*Insists PRTT recovered N282bn within 18 months
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri — Abuja
Trial of the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team, PRTT, Abdulrasheed Maina, resumed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, with his witness, Mr. Ngozika Ihuoma, admitting that he did not tender any evidence to prove his allegation that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under its former Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, mismanaged 222 recovered assets worth N1.63trillion.
Ihuoma, who is the first defence witness, DW-1 Maina brought to testify on his behalf, equally told the court that he did not tender any document to show that the PRTT recovered the sum of N181billion within the first 11 months of its operation, and another sum of N282bn within 18 months.
The witness had earlier in his Evidence-In-Chief, alleged before the court that EFCC and Magu sold some of the recovered properties to his friends and associates, among whom he said included a renowned senior lawyer.
He claimed that it was a petition he wrote to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, that led to the constitution of the Justice Isa Ayo Salami led Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe Magu’s activites at the EFCC.
Though the DW-1 claimed that Magu admitted before the Justice Salami led panel that he shared the 222 recovered properties based on a presidential directive, however, while being cross-examined by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, on Friday, the witness said he had no evidence to prove that the said assets were valued at N1.63trillion.
He however maintained that he stood by all the evidence he gave before the court, saying “we have the documents and would have tendered it if not for technicalities”.
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He said Maina’s lawyer would still tender the documents in due time.
Answering questions under cross-examination, the witness said: “I made myself available to testify at the discretion of the court, not less than one and half hours on four different proceedings.
“I stand by my evidence that the 1st Defendant is being persecuted”.
He said one of the main highlight of his testimony was that the 1st Defendant, Maina, through the PRTT, recovered about N282bn as well as properties worth N1.6trillion.
“The N282bn was recovered with 18 months.
“Another highlight is that about N74bn recovered by 1st Defendant was used to fund the 2012 national budget.
“The 1st Defendant, through the PRTT, also prosecuted several pension thieves.
“I stand by my statement that it is a fact that EFCC mismanaged both cash and assets handed over to them by the team”.
Admitting that he testified about the internal workings and procedures of some organizations, including the EFCC, the National Assembly and the Presidential Villa, the witness said he
never worked at the EFCC or served as an aid to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“In 1996, I was elected a councillor in Ezinihitte-Mbaise LGA in Imo State. In 2003, I was appointed into the National Assembly Service Commission as a Secretary to Hon. Independence Onuegbu.
“Again, in 2007, I was appointed consultant to the Senate Committee on State and Local Government. In all, my certificate of return issued by then National Electoral Commission of Nigeria.
“I was never elected a member of the House, but appointed in the National Assembly Service Commission.
“I was also not elected into the Senate, but was appointed as a consultant by the Senate Committee”, he added.
He also admitted that he was not a party in a suit that led to a judgement that was delivered by Justice Adamu Bello, which the court earlier admitted in evidence as Exhibit T2.
“I tendered a Memo from the EFCC in the course of my testimony, which was admitted as Exhibit T1. Ibrahim Adoke was the author of the memo, a Director at the EFCC.
“Attached to Exhibit T3 was a letter from the office of Head of Service of the Federation.
“I was neither the recipient nor author of the letter.
“I tendered these documents in order to back up my evidence before this court.
“I want the court to believe my story and that was why I tendered these documents.
“The PRTT recovered the sum of N181bn within the first 11 months.
“I have not tendered any document to show that we recovered the sum of N181bn within the first 11 months.
“Within the first 18 months, the PRTT recovered the sum of N282bn.
“I did not tender any evidence to support this claim because it is not in contest, it is a fact.
“I also testified that the PRTT recovered 222 properties valued at N1.63trillion.
“I have not tendered a list of the 222 properties for now, but the documents are ready and we have it.
“I have also not tendered any document to prove that the properties are valued at N1.63trn, but we will.
“I have not also tendered any document to show that the sum of N282bn recovered by the PRTT was warehoused at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“I have not tendered any proof that N74bn recovered by the PRTT was used to fund the 2012 national budget.
“I gave evidence that in 2016, the 1st Defendant gave intelligence report to the NSA and the AGF that led to the recovery of the sum of N1.3trillion.
“I did not tender any document in evidence to prove the recovered money”.
Continuing, the witness said: “In 2012, the House Committee on pensions, in their report, recommended that the PRTT be transformed to a statutory body, following their excellent work in handling the two pension offices, namely, Office of the HoS of the Federation and the Police pension.
“This was because the issue of pension was a big problem to the House since inception.
“It was my testimony that the World Bank and the IMF commended the PRTT for the biometric data capturing of diaspora Pensioners.
“I did not tender any document to prove this claim.
“I also testified that I petitioned the AGF against the former EFCC Chairman for mismanaging recovered assets. That petition led to the establishment of the Justice Ayo Salami Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
“I have not tendered a copy of the petition. But we have it here.
“I did not also tender the instrument establishing the Ayo Salami Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
“I did not tender any document to show that the Commission of Inquiry was established as a result of my petition.
“Mr. Ibrahim Magu confessed before the Salami Panel that he mismanaged some of the recovered properties.
“I did not tender any document to prove that report of the Salami led panel indicted Magu for mismanagement of some of the properties recovered by the PRTT.
“I did not tender the report the Justice Salami Panel submitted to President Buhari on activities of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry”, the witness added.
Earlier in the proceeding, trial Justice Okon Abang rejected a document titled ‘Re: Nationwide Biometric Enrollment of Pensioners’ which was dated June 3, 2010 and signed by one Mrs. K. M. Lawal, Director, Pensions.
Maina’s lawyer had applied to tender the document through the DW-1, a move that was opposed by EFCC’s lawyer.
Justice Abang held that the public document was not certified, adding that the witness did not comply with section 104(1) of the Evidence Act as regards payment of prescribed fees for such documents.
He agreed with the Prosecution that the witness confirmed that the original copy of the document was in Maina’s possession, in whose favour it was sought to be tendered.
Justice Abang held that the document was inadmissible by virtue of 89(a) (1) of Evidence Act and accordingly marked it as rejected.
The court gave EFCC the nod to cross-examine the witness after it refused adjournment request that was made by Maina’s lawyer.
It held that the application for adjornment in the middle of the proceeding, was a deliberate attempt by Maina to delay the trial.
“When the 1st Defendant announced that he will call 24 witnesses, he ought to have prepared adequately”, Justice Abang held.
Meanwhile, the court fixed March 9, 10, 11 for further cross examination of the witness.
Maina is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the EFCC preferred against him and his firm- Common Input Property and Investment Limited.
EFCC earlier closed its case against the Defendants after it called a total of nine witnesses, even as the court ordered Maina to open his defence to the charge.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, EFCC, alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
It told the court that the 1st Defendant (Maina) used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
The Prosecution maintained that the Defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.
The Defendants who were arraigned on October 25, 2019, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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