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Fictitious contracts: My company was used to siphon N72.2m from NIMASA – Businessman

By The Citizen
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A businessman, Mr. Emeka Emenalor, claimed on Friday that his company, O2 Services Plus Nigeria Limited, was used to siphon N72.2m from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) between March and June 2014.

Emenalor claimed that the money was transferred in tranches in and out of his company's bank account under the guise that it was for a purported, non-existent contract.

The businessman said this at the resumed trial of the immediate-past Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, who is being prosecuted along with five others, for allegedly looting the agency to the tune of N2.6bn between December 23, 2013 and May 28, 2015.

Akpobolokemi's alleged accomplices are Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistics Limited.

The accused were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before Justice Ibrahim Buba on December 4, 2015.

The 22 counts preferred against them bordered on theft, advanced fee fraud and money laundering.

The offences were said to be contrary to Section 8 (a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012.

The accused, however, pleaded not guilty following which the EFCC opened its case against them on January 18, 2016.

Emenalor was the fifth witness that the anti-graft agency called in a bid to substantiate the allegations.

Led in evidence on Friday by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, Emenalor, narrated to the court how he was approached sometime in 2014 by his younger brother, Uche, who begged to use his company, O2 Services Plus Nigeria Limited, to secure a contract from NIMASA.

The witness said his brother confided in him that the third accused person, Nwakuche, his former classmate, was helping him to facilitate and secure the contract.

He added that his brother, Uche, explained that he needed him (Emenalor) to transfer whatever money paid into his company's bank account by NIMASA into some designated accounts he would be given later.

Emenalor told the court that as soon as he began to receive payment alerts from the bank, he informed his brother, who in turn informed the third accused.

He said he received the first payment alert on March 15, 2015 for the sum of N21m from NIMASA.

According to him, this was followed by another payment alert on May 4, 2015 for the sum of N16m.

On June 18, 2015, the witness claimed to have received two payment alerts for the sums of N14.2m and N21m.

He said that he was thereafter instructed to transfer the monies to the bank accounts of Blocks and Stonez Limited and the 4th defendant, Juan.

He stressed that his company did not execute any contract for NIMASA to have necessitated payment of the various funds, adding that he was unaware of the nature of the contract for which his brother utilised his company's account to obtain money from the agency.

He also claimed not to have benefited from the deal, adding that the N300,000 retained in his company's bank account was for bank charges.

'I did not benefit anything from these monies paid, I only requested that the sum of N300,000 be left in the account to offset bank transfer charges,' he said.

Meanwhile under cross examination by Nwakuche's lawyer, Mr. Lanre Olayinka, Emenalor affirmed that he did not enjoy any benefit from the sums paid into his account.

Olayinka then tendered a statement of account before the witness, and drew his attention to a cheque issued in his name for the sum of N100,000.

And facing the witness, the lawyer asked, 'Mr Emenalor, you claimed you did not benefit from the monies paid into your account, but from the document before you, on March 6, 2015 you issued a cheque in your name for the sum of N100,000.

'If the money left in your account is for bank charges as you claim, how come you issued a cheque for the amount in your name? What was the purpose of the money?'

'I took transport na,' the witness replied, eliciting laughter from the audience in the courtroom.

Justice Buba adjourned till February 16, 2016 for continuation of trial. - Punch.