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by Dolapo Adelana
An Abuja-based businessman, Mr. Nkem Ahidjo, on Friday while being cross-examined by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said the Commander of the military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta retired Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, gave N35m out of the N8.5bn he allegedly diverted to the Living Faith Church, popularly known as Winners’ Chapel.
Atewe is facing a 22-count charge before Justice A.O. Faji of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
He is charged alongside a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi; Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
The defenedants ar accused of conspiring among themselves to divert N8.5bn from Operation Pulo Shield between September 5, 2014, and May 20, 2015, using six companies.
The six companies were listed as Jagan Ltd; Jagan Trading Company Ltd; Jagan Global Services Ltd; Al-Nald Ltd; Paper Warehouse Ltd; Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd.
They have all pleaded not guilty to the offence.
Ahidjo who was called as the EFCC’s first witness introduced himself as a businessman, who dealt in stationeries, printing, and general contracts.
He was led in evidence by lead prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo.
He claimed to have known Atewe from the Villa Church in Abuja, where they both worshiped, as of when the retired general was still a Guard Commander.
He said he also attended Living Faith Church, and Atewe also worshiped there.
“He invited me to Bayelsa and I went. He told me that the Federal Government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I have any company into which account money could be paid. And being somebody I knew very well from Guard Commander to Major General, I provided the companies that I listed earlier,” Ahidjo said.
The witness said he visited Atewe in Bayelsa for the second time where he was told to expect three payments into his accounts.
He added that Atewe told him that as soon the payments were made he should acknowledge and await further instructions.
He said within two to three days of the meeting, he received payments and informed Atewe accordingly, and was told to hold on till he (Atewe) returned to Abuja.
The witness said he was Atewe introduced him to Engozu, who is the 3rd defendant, as the person that would take delivery of the money from him,
He said he was advised by Engozu to change the money from naira to dollar before delivery, and he according contacted a Bureau de Change operator, named only as Jimoh.
“Each time I received it (money), I would call a BDC operator, named Jimoh. I knew him before this time. He would change the money, I would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars. Once I changed it, I would wait for instruction either from Major General Atewe or Mr. Kime. That was what we continued to do until the end of the transaction in 2015,” Ahidjo said.
Ahidjo said he received a total of N4,915,163,103 within the period, and N4.1bn of it were converted to dollars and delivered to Engozu, who in turn issued a receipt for each payment based on Atewe’s instruction.
Ahidjo said of the remaining amount, he was instructed by Atewe to transfer N35m to Winners’ Chapel; N103m to INP Ltd; N170m to First Investment Ltd; N99m to Lord Fem Ltd; N88m to Ocean Gas and N297m to Cisco Nobot.
Asked by the prosecutor the purpose of the transfer to Living Faith Church, Ahidjo said, “I don’t know what it was for; it was on the instruction of Maj. Gen. Atewe. All these monies, I don’t question what they were meant for. It is not my money, so I can’t question what it was for. Maj. Gen. Atewe asked me to act on instruction.”
Justice Faji adjourned till March 21, 2017, for Ahidjo to continue his evidence.