An Abuja High Court has again adjourned proceedings in the suit instituted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) against the former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Vincent Ogbukafor and two others. ICPC, had on June 21, 2010, arraigned Ogbulafor alongside two others, Mr Emeka Ebilah and Mr Jude Nwokoro, over an amended 17-count criminal charge bothering on conspiracy, forgery and fraud.
They are facing trial before Justice Ishaq Bello for allegedly using three fictitious companies to defraud the Federal Government to the tune of about N2.2billion, in 2001.
The three fake companies they allegedly floated in 2001 to siphon N82.6million, 11.5million and N6.2million respectively, was listed by the anti-graft agency in its charge sheet as, Henrichiko Nig Ltd, DHL Consultants and Chekwas Industries.
Ogbulafor was alleged to have used his position as the head of National Economic Intelligence Committee, NEIC, set-up to verify debts owed local contractors, to okay as genuine, several forged documents, which was relied upon to certify that the three bogus companies executed jobs worth over N2.2billion.
Meanwhile, at the resumed hearing on the matter, a prosecution witness, Mr Basil Momodu, told the high court that the Federal Government had verified and certified all the projects executed under Ogbulafor before payments were made.
The witness under cross examination by defence counsel Chief Awa Kalu, SAN, maintained that the Director General of the Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance certified the projects and signed the payment vouchers to the companies after verifying the projects.
According to him, the companies listed included: Emperor Nigeria Ltd: N15 million; DHL Consultants Ltd N12.3 million; Chekwas Industries Ltd: N27.2 million; Ebilah-Salmon and Partners: N6.7 million; Henchriko Nigeria Ltd: N93.3 million; and Comp-Con Associates: N13.6 million.
He however stated that he believes the DG acted based on the report of the National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) submitted to the office.
When asked to confirm whether Ebilah-Salmon was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the witness said he could not confirm the information.
He also admitted that he did not verify whether the projects carried out by Ebilah-Salmon with the Oil Mineral Producing and Development Commission (OMPADEC) were completed.
“I did not investigate whether Ebilah-Salmon carried out any job for the Federal Government”, he said.
The prosecution witness revealed that on the third of April, 2006, Ebilah admitted all the allegations of fraud and offered to refund his share of the money obtained.
He also alleged that Ebilah told the ICPC that Emperor Nigeria Ltd and other companies did not carry out the jobs that were given to them, stressing that this is contained in his statement of April 3, 2006.
Awa had tendered a document showing that the Federal Government took tax on the amounts claimed to have been stolen, adding that N4.9 million was taken as withholding tax.
The judge adjourned till February 14, 2013.