How Art Gallery Ex-DG, Joe Musa, Diverted N2.2bn - Witness

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San Francisco, July 19, (THEWILL) - Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the FCT High Court, Lugbe, Abuja was today told how former Director General, National Gallery of Arts, NGA, Mr. Joe Musa misappropriated over N2.2 billion public funds. The revelation came at the resumed hearing of the charges filed against Musa and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The other accused persons who are being prosecuted on a 14 count charge are Olusegun Ogunba, Director of Finance, Dr Kweku Tandoh, Director of Research & Education, and Mrs. Oparagu Elizabeth, Deputy Director, Administration.

When the matter came up today, a principal witness, Mr. Festus Chidi, testified that under his capacity as the Chief Internal Auditor of the NGA, Joe Musa converted the sum of N40 million for K12 retreat project that never held. He rather diverted the money for his personal use. He added that Joe Musa’s predecessors in 2004 and 2005 appropriated only N1.6 million and N1.5 million respectively for the same retreat.

Chidi, in his submission, told the court that international training for managerial staff did not take place but over N65 million was appropriated and approved by the DG.

The witness said that other ghost projects the DG initiated to loot funds as shown in the proof of evidence before the court includes the Berlin Art conference in which the sum of N26.5 million was misappropriated.

Other areas of fraud, the witness pointed out was the misappropriation of the sum of N64, 350, 500.00 for professional training, capacity building and manpower development when virtually nobody was trained as well as the misappropriation of the sum of N15 million for keeper management retreat when the retreat did not take place.

Chidi also told the court that the former DG further opened two illegal and fraudulent accounts with Spring Bank and Oceanic Bank in which he diverted the agency’s funds for his personal use.

Earlier in April, 2010, Mr. Dubem Egbunike who is the assistant chief research officer of the NGA, during cross examination, had told the court that over N160 million was diverted to private pockets of the DG and top echelon of the NGA.

The witness had also said that though the staff salaries of NGA in a month stood at about N 15.5 million naira, but that the DG inflated it to the tune of N19.27 million monthly. The witness had also said that each of the accused persons takes home five million naira each for fictitious expenses using fake receipts for retirement, as instructed by Joe Musa.

The third accused person, Dr Tandoh was also said to have been given the sum of N13 million for an exhibition that never took place, and diverted the sum of N7 million for his personal use and returned only N6 million to the coffers of the NGA.

The first accused, Musa was also said to have acquired a house at Constitution Road Kaduna at the cost of N18 million and rented to the NGA for N5 million annually. Another property owned by him in Auchi, Edo state, was equally said to be valued at over N700 million.

Counsel to the 1st and 2nd accused persons Barrister Oluwemimo Ogunde in a move to deter the witness asked him to stop saying things that are not true against his clients, adding that he is not in the account department to know figures that were spent or not.

However, the presiding judge Justice Adeniyi objected saying that the witness is under oath to explain what he knows concerning the alleged graft.

One of the charges against the accused read: that you Joe Musa being the director general of the National Gallery of Art, Olusegun Ogunba being the director of finance, Dr Kweku Tandoh being the Director of Research and Education and Mrs. Oparagu Elizabeth being the deputy director admin on or about the 1st day of August 2006 to April 2009 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the high court of the FCT did dishonestly convert to your own use the sum of N 670, 000.000.00 (Six hundred and seventy million naira only), being property of the National Gallery of Art, and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 309 of the Penal Code Act CPA cap 523 of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (Abuja)1990.

The case has been adjourned till Tuesday 20th July 2010 for the continuation of trial.