The trial of a former Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, for an alleged N2 billion fraud continued before Justice Mikailu Abdullahi of the State High Court, sitting in Minna, continued with a prosecution witness giving more details as to how funds were diverted from the state’s account.
Aliyu is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, along with his then Chief of Staff, Umar Nasko, and the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Niger State Chapter, Barrister Tanko Beji, on a seven-count amended charge bordering on criminal breach of trust.
While being led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, J.S. Okutepa, SAN, the witness, Mohammed Bala, whose testimony began on February 21, 2019, further narrated how investigations revealed suspicious transfers from the state’s Federation Allocation Account to private accounts.
Bala, an operative with the EFCC, told the court that in the course of investigations, the third defendant was invited for interrogation.
He said: “We confronted him with the allegations, more especially the Ecological Fund issue, and he admitted that ‘yes’ there was the issue of Eco Fund which was received from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation in April, 2014.
“At that time, he was Commissioner of Environment, and he admitted to receiving N800m and that he benefited the sum of N50m out of the N800m.
“During the course of investigation, after we carefully analysed the payment vouchers in the Government House, we saw the name of one Internal Auditor.
“We invited him and he obliged; we confronted him on Sceptre Plus and he said ‘yes’, but they have executed their contract which included planting of trees, forestation and maintaining gardens in the metropolis.”
He further told the court, that the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Architect Umar M. Bawa, was also invited for questioning.
He said: “We confronted him with the allegation for Ecological Fund and he admitted in respect of ecological challenges in Zone A, B and C that the contracts were awarded, but not executed.”
Bala further told the court that the alleged N2 billion was transferred into Zenith Bank in Minna, in April 2014.
He said: “We wrote to Zenith Bank and we received a response from the bank, including a hard and soft copy of the statement of account, account opening documents and certificate of identification.
“We analysed the statement of account and we saw how the N2 billion was moved to Niger State Federation Allocation Account to Niger State Ministry of Environment in three tranches: N1 billion on 16 May, 2014; N406m on 1 July, 2014 and N366 million on 27 November, 2014.
“We also saw how the money was disbursed to the various companies earlier stated.”
According to him, the Permanent Secretary was confronted with the findings of investigations, and “he admitted that the contract was executed only by Sceptre Plus”.
The prosecution, thereafter, sought to tender the statement made by Bawa to the EFCC, in the course of investigations, through the witness who was the Investigation Officer, but the defence raised objections, arguing that, “the maker is not the defendant”.
Justice Abdullahi has adjourned the case to April 5, 2019 for “continuation of hearing”.