Mr. Gabriel Chineye Onyedilefu, the Accountant General of Abia State on Monday told a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos that there was no record of purchase of N2.9bn worth of fairly used clothes at any time by the state government.
An investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in November 2017, alleged the court that Mr. Jones Udeogu, a former Abia Director of Finance and account once claimed during the course of investigations that Abia state employed the service of Slok Nigeria Limited, a private company of Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of the state to import fairly used clothes from Cotonou, Benin Republic.
However, the Accountant General, while being led in evidence by the anti-graft agency’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), on Monday told the court that upon receiving EFCC subpoena, he checked through the records as he was ordered, but did not find anything to show that there was any contract between the state government and the company, between the period of 1999 to 2007.
Mr. Onyedilefu narrated procedure for award of contracts in the state during the hearing.
He said: “When there is service to be rendered, the Finance and General Purpose Committee will meet in consideration of that service. After they have looked at all the details, they will award a contract to one of the bidders and it will be referred to the governor through the ministry involved.
“Then the governor gives approval through the release of fund letter signed by the Chief of Staff to the governor, who sends the release to the ministry concerned. From there, all the document must have been duly observed, a voucher will be raised and forwarded to the office of the accountant general through the sub treasury, then if the funds are there, payment will be made. It should be noted that payment can be part of full."
Mr. Rotimi Jacobs also moved to tender some documents which the witness had brought with him, but the defense team objected vigorously.
For instance, the prosecution attempted to tender a book that contained financial regulations of Abia state, but the defense team objected to its admissibility. They held that the book is a public document, hence must be certified as stipulated by the Evidence Act.
They also argued that the material was not front loaded with the proof of evidence, therefore, it cannot be “sprung up on them”.
Mr. Jacobs, however, argued that a document printed by government does not need to be certified and thus admissible.
He argued further that the witness was subpoenaed which made the document a subpoenaed document and at such could not have been front-loaded as it was never in the possession of the prosecution.
Mr. Kalu, Udeogu and Slok are being tried before Justice Mohammed Idris for allegedly conspiring to divert Abia funds to personal use.
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) February 19, 2018
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 offence is said to be contrary to Section 17 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003 and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.
The defendants pleaded not guilty.