- Prosecution Witness: How Due Process Was Breached
By Hamilton Nwosa(Head, The New Diplomat’s Polling, Research and data desk)
A Prosecution Witness in an on-going trial of a former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, over an alleged fraudulent diversion of N714.6m to personal use has told an Abuja Federal High Court how procurement protocols and due process ethics were breached by the erstwhile Minister.
Akhaji Turaki, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who is facing trial along his Personal Assistant and two corporate bodies, including Spring Hill Limited before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, was alleged to have violated ethical principles in authorizing curious payments to suspicious beneficiaries accounts at Fidelity Bank and GTBank while in office as a Minister.
A prosecuting witness, Mr Vincent Odafe, a former Finance director at the Federal Ministry of Special Duties which Turaki presided over as a minister told the Court Thursday that “due process was not followed in the payment of funds to beneficiaries of a purported sensitization programme”, revealing that no supporting documents were presented to him to justify the payment of the sum of N359m to the designated beneficiaries accounts at Fidelity Bank and GTBank, respectively.
Mr Odafe who was led in evidence by EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Farouk Abdullah further revealed that it was the then Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Alhaji Tahir Haruna, who upon inviting him to his office, directed him to effect payment of the above sum to a list of accounts which he handed over to him.
According to Mr Odafe, this directive was however startling to him as it had not documentary authority to incur the said expenditure, a development which compelled him to request the then Permanent Secretary to inform the Minister accordingly of this evident breach.
Explaining further, Odafe disclosed that given his unequivocal stance on the matter, the permanent secretary reported him to the minister, Turaki. According to Odafe, the Permanent Secretary upon his return after a meeting with the minister, directed that the funds should be paid as a special project fund “for which the minister would later present the relevant documents.”
According to the former Finance director, in the light of the above, he consequently delegated one Okunriboye Titus, a central pay officer, to act as the project officer, but informed him that “the approval will come from the minister as directed by the Permanent Secretary and instructed him to keep a Memoranda Cash Book for records, the list of everyone paid and any document they sign in case of auditing; and payments were afterwards effected”.
According to a press release issued by EFCC and signed by Mr Wilson Uwajaren, Head of media and publicity at EFCC, “when presented with some documents which included proposal for consultancy service for sensitization programme, letter of acceptance of award of contract, letter of job completion and request for payment, including the signed documents for the award of the contract which was signed by Tahir Haruna, Odafe said that those documents did not come to him when payments were made, adding that if they had supplied the documents at the time, the arguments he had with the Permanent Secretary would not have arisen.”
The statement added: “He(Odafe) insisted that only a sheet of paper was given to him, adding that the Permanent Secretary was not the person to sign the contract but director of procurement. “Two other witnesses, a compliance officer with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Agunbi Ade Adewale, and another compliance officer with Fidelity Bank, Mavis Enabulele also testified.
“Adewale, told the court that his bank forwarded the account opening package, account statement and certificate of identification for four of their customers, to the EFCC following a request by the Commission. He listed the account holders as Halima Kabiru Turaki, Samson Okpetu, Abubakar Sani Kure and Spring Hill Limited. The documents containing the details of the account holders were admitted as exhibits.
“Also, Fidelity bank, compliance officer, Enabulele, told the court that sometimes in June, 2020, the EFCC wrote to his bank and requested for account opening package, account statement and certificate of identification of two account holders, Turaki Tanimu Kabiru and Halima Kabiru Turaki, which they obliged the Commission. All the documents were tendered and admitted as exhibits. Justice Ekwo, adjourned further hearing till November 9, 10 and 11, 2020”