Two witnesses who gave evidence in the trial of Murtala Nyako, former Governor of Adamawa State, have died mysteriously.
Adekunle Odofin, a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), disclosed this while appearing before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to NAN, Odofin said the two witnesses made “crucial statements” during the investigation into a N29billion fraud case, noting that the two persons were very vital to the prosecution of the case.
Nyako is being prosecuted alongside his son, Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba, on a 37-count charge of criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29billion.
Five companies that allegedly served as conduit pipes for the illegal diversion of the funds — Blue Opal Limited, Sebore Farms & Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited — were equally charged before the court as the fifth to ninth defendants.
Testifying as the 20th prosecution witness, Odofin, who started his testimony on June 23, 2018 and tendered documents which were admitted in evidence, told the court on November 26, 2018, that one Mohammad Maj Iro, who was the General Manager, Zenith Bank Plc, the Regional Manager in charge of North-East, and the Account Officer of Adamawa State's 200 accounts, domiciled in Zenith Bank, died after making “crucial statements”, at the time of filing the case in the court.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) on November 27, 2018, the detective told the court that the Commission also extended invitation to one Dalhatu Abdulmalik, who was Nyako's cousin.
The commission invited the Director of Ameak Investment Limited, Kirkelly Investment Limited and Pilkola Engineering Limited, who also died after giving his statement.
Odofin said Mohammad Major Iro pulled out over N800million from the Adamawa State account, and credited it to Crust Energy Limited, the 9th defendant in the case, taking orders from Nyako.
He explained that the pattern of two accounts belonging to the State (Special Service Department, SSD, and Secretary to the State Government, SSG) drew the attention of the EFCC.
“The behaviour of these accounts, showed how money was being withdrawn in multiples of ten million Naira on different dates, running into billions of naira, by late Mohammad Maj Iro. The question is, why did Maj Iro withdraw money from Adamawa State account, without being a staff of the state government?" he queried.
Investigations revealed that memos originated from permanent secretaries of the SSD, Mohammed Ibrahim Jidado and that of the SSG, Emmanuel Ibrahim.
“Having generated these memos, same were forwarded to SSG for transmission to the number one citizen of the state, the governor. Upon the approval of these memos, same came back to the SSG."
He explained that vouchers were raised after the approval of the memos, in the name of the Permanent Secretary, the Accountant and cashier as the same and now taken to Maj Iro.
“Having received these cheques, Maj Iro, being a seasoned banker, pulled out these monies from the two accounts (SSD and SSG) and he starts crediting various individuals and corporate accounts, most especially, without the knowledge of the account owners,” the witness added.
“Maj Iro credited Zenith Bank accounts of the 5th to the 9th defendants (Blue Opal Limited, Sebore Farms & Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited), out of the money he pulled out from Adamawa State accoun. Part of the money Maj Iro transferred to Tower Asset Management Limited, the sum of N678,000,000 (Six Hundred And Seventy Eight Million Naira) was transferred to Crust Energy on different dates.
“Maj Iro also transferred N160,000,000 out of the money he pulled out from Adamawa State account to a company called Maxion Option Limited. Maxion Option Limited transferred same to Crust Energy Limited Zenith Bank account”.
The witness further told the court how Maj Iro disbursed millions of naira to the companies used to launder state funds.
“Maj Iro also transferred sums of money on different dates to Sabore Farms Limited. Out of the money transferred to the company by Maj Iro, the sum of N20million was transferred to Mainstream Energy Limited. Another N20million was transferred from same Sabore Farms to one Sanni Hello of Mainstream Energy Limited. Another N10million was transferred to Crust Energy Limited,” Odofin said.
Statements made by Maj Iro at the Commission were tendered and admitted in evidence by the court.
According to the court, “Statements made by Maj Iro on June 21, 2014; June 24, 2014; July 2, 2014; July 10, 2014; July 15, 2014; July 22, 2014; July 23, 2014; August 29, 2014 and October 22, 2014 admitted in evidence as LL40-1 to Ll40-9, respectively”. Also, statements made by Dalhatu Abdulmalik were tendered and admitted in evidence.
The matter was thereafter adjourned to November 29, 2018 for continuation of trial.