Trial of a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Azibaola Robert and his wife, Stella, took a new dimension on Thursday, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, told the Federal High Court in Abuja that payment for $40million contract that was awarded to the defendants’ firm, Oneplus Holdings Limited, was duly authorised by the Presidency.
Azibola and his wife, Stella, are answering to a seven-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against them.
At the resumed hearing, the 10th Prosecution witness, PW-10, in the case, Mr. David Mkpe, who is an EFCC operative that investigated the deal between the company and the Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, told trial Justice Nnamdi Dimgba that he was aware of a Presidential memo approving both the contract and payment for the job. Mkpe, who was cross examined by the defence counsel, Mr. Chris Uche, SAN, told the court that his investigative team case across the memo from the ONSA, which he said okayed the payment of $40 million to Oneplus Holdings Ltd.
Mkpe also admitted that the $40 million paid to Oneplus was not the only payment for security assignment from accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, through the Office of the NSA under Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd. Asked if he saw the memo from ONSA through which the payment of $40m was made to Oneplus account, Mkpe replied, “Yes, my lord. The payment was duly authorised by the NSA.” He said: “My lord funds from which the $40m was paid to Oneplus came from NNPC funds.
In March 2014, Lt-Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) wrote a memo to the President entitled “Intervention in Urgent National Security Project” through which he sought the approval of Mr. President for the sum of $1bn for subheads and surveillance of pipelines and additional request for $250m. “The President gave approval to his request. The President approved the release of the sum of $1.2bn. In May the sum of $1.2bn was then released from NNPC accounts. “ It was this fund that was disbursed to various recipients.
The $40m was part of the $1.2bn statutorily approved and released for urgent national security intervention. I can confirm.” EFCC is prosecuting the defendants for allegedly diverting $40 million purportedly meant for the supply of tactical communication kits for Nigeria’s Special Forces.
The funds were alleged to have been transferred from the account of the Office of the NSA with the Central Bank of Nigeria to the domiciliary account of their company, OnePlus Holdings. The offence, according to the EFCC, contravenes Section 8(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act. Justice Nnamd Dimgba has adjourned the trial to 22 and 23 January 2018 to enable the defence to cross examine more of the prosecution witnesses.