A former Acting Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administrator and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Haruna Baba Jauro and Dr. Bitrus Bawa and Company, Thlumba Enterprises Limited are being prosecuted on a 19-count charge bothering on stealing and money laundering to the tune of N304, 118, 500 (Three hundred and four million, one hundred and eighteen thousand, Five hundred naira).
A senior investigating officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Orji Chukwuma narrated to Justice Tijani Ringing sitting in Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday how the accused persons laundered various sums of fund allegedly belonging to NIMASA.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, the prosecution presented its third prosecution witness (PW3), Orji Chukwuma who investigated the alleged crime.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, Chukwuma, of the Chairman Monitoring Unit, EFCC, Abuja, told the court that he was Head, Special Task Force Unit 3, Lagos Zonal Command, at the time of the investigation of the alleged fraud.
When asked if he knew the defendants and the company, Thlumbau Enterprises Limited, the PW3, whose team was tasked with investigating money laundering and other financial crimes, stated that he came across all the defendants in the course of his investigation, upon receipt of intelligence reports against the management of NIMASA.
According to him, in the course of investigations, various enquiries were made to banks and staff of NIMASA and that interviews were also conducted on staff, banks’ employees, contractors to NIMASA , corporate organizations, individuals who made payments into the 3rd and 1st defendants’ accounts as well as some beneficiaries of the proceeds made by them. Investigations revealed that the 3rd defendant was incorporated by the 1st defendant, using his children, while the 2nd defendant operated the account of the 3rd defendant.
“Further investigation revealed that proceeds of unlawful activities of the 1st defendant, while he was the Executive Director of Finance and Administration in NIMASA, was concealed and laundered for his benefit through the 3rd defendant. The proceeds was used to acquire a property in Abuja,” he said.
In his further testimony, Chukwuma told the court that funds co-mingled with loans taken from Aso Savings Limited to also acquire two other houses in Lagos. Asked if he could identify both Exhibits AI and A2, which are the 3rd defendant’s statement of account containing the proceeds of the enquiries and investigations he carried out, the PW3 identified exhibit A series as the 3rd defendant’s mandate and statement of accounts, responses to the EFCC’s enquires as well as the instruments used to move money out of the 3rd defendant’s account.
Giving evidence about Exhibit A1 and the share structures of the 3rd defendant, the PW3 told the court that one Samuel Haruna Baba had 500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand) ordinary units; one Salome Haruna Baba owned 250,000 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand) ordinary shares and one Ila Haruna owned 200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand) ordinary shares.
He also stated that the names mentioned are children and relations of the 1st defendant and that their addresses are the same as his. When asked if he could identify the enquiries he recovered while conducting investigations in NIMASA, the PW3 did, adding that they were documents from NIMASA to banks to effect payments. The prosecution sought to tender a copy of the internal memo of NIMASA dated July 8, 2014 and two letters of instructions to Access Bank from NIMASA dated January 3, 2014.
They were all admitted and marked as exhibits B, B1 and B2 by the court. During the proceedings, the prosecution counsel also asked the witness if there was an exchange of correspondence regarding the Aso Savings loans he earlier talked about, to which he answered in the affirmative, adding that it contained the mandate, statement of account, certificate of identification and mortgage correspondence of the first defendant. The prosecution counsel also sought to tender the letter dated February 10, 2016 from Aso Savings and Loans Plc to the EFCC with its attachments, and they were all admitted in evidence and marked as exhibit C.
While giving further testimony about exhibit A and some entries made on January 6, ,2014, Chukwuma explained that there was an inflow of N15m (Fifteen Million Naira) that came from the Committee of Intelligence belonging to NIMASA.
He said: “The Committee is set up and funded by NIMASA for specific purposes related to security.
“Investigations showed, from the account statement of January 23, 2014, that the sum of N12m (Twelve Million Naira) out of the N15m (Fifteen Million) was transferred to the account of the first defendant in Aso Savings to manage the loans he took to buy property.
“On July 10, 2014, another sum of N20m (Twenty Million Naira) was also paid into the account of the third defendant.
“Subsequently, the 2nd defendant also benefited the sum of N1, 470, 000( One million Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand Naira), which was later returned to the Commission in a draft.”
When he was shown copies of the draft by the prosecution counsel, he identified them as the statement of one Ishaq Banabas, who returned the total sum of N35m (Thirty-five Million Naira) through five different bank drafts to the EFCC Draft Registration Form Receipt.
The drafts as well as the EFCC
Draft Registration Form receipt were admitted in evidence and marked as exhibits D and D1, respectively. The PW3, in his further testimony, told the court that the sum of N20m (Twenty Million Naira) was transferred by Kishini Nigeria Limited and another N5m (Five Million Naira) was paid into the third defendant by Eminent Consult.
The 3rd defendant’s account, according to him, was co-mingled and aggregated to the sum of N52m (Fifty-two Million Naira) paid to one Helen Mbonu, who used it to purchase a house for the first defendant. When asked about the various entries in the exhibit A series, the PW3 told the Court that there were several inflows from various individuals and companies into the 3rd defendant’s accounts, including Sulaiman Mohammed , Komas Mega BDC, Dan Asabe ,Mustapha Buka, Dulbangon Enterprise , Kostam Mega Concept , Kolomi Mohammed , Abubakar Mansur , Mukaila Jubrila, Alkawali Nigerian Enterprise and Hassan.
Asked if the third defendant rendered any services that led to the various cash payments totaling N120m , the witness told the court that the 3rd defendant never rendered any services, adding that “the payments are proceeds of unlawful activities.” The case was adjourned till March 15, 2023 for continuation of trial.