N1.3bn Fraud: Perm Sec Narrates How N450Mm Was Paid For A N16m Contract
ABUJA, July 13, (THEWILL) - A Permanent Secretary in the Taraba State Ministry of Finance, Asabe Maiangwa, has told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Abuja, how N450 million was paid out by the state government to several persons; out of which only N16 million was used for the supply of stationeries and office equipment at the instance of the then Commissioner of Finance, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Tutari.
Maiangwa is the 7th prosecution witness in the prosecution of the former governor of Taraba state, Rev Jolly Nyame who is standing trial over a 41 count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and gratification to the tune of N1.3billion while he held sway as governor of Taraba State.
At the resumed hearing of the case today, the witness who was being led in cross examination by prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, recounted how a whooping sum of N450 million was paid out from the state treasury for a phony contract.
Maiangwa who corroborated the previous testimony of the Accountant in the ministry, Alhaji Naigari Umar, said she was in Kaduna for a seminar in 2005 when her Secretary called her on phone to inform her that a cheque for the sum of N250 million was released from the office of the Accountant General to be paid through her ministry to Salman Global Ventures Ltd.
She said she directed the secretary to ensure the necessary documentation which includes preparing the payment voucher and ensuring that the receipt is signed before releasing the cheque.
“The secretary carried out my instruction and showed me the documents in the file. I endorsed the back of the receipt and passed the document back to the secretary and the file was returned to the dip, where we store files,” she told the court.
Asked if the payment of the N250 million followed due process and if she knew what purpose the money was meant for, she said, “I was not around so I don’t know. But I did not see anything in the file to suggest that the job was done”.
Also asked to tell the court what she knew about the payment of N200 million by the state government in 2005, she said “In 2005, the Honourable commissioner of finance (Alhaji Abubakar Umar Tutari), met me and gave me a list with two names-Salman Global Ventures and the Deputy Speaker. He told me that the Accountant was going to bring a cheque from the Accountant General’s office and we should disburse it”. She said she handed the note to the Accountant. “In the note, the Commissioner directed that the sum of N165 million should be paid to Salman Global Ventures, N15 million to the deputy speaker, Taraba State House of Assembly, N4 million to the P. A. to commissioner of finance and N16 million was for the purchase of the stationeries”. She further said that she handed over the N16 million to the Accountant for the purchase of the stationeries through a local contractor, Baba Gambo.
The permanent secretary was further asked what she did when she discovered that the contract items were not supplied, she said she went to the Commissioner for Finance to ask him the purpose for the issuance of cheque to Salman Global ventures limited when the jobs were not done. She said the commissioner told her that he was given an instruction to that effect.
She was again asked if she knew who gave the commissioner the instruction, she answered in the affirmative. Before she could go further with her testimony, defence counsel, Barrister Charles Edosonwan, objected and said it was improper for the witness to give testimony based on “hear say. The only person who can do that is the Commissioner of Finance and no other person.” This led to a protracted argument before the trial judge, Justice Adebunkola Banjoko who thereafter adjourned the case till October 5, 2011, for ruling and continuation of hearing.
But before the adjournment, the permanent secretary had also told the court that the Commissioner of Finance after the payment of the various sums, gave her N8 million as a gift to be shared for the entire staff of the ministry.
Recall that the court was told on July 12, 2011, how Rev Nyame verbally queried the Accountant, Alhaji Naigari Umar, for refusing to pay Salman Global the sum of N200 million. Alhaji Umar, during a cross examination by defence counsel, Barrister Olalekan Ojo, said he was summoned by a former Commissioner of Finance in Taraba State to a hotel in Jalingo to explain why he refused to pay the contractor for non execution of a contract for the supply of stationery and office equipment.
“When I got to the hotel, I saw the governor, the Commissioner of Finance and a representative of the contractor. The ex-governor was about to leave when he spoke to me in Hausa, pointing to the representative of the contractor that why did I not pay this person?”
Count one of the 41 charges reads, “That you, JOLLY TEVORU NYAME between January and February, 2005 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, while being the Governor of Taraba State of Nigeria and in such capacity entrusted with dominion over certain property to wit: the sum of N250, 000, 000, .00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) meant for the purchase of stationeries by the Taraba State Government committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said sum and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of Federation of Nigeria 1990”.
Count 2 “That you Jolly Tevoru Nyame between January and February, 2005 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, while being the Governor of Taraba State of Nigeria and in such capacity entrusted with dominion over certain properties to wit: funds meant for the purchase of stationeries by the Taraba State Government committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said funds by collecting the sum of N180, 000, 000.00 (One Hundred and Eighty Million Naira) from the entire sum for your personal use and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of Federation of Nigeria 1990”.