Deborah Onyofufeke, Abuja
An Abuja High Court in Maitama was yesterday told that the suspended Accountant-General of the Federation (AG-F), Ahmed Idris, voluntarily returned about $900,000 part of the public funds he allegedly diverted.
The court was also informed by a witness that N84.7bn was taken from the $2.2bn due to the nine oil-producing states and shared by some senior government officials.
An official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Hayatudeen Ahmed, disclosed these while testifying at the trial of Idris and three others.
The suspended Accountant General; his former Technical Assistant, Godfrey Akindele, a director in the office of the AG-F, Mohammed Usman, and a firm linked with Idris, Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited, are being tried on a 14-count charge bordering on stealing and criminal breach of trust to the tune of N109bn.
Ahmed, who testified as the first prosecution witness and was led in evidence by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) gave details of how his team investigated a petition in which Idris was accused of abusing his office and compromising government platforms like the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIVMIS), among others.
The witness said when Idris was confronted with facts, “He (Idris) returned $900,000 less $100 ($899,900) voluntarily, which has now formed part of the exhibit in the case,” he stated.
He said out of the N84.7b that was shared among some government officials, N32bn has been recovered so far.
The witness also told the court how Idris allegedly hired his ex-aide, Akindele as a consultant to distribute N84.3bn out of the N84.7b.
He said Akindele later gave Idris N4.2bn in appreciation for his engagement as the consultant to handle the distribution of the money.
The witness said: “After the petition was assigned to our team, investigation commenced. We wrote to banks, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and other several government agencies.
“From analysis of bank documents received, we discovered that a Baita Kura of B. I. Kura Enterprises, a bureau de change operator, made several deposits of money amounting to N280m between 2019 and 2021 into the account of the 4th defendant- Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Ltd.
“Based on this finding, Baita was invited. He admitted in his statement that those monies that he paid into the first defendant’s (Idris’) account, were given to him by the first defendant.
“We discovered that the payments made were on the instruction of the first defendant. We also discovered from other bank statements analysis that a certain Architect Mustapha Muktar of Marcs and Construction Ltd received various sums from Baita Kura, amounting to about N866m.
“Based on this, we invited Architect Mustapha, who gave a statement and explained that the money he received from Baita was on the instruction of the first defendant.”
The witness disclosed that Mustapha explained that Idris asked him to use the money for the construction of the Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange in Gezawa Town, Kano.
He said in the course of the investigation, his team learnt of agitation by the nine oil-producing states about the lack of deductions of 13 per cent derivation accrued to them from the Excess Crude Account.
He added, “It was discovered further that this agitation was tabled before the Post-mortem sub-committee of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
“The committee deliberated on the request and came up with a figure of about $2.2bn as what was due to the nine oil-producing states. And, that deductions for this payment would be made over 60 months.
“A total of 11.5 per cent of the total sum, which is equivalent to N84.7bn was set aside as facilitation for some public officials to approve and release the request, this was done under the guise of consultancy.
“The services of Olusegun Akindele and Co, a firm belonging to the second defendant (Akindele) were used for this purpose.
“The proprietor of Olusegun Akindele & Co is the second defendant – Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, who was until recently a staff of the office of the AG-F and a Technical Assistant to the first defendant.
“The account of Olusegun Akindele and Co received the cumulative sum of N84.3bn, representing 9.8 per cent, fewer taxes from the 11.5 per cent that was set aside earlier.
“He received the money in his First Bank account, from the FAAC withheld Escrow account, under the control of the first and third defendants (Idris and Usman).
“The third defendant is Mohammed Kudu Usman, a former director in the office of the AG-F. When the statement of account from the First Bank account of Olusegun Akindele and Co was received, we analysed it and found that after the receipt of the funds N84.3bn it was shared among five groups.
“The first group was the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) group, represented by a commissioner in the commission, by the name Chris Akumas. It received 2.2 per cent out of 9.8 per cent, which amounted to N18.7bn
“After the second defendant received the money, he converted the amount to US dollars and handed the same to Chris Akumas for members of that group.
“The second group is the Accountant General group, represented by the first defendant, which received N18.1bn, an equivalent of 2.1 per cent.
“Some of these funds were also converted to US dollars and handed to the first defendant. From the second group, the third defendant received about N1.8bn equivalent in US dollars.
“The third group is that of the Commissioners of Finance of the nine oil producing states, which received 2.5 per cent amount to N21.4bn. This same amount was converted to US dollars by the second defendant and given to Chris Akumas for the group.
“There was the Abdulaziz Yari group, represented by the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazid Yari. This group got N17.15bn, representing 2 per cent.
“Payment to this group was made to a company nominated by Yari, known as Fintes Consultancy Ltd. This was not paid in dollars. It was transferred to the company’s account on the instructions of ex-governor Yari.
“The last group is the group of the consultant, who got about 1.04 per cent, amounting to N8.9bn, out of which he converted about N4.2bn to US dollars and handed to the first defendant as appreciation for nominating him as the consultant. The consultant benefited about N4.6bn.
“The second defendant was invited and he made the statement. He admitted to receiving and sharing the money as I had stated.
“These funds were also traced to the purchase of properties, both commercial and residential in several parts of Kano, the FCT, and Minna in Niger State.
“So far, the sum of $2.7m less $100 has been recovered in cash from the first, second, and third defendants. As of today N32bn has been recovered from the five groups.
“From the Accountant General group, $2.7m less $100 was recovered. N304m was also recovered from the group.
“Another N50m was recovered from the third defendant, who is part of this group, in addition to properties recovered. The bulk of the N32bn was recovered from the first, second, and third groups.
“The sum of about N3bn was traced to the construction of the commodity market at Gezawa Town, Kano from funds received by the first defendant from the second and fifth groups.
“N504m was also traced to the reconstruction of Alikhlas Supermarket also known as Kano City Mall, belonging to the first defendant, located in Mandarin area of Kano.
“Concerning the $2.7m less than 100 dollars, the sum of $1.8m cash was recovered from persons who received the $1.8m from the first defendant.
“$900,000 less $100 was recovered from the first defendant himself, who returned same voluntarily.
“He returned it in cash which has been received and registered as an exhibit in this case by the commission,” the witness said.
Although lawyers to the defendants – Chris Uche, Joe Abraham, Mohammed Ndayako, and Gordy Uche (all SANs) objected, Justice Halilu Yusuf admitted in evidence the petition written against Idris and Akindele’s firm’s account statements.
They, however, objected to the admission of the defendant’s statements, which they claimed were obtained under inducement and duress.
Upon the defence lawyers’ request, Justice Yusuf agreed to conduct a trial within trial to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statements.
He adjourned till January 30 for the commencement of the trial within trial.