Mr. Romanus Madu, a cashier to Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu as Governor of Abia State, on Monday testified in court that fictitious names were used to request and divert several millions of naira from Government House accounts in 2005.
Mr. Madu was testifying today at the resumed trial of Mr. Kalu at the Federal High Court in Lagos for an alleged N2.9bn fraud.
Mr. Madu, who is now a Permanent Secretary in the same government, said that his name was also used to raise some bank drafts, and his signature forged on some other bank documents.
He explained that as then then cashier of Government House, his duty entailed releasing impress funds for weekly maintenance works at the property, adding that he carried out his duties under the instruction of the then Director of Finance, Jones Udeogu.
Prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), tendered several documents issued to apply for bank drafts, with Mr. Madu denying knowledge of two requests for bank drafts in the sums of N31m and N39m, although they had his name.
The documents showed that sums raised in such circumstances as follows:
August 2, 2005: sums of N26m and N15m;
June 3, 2005: N19.5m and 21.3m; and
July 7, 2005: N21.3m.
The prosecutor also showed Mr. Madu several bank drafts raised in the names of Onigwe Ozoh, Obasi John, and Ogbonna J.
Mr. Madu testified: “When they showed me these things at the EFCC office, I told them I was not the person who wrote them. It’s not my handwriting; my signature is not even there. I don’t know anything about bank drafts. I normally collected cash and [handed] over to my boss.”
He affirmed he did not know any persons at the State Government House Account Department by the names of Onigwe Ozoh, Obasi John and Ogbonna J., whose names appeared on the requests for the sums of N19m, N22m, N31m and N30.8m sometime in 2005.
However, when Jacobs asked Madu to compare the handwriting in the different requests, defense counsels Awa Kalu (SAN) and K.C. Nwofor (SAN), objected, saying Mr. Madu was not an expert witness and lacked the competence to make such a comparison.
Justice Idris consequently adjourned till Tuesday to rule on that objection.
Earlier, Mr. Madu had explained that the Abia State House operated three banks accounts at Manny Bank, Citibank and Standard Trust Bank, and that the signatories to the three accounts were Mr. Udeogu and the Chief of Staff to ex-governor Mr. Kalu.
He said the accounts were funded or credited through the office of the Accountant General who would have raised a memo to the governor’s Chief of Staff requesting that the Government House accounts be credited with a certain amount.
He explained that if the requested money was approved, the Chief of Staff would then raise a Release of Funds Paper and send it to the Director of Finance who would instruct the issuance of a voucher for the sum involved from the Voucher Section.
“Eventually, the voucher would be sent to the Accountant General’s Office through the Treasury Bill Office,” Mr. Madu explained. “Through this voucher, the Accountant General would raise checks for the Government House in the name of the cashier and the cashier [would collect] the checks and lodge them into our bank accounts.”
The former governor, alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Mr. Udeogu, are being prosecuted for the alleged fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr. Kalu is alleged to have diverted Abia State funds into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited 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 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 EFCC accused Slok Nigeria Limited of conniving with one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, to help Kalu retain the allegedly stolen funds in its accounts when Slok Nigeria Limited "knew or at least suspected the said Orji Uzor Kalu to have engaged in a criminal conduct."
The EFCC said the company is liable to punishment under Section 16 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003.
Udeogu, the 2nd defendant, is accused of helping Kalu to pay part of the allegedly stolen funds into the account of Slok at the defunct FinBank Plc, in violation of the Criminal Code Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
The suspects, who were arraigned before Justice Mohammed Idris on October 31, 2016, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Mr. Kalu defected to the ruling APC a few months ago in a move interpreted by analysts as being aimed to influence the trial. He was welcomed into the party by John Odigie-Oyegun, its National Chairman.