her ruling, held that the letter was relevant to proceedings and was, therefore, admissible as evidence.
She adjourned the case until July 11 for continuation of trial.