How police pension oficials withdraw N20bn – witness

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An EFCC prosecution witness, Mustapha Sani, on Tuesday narrated before an FCT High Court how officials of Police Pension Office allegedly withdrew N20 billion from the police pension account illegally.

The witness testified at the resumed hearing of the case instituted by the EFCC against three directors of the pension office and some officials.

The directors are Esai Dangabar, Abubakar Kigo and Inuwa Wada while the officials are Veronica Onyegbula, Sani Zira and Christian Madubuke.

The witness said the funds were withdrawn between August 2007 and January 2011 in the pension account domiciled with the First Bank of Nigeria.

The EFCC on April 10, 2013 took Dangabar, Kigo, Wada, Veronica, Zira and Attang to court and were charged with stealing, criminal breach of trust and abuse of office.

At the resumed hearing Sani, led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the money was withdrawn during the tenure of Dangabar, Kigo and Wada as directors in the office.

“My lord, we discovered during our investigations that John Yusuf, Mrs Uzoama Attang, Gabriel Ekpen, Mike Okoro and one Mrs Amu now at large, were among those who fraudulently signed the cheques. We discovered that N4 billion was fraudulently withdrawn between August and Dececember 2007.”

He alleged that N5 billion was withdrawn between December 2007 and August 2008 and N8 billion was also withdrawn between January and December 2009.

“Two billion naira was withdrawn between January 2010 and December 2011 and N1 billion was withdrawn in December 2011,” the witness said.

He further said that the accused split the cheques in different amount, ranging from N600,000 to N700,000.

EFCC counsel, however, craved the indulgence of the court to tender the analyses of the withdrawal cheques as evidence.

Counsel to Kigo, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), opposed the admissibility of the document and argued that the document sought to be tendered was a reproduction of the First Bank document.

He said that it was a photocopy of a document emanating from EFCC, which he said, was a public institution.

He further argued that the document, which was computer-generated, did not meet the requirements of certification based on the provisions of the evidence Act.

He, therefore, urged the court to reject the document.

While opposing the application, counsel to the second accused, Lateef  Fagbemi (SAN), urged the court to reject the document, adding that it was mandatory in the Act for the certification of every document to be admitted in evidence.

Counsel to the third accused (Wada), Hasan Liman (SAN), also objected to the admissibility of the document, arguing that before any document was admissible in law, there must be strict adherence to the provisions of the Evidence Act.

He urged the court to apply section 85, sub-section 5 of the evidence act dealing with strict adherence to the law in admissibility of documents.

He submitted that the witness did not comply strictly with the provisions of that section, adding that being a public document, it ought to be strictly certified.

“I submit that the witness did not convince the court whether there was intervention and whether the computer did not break down whereby some information will be missing in the process.”

He said that only the first and last pages of the document were certified, adding that it contravened sub-section 5 of the evidence act.

In his response, the EFCC counsel submitted that the argument of the defence should not stand.

Jacobs argued that the document substantially complied with the provisions of the act.

He said the document should be admitted in evidence “because the document contains the stamp, date and signature of the investigating officer”.

The Judge, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf, adjourned the case to March 12 for ruling on the admissibility of the document and continuation of hearing of case.

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