The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has told the court that Jones Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House, once claimed that the state engaged the company of a former governor of the state, Orji Kalu, to import Okrika (second-hand clothes) from Cotonou, Benin Republic.
According to EFCC investigator John Egem, the former director made the claim when he was confronted with documents showing movement of funds from the coffers of the Abia State Government House into the Inland Bank account of Mr. Kalu’s private company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
He said that when Mr. Udeogu was asked to produce documents showing any contractual agreement between the Government House and Slok Nigeria Limited, he was unable to do so.
Mr. Egem appeared on Tuesday as a prosecution witness before the Federal High Court in Lagos where Mr. Kalu, Mr. Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited are being tried for an alleged fraud of N2.9bn.
The EFCC, in the charges, claimed that Mr. Kalu and Mr. Udeogu conspired to use Slok to divert public funds when the ex-governor held sway in Abia State.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the money was allegedly diverted in tranches of N200m, N50m, N200m, N300.8m, N545m, N429m, N288.4m, N190m, N157m, N152.8m, N100m, N84m and N50m between August 13, 2003 and January 12, 2005.
The offense is contrary to Section 17 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003 and punishable under Section 16 of the same act.
When the charges were read to the defendants by Justice Mohammed Idris, they pleaded not guilty.
At the resumed trial on Tuesday, Mr. Egem, who was led in evidence by the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), narrated to the court how checks were allegedly issued in the names of certain identified and fictitious officials of the Abia State Government House to move money out of the government’s coffers.
“In the course of our investigation, we discovered the following: that checks were raised from the Abia State Government House accounts in the names of serving officials in the government house; they were opened as across-the-counter checks,” the investigator said.
“The officials would proceed to the bank to cash the checks. In some cases, the cash payments would be used to purchase bank drafts in the name of Inland Bank, Apapa (Lagos) branch, and the payment ends up in the Slok Nigeria Limited account in the same Inland Bank, Apapa branch.
“In some cases, the whole sum of the check earlier issued would be used to purchase bank drafts while in some other cases, part of the whole sum was used to purchase draft.”
The witness gave the names of the Government House officials in whose names the checks were allegedly raised as Udeogu, Romanus Madu, Michael Akpan and some other fictitious names.
Mr. Egem said the EFCC obtained a search warrant and raided the premises of Slok Nigeria Limited, during which the anti-graft agency recovered some vital documents, including an audit report, which disclosed the directors of the company.
According to him, the document dated October 20, 2014 revealed that Slok Nigeria Limited was registered on May 6, 1987 and had its registration number as RC94896.
He said the document listed Orji Uzor Kalu, Ogbonnaya Kalu, Ifeoma Kalu, Nnana Uzor and others as the directors of the company.
“Further investigation also disclosed that the payments were claimed to have been used to purchase okrika materials from Cotonou in Benin Republic. It was Jones Udeogu who told us this.
“We requested for any contractual record of the Abia State Government House to establish whether there was any existing contract between Abia State Government House and Slok Nigeria Limited, and we discovered that there was no such document on record to that effect in the Abia State Government House or Abia State government in general,” the witness added.
He said Kalu, Udeogu, Madu and Akpan were all invited and interrogated and they all made statements.
The court admitted as the statements as exhibits and the defense counsel did not object.
Further proceedings were adjourned till Wednesday, November 29.