Emeka Emelano, a director of 02 Services Plus Limited, today in Lagos told a Federal High Court that his company was used as a conduit pipe to fraudulently obtain about N72 million from Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Mr. Emelano made the disclosure while being led in evidence by Rotimi Oyedepo, a prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), at the resumed trial of Patrick Akpobolokemi, NIMASA’s immediate past Director General. The EFCC has accused Mr. Akpobolokemi and six other suspects of diverting and stealing N2.6 billion from the agency. The other accused persons are Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, and three companies, namely Blockz and Stonz Ltd, Kenzo Logistics Ltd and Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd.
The accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, are being tried at a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba.
Mr. Emelano, who is the prosecution’s fifth witness, told the court that his company specializes in agro-related services. He stated that, sometime in 2015, his younger brother, Uche Emelano, sought to use his company to elicit a contract from NIMASA, disclosing that the contract was to be arranged by the third accused (Mr. Nwakuche). The witness told the court that his brother then instructed him to transfer any money paid to his company's account as would be instructed once he received bank alerts.
He testified that, as soon as he began to receive bank alerts, he informed his brother, who in turn informed the third accused. According to him, on June 18, 2015 he received an alert for N14.2 million and a further alert of N21 million. On March 15, 2015 he received an alert for N21 million and on May 4, 2015 he received an alert for N16 million. He told the court that he was thereafter instructed to transfer the monies to bank accounts with beneficiaries named as Blocks and Stonz Ltd and Governor Juan.
He stated that his company did not execute any contract for NIMASA to have necessitated payment of the various funds. He also added that he was also unaware of the nature of the contract for which his brother utilized his company's account to obtain money from NIMASA.
Mr. Emelano emphasized, “I did not benefit anything from these monies paid. I only requested that the sum of N300, 000 be left in the account to offset bank transfer charges.”
Under cross-examination by Lanre Olayinka, counsel to the third accused, Mr. Emelano stressed that he did not enjoy any financial benefit from the sums paid into his company’s account. At that juncture, Mr. Olayinka tendered a statement of account before the witness, and drew his attention to a cheque issued in his name for the sum of N100, 000. The lawyer challenged the witness’s account: “Mr. Emelano, you claimed you did not benefit from the monies paid into your account, but from the document before you, on March 6, 2015 you issued a cheque in your name for the sum of N100, 000. If the money left in your account is for bank charges as you claim, how come you issued a cheque for the amount in your name? What was the purpose of the money?”
Responding, the witness testified that the cheque was for “transport.”
Justice Buba has adjourned the case to February16, 2016 for continuation of cross-examination of the witness.
The EFCC’s 22-count indictment alleges that, between December 23, 2013 and May 28, 2015, the accused persons conspired to convert to their use a total of N2.6 billion of funds belonging to NIMASA. The alleged crimes violated the provisions of sections 15 (1), 15 (3), and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2012, the prosecution has charged.