How we stole N805m in Niger Delta ministry by Principal Witness

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Kabiru Paloma, a principal witness (PW1) in the ongoing suit
instituted against Yusuf Agabi and some former Directors in theFederal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Comission (ICPC), hasrevealed how the sum of N805million was serially stolen.

Paloma who was personal assistant to Agabi and one Ayinla Abibu, a former Director Finance and Accounts (DFA), informed the court at the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Husseini Baba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja, using the term ‘mop up’ that he later explained  ‘was pure stealing’.

During cross examination by Paul Bassi, counsel to the ICPC,
Paloma told the court how he suddenly discovered that his personal accounts were frozen by the anti graft agency sometime in 2014, after his bank statement had been requested for and obliged to the commission by the bank management.

The witness who was used as a conduct pipe for illicit transfer of
funds said he informed Agabi with the hope of getting the issue
resolved, because the accounts had financial dealings of the ministry in 2013, in which some money was remitted.

“Since Agabi refused to answer his calls nor read messages sent to him, I had to send someone to him informing him that if I get
arrested, I will have no option but to say what happend because there were glaring movement of cash from my account to Agabi’s account”, he said.

Prior to the message, Paloma said the third accused (Ayinla) summoned him to his house in 2014 telling him that there was need for money to execute constituency project because there was an allocation paid into the ministry’s Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) account, because he was the only signatory to the account.

Ayinla who later took over as DFA in 2014 was informed by Paloma about the balance of 2013 constituency project that was being ‘mopped up’ as at that time, while he (Ayinla) instructed that a balance of N100million be left.

On resuming as DFA, Ayinla was alleged to have ordered a transfer of N60million to his account while the remaining N40million was to be shared amongst them at the accounts department; one Mr Dickson, Kabiru Paloma, James Ihenacho and Daniel Oba, while a portion of the money was shared to staffs of the Central Pay Office (CPO) of the ministry.

Furthermore, the witness also said that, Ayinla also directed the
‘mopping up’ of another balance of N11million so that it doesn’t
reflect in 2014, of which the witnessed did as directed, transfering
N10million which was shared amongst three people including Ayinla himself.

When asked to elaborate on the ‘mopping up’ scheme, Paloma noted that “it was stealing”.

“The mopping up is done usually through transfer of funds into company accounts: at that time, I had five companies namely: Kapola Nig Ltd, KP Energy solution, Balang Construction Nig Ltd, Nadia Collections Nig Ltd and my personal account with EcoBank”.

“The DFA had insisted that the remaining N1million should be mopped up, it was at CBN that I realised an inflow of N502million, making the ballance N503million which had been there for two months without anyone knowing”.

“I informed the 3rd accussed who asked if anyone else knows about the money, I told him just few staffs who might eventually get to know about it when they check with CBN for the bank statement”, he said.

In other to cover up their illicit ‘mopping up’, Paloma summoned a meeting with the duo of Mr Dickson and Daniel Oba before making a move on the money, where it was finally agreed to take the money while everyone benefits from it.

Trouble started when Ayinla, having been briefed directed that
N333million should be taken out of the money, of which Paloma drew up a payment schedule over the four compnies used in the ‘mop up’.

Out of greed, Ayinla was alleged to have demanded that the sum of N233million should be payed to him.

On checking with the CBN on the remaining N100million, Paloma
discovered the influx of another N192million, beefing up the balance, and so, he decided to ‘mop up’ the whole fund without the consent of Ayinla the DFA.

Ignorantly after a month, Ayinla was said to have requested to make a payment of N150million to a contractor, on realising there was no money, the PW1 was summoned where he told Ayinla that he did take the money.

A repayment plan was drawn up to pay the N150million contract as Ayinla, was expected to pay the sum of N40million to make up for the deficit.

Having paid the total sum back into the CBN account, it was
discovered that the issue had been reported to the ICPC by the then Permanent Secretary through Ayinla, an action that made Paloma ‘mop up’ the repaid sum.

According to him, it was during his arrest, detention, interrogation and investigation at the ICPC that he was scrutinized based on available facts and evidences including bank statements that had to do with the N805million and bank statements, that had to do with other stolen money in the ministry.

These other shady deals, according to the witness, brought the 2nd accused (Akpore Okeroghene) and the 1st accussed (Yusuf Agabi) into the matter.

Ayinla, the 3rd aaccused person alongside the 5th accussed, Ntu Ngozi were said to have connived with the human resources department and got the trio of Paloma, Dickson and Oba suspended, while their salary was also stopped without recource to civil service procedure.

Even though the PW1 couldn’t conclude his testimony before the court, Justice Baba adjourned the hearing for continuation to November 27, 2015 and December 4, 2015.

Yusuf Agabi while being a public officer as a Director of Finance at
the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, was alleged to have received for himself the sum of N100million belonging to the Federal. Government of Nigeria from one Kabiru Paloma, knowing same to have been obtained fraudulently from the bank account of the Ministry, an offence contrary to Section 13 and punishable under section 68 of the Corrupt Practices Act 2000.

He was also alleged to have on seperate occassions in 2013, collected a total sum N400million from Kabiru Paloma, the sum of N50million from Daniel Obah and another sum of N8.9million from Babadoko Mohammed obtained fraudulently from the accounts of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

Akpore Okeroghene who was a Deputy Director of Finance at the ministry was also accused of receiving the sum of N25million at seperate occassions and through a proxy, Kabiru Paloma as well as N6million and N2million respectively from one Nuhu Gadu and Solomon Sunday Tom.

The third accussed person, Ayinla Abibu was also alleged to have
receieved the sum of N60million through a proxy Zeocat Nig LTD, with which he used to build a house at Ogbomosho, Oyo state for
himself.

He was alleged to have received a total of N91.4million through a
proxy, Joykings Nig LTD.

Idowu Adewale, a deputy director of accounts in the
ministry, was also said to have received the sum of $100,000 from Kabiru Paloma as well as using documents to wit: payment vouchers of the ministry which were defective in material particular and designed to mislead his principal for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining various sums of money from his principal.

Ntu Ngozi, Deputy Director (Accounts) also received a total sum of
N10.25million from one Solomon Sunday Tom in March and October 2014.

AUTHOR: Tunde Anjola.

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