Updated: March 4, 2021
A prosecution witness has narrated how over N1.7 billion state funds were diverted from the coffers of the Niger State government, during the tenure a former governor of the state, Babangida Aliyu.
Aliyu is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, along with his then Chief of Staff, Umar Nasko, and the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Niger State Chapter, Barrister Tanko Beji, on a seven-count amended charge of fraud to the tune of N2 billion.
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They are standing trial before Justice Mikailu Abdullahi of a Niger State High Court, sitting in Minna, and had pleaded “not guilty” to the amended charges on February 14, 2019 when they were re-arraigned.
The witness, Mohammed Bala, an operative of the EFCC, while being led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, on February 21, 2019 narrated how on June 22, 2016 the EFCC received a petition from the Secretary of the Niger State Government, SSG, Umar Danyanya, who accused Namisu Jankaro, then Chief Accountant of the state, Ahmed Garba and Ibrahim Abashai, both cashiers of making withdrawals of N28,136,363,941 from the state coffers.
Bala told the court that upon the receipt of the petition, he was asked to open a case file, which he did and the petitioner was later invited to shed more light on the matter.
He said: “A committee was set up to look into the transactions of the administration of Babangida Aliyu.
“The SSG was invited and he obliged and made statements, after which we wrote to Zenith Bank, Unity Bank and Guarantee Trust Bank and they furnished the Commission with investigation activities of the said account.
“We invited the Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Almustapha Rijau. He came and we showed him the statements of accounts. He told us that before any money is moved, usually, there must be a memo generated from the office of the former governor (Aliyu).
“After then, we invited the Chief Accountant of the Government House, Salisu Musa Jankaro, he came and we interviewed him. We showed him the copy of the petition and he acknowledged that the withdrawals were made on the instruction of the then Chief of Staff, Yusus Garba Tagwai.
“Later, he brought all the instructions used to disburse the money. When we carefully analysed the payment vouchers, we discovered that most of the money was in the name of Barrister Tanko Beji (the second defendant).”
Garba and Abashia, according to Bala, were later invited and they both corroborated the intelligence report gathered that they were instructed to make the said withdrawals.
He said: “In respect of Ecological Funds that was disbursed to the state through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, we invited Mohammed Ndawai, the Auditor General of the state and he said a contract was awarded for ecological challenges in Niger State in 2014 and that the contractors profiled are nowhere to be found.
“We later invited the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Aliyu Tanko, who also admitted that contracts were awarded to companies, but were never executed.
“After a week or so, he brought all documents. They include, Contract Award Letter, Letter of Acceptance and the Account numbers of the four companies.
“We saw how money was transferred from Niger State account to those companies (I D Sabin, M. J Eco Nigeria Limited, Sceptre Plus and Baskir).
“Sabin received N887 million, Eco got over N400 million, while Septre got N445 million.
“We wrote to Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, Abuja, for the company’s profiles.”
The witness also told the court how one Saidu Ndako, a former SSG, gave instruction for cheques of N10 million in 80 places to be written and given to one Isaac Gado.
Gado, according to Bala, was invited and testified that after cashing the money, he handed it to the third defendant, Umar Nasko.
The case has been adjourned to March 13, 14 and 15, 2019, for continuation of trial.