Mr. Nkem Ahidjo, An Abuja-based businessman, narrated on Monday how over N6bn was allegedly diverted out of the funds allocated by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to the military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta.
Ahidjo told the Federal High Court in Lagos that the N6bn was moved out of the operation’s account into the bank accounts of four companies on the instruction of retired Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, who was then the commander of the operation.
The businessman said the four companies belong to him and gave their names as Jagan Trading Company Ltd., Jagan Global Services Ltd., Al-Nald Ltd. and Paper Warehouse Ltd.
Ahidjo, who claimed to have known Atewe from Villa Church in Abuja, where they both worshipped, said the retired general confided in him then that the funds were meant for security purposes in the Niger Delta and building of barracks in the region.
He said Atewe invited him to Bayelsa State and asked if he had accounts into which money could be paid following which he volunteered the accounts.
While being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, Ahidjo, who was presented with the statements of accounts of the four companies, traced the various sums moved from the account of Operation Pulo Shield into the companies’ bank accounts.
According to him, between September 2014 and May 2015, a total of N1.34bn was transferred from Operation Pulo Shield’s account into the Zenith Bank account of Jagan Ltd., while N972.1m was transferred into the Diamond Bank account of the same company.
Within the same period, Ahidjo said N2.13bn was also transferred into the account of Jagan Trading Company Ltd., while the accounts of Al-Nald Ltd. and Paper Warehouse Ltd. were credited with N905.2m and N605.6m respectively.
Asked by the prosecutor if any of his companies was a registered security organisation to have warranted the payment, Ahidjo answered in the negative, stressing that he rendered no services to Operation Pulo Shield.
Asked what he did with the money paid into his companies’ accounts, Ahidjo said the funds were handed over to one Kim Engozu on the instruction of Atewe, adding that the money given to Engozu was first converted into US dollars for ease of handling.
He added that Engozu issued a receipt confirming that he received the money and showed the said receipts to the court on Monday.
Atewe is being prosecuted by the EFCC for an alleged fraud of N8.5bn perpetrated within Operation Pulo Shield.
He is facing 22 counts before Justice Ayokunle Faji alongside a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi; Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
Under cross-examination by Akpobolokemi’s lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), Ahidjo said he never met and had no dealings with Akpobolokemi.
Under cross-examination by Atewe’s lawyer, Mr. Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), Ahidjo confirmed that “a massive barracks” was built in Bayelsa but he said he was not involved in the building of the barracks and did not know how much it cost.
He, however, told the court that under Atewe’s watch, militancy was brought under control in the Niger Delta region.
Justice Faji adjourned till June 26, 27 and 29 for continuation of trial.