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Alleged N3bn fraud: How Oyo-Ita, allies diverted public funds to private firms

Prosecution Witness Eight, (PW8), Hamma Adama Bello, in the trial of former Head of Service (HoS), Winifred Oyo-Ita, has narrated before Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja, how the defendant and her subordinates diverted public funds into their private companies.

Oyo-Ita, the first defendant, is facing criminal prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside her special assistants, Ugbong Okon Effiok (seventh defendant), Garba Umar (fourth defendant) and six companies: Frontline Ace Global Services Limited, Asanaya Projects Limited, Slopes International Limited, U and U Global Services Ltd, Prince Mega Logistics Ltd and Good Deal Investments on 18-count charges bordering on misappropriation, official corruption, money laundering and criminal diversion of funds to the tune of over N3 billion.

The witness, while being led in evidence by prosecution counsel Faruk Abdullahi and H.M. Mohammed, told the court that Oyo-Ita used Slopes International Limited and Good Deal Investments Limited — fifth and sixth defendants respectively — to fraudulently award government contracts to herself through the fourth defendant, Umar.

The first entry transaction of Good Deal Investment Ltd on February 2019 showed that money was paid into its Zenith Bank account to the tune of N42,748,201.47 (Forty-two million, Seven Hundred and Forty-eight Thousand, Two Hundred and One Naira, Forty-seven kobo). Umar, the witness said, incorporated the company with Oyo-Ita’s full knowledge.

“We called for the account statements of these two companies, upon analyzing them, we realized he (Umar) was paid several sums of money from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing where he is an employee. And upon interviewing the fourth defendant, he admitted that he was also a contractor.

“He also admitted to have paid the first defendant on several occasions from the proceeds of the transactions,” the witness said.

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On April 27, 2019, the witness disclosed that a transfer of N20,2027,142 (Twenty Million, Two Thousand and Twenty-seven, One Hundred and Forty-two Naira) was made in the name of Ibrahim Madu to the Zenith Bank account of Asanaya Projects Ltd.

The mandate card of the account bears the signature and photo of the seventh defendant, Effiok.

Investigation, according to the witness, also revealed that the seventh defendant incorporated Asanaya Projects Ltd in his name with the knowledge of the first defendant and that approvals were granted and payments made to the seventh defendant either through his personal account or to the account of the company.

According to the witness, “The seventh defendant, upon interview, confirmed he never travelled for most of the funds he received and that the first defendant was aware and benefitted on several occasions from the funds. The account of U and U Global Services Limited was also opened by the seventh defendant.

“In summary, from 2015 to 2018, U and U Global Limited received several payments in the form of Duty Tour Allowances and estacodes.

“Sometimes, payments from the Federal Government were made directly to the account. For instance, on March 24, 2016, he received N40,313,453. 58 (Forty Million, Three Hundred and Thirteen Thousand, Four Hundred and Three Naira, Fifty-eight Kobo). This particular payment was from the Federal Government.”

Further in his testimony, the witness stated that, “Exhibit O is the Fidelity Bank account of Prince Mega Logistics Ltd. On March 27, 2018 and April 6, 2018, there were four entries, N4,950,000 (Four Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira); N3,946,000; (Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty-six Thousand Naira); N4,676,000 (Four Million, Six Hundred and Seventy-six Thousand Naira) and N1,478,000 (One Million, Four Hundred and Seventy-eight Thousand Naira) from Thomson Titus Okure who used to be a colleague of the seventh defendant in the Accounts Department.

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“There were also outward payments to Ignom, Minaro Blessing, Winifred Oyo-Ita, Olarenwaju Godman Olushola and the seventh defendant is the sole signatory of this account.”

Speaking further, he said, “I also want to add that we invited the first, second and seventh defendants at different times to our office and interviewed them.

“In the case of the first defendant, we printed chats from her phone and saw conversations she had with contractors, subordinates and permanent secretaries. She also voluntarily made a statement to the EFCC.”

The matter was adjourned till April 30, 2024.

Bridget Benson
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