A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court was informed yesterday how former governor of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye collected N1.126 billion Ecological funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and did not deposit same into any account of the state government.
A prosecution witness and detective from the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Musa Sunday disclosed this yesterday when Dariye’s trial resumed after almost nine years.
Dariye was arraigned 2007 for various offences bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and corruption. He pleaded not guilty to all the 23 count charge preferred against him but filed interlocutory appeals to scuttle his trial.
Dariye was then the governor of Plateau State when the offence was allegedly committed.
Before the case started yesterday, the trial Judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko warned all parties that her court would not tolerate any application for frivolous adjournment.
In his evidence in chief, detective Musa Sunday, who was led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), informed the court there was a request from the UK Metropolitan Police which was referred to the Attorney General of the Federation with a petition to the EFCC.
The witness said investigation by the EFCC operatives revealed that the former governor had, in 2001, applied for the ecological funds in the name of his state but collected the money in person and lodged it with the Abuja branch of the All States Trust Bank Plc (now defunct).
The witness added that the bank manager, allegedly acting on Dariye’s instructions paid N100m in the name of ‘PDP South-West.” The money he said was later traced to a company – Marine Float Nigeria Limited – allegedly owned by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
Sunday, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said efforts to ensure that the firm refunded the money failed.
He said Dariye instructed the payment of N178.8m to an unregistered company – Ebenezer Retnan Venture Limited, which was later discovered to belong to the former governor.
He said investigation also revealed that Dariye ordered the payment of N80m from the ecological funds to the Permanent Secretary in the Ecological Fund Office, Kingsley Nkumeh.
The witness said although the EFCC later recovered the N80m from Nkumeh, he fled the country on learning that he was to be prosecuted.
He said Nkumeh had yet to return to the country.
Sunday added that Dariye paid N250m to a firm – Pinnacle Communications – owned by a contractor to the Plateau State Government.
He told the court that the decision to investigate Dariye was informed by a request by the London Metropolitan Police for Nigeria’s assistance in investigating some parties and companies linked with the former governor.
The witness said, “We invited Pinnacle Communications and the representative of the company actually confirmed collecting the N250m, but told us he is a contractor of the Plateau State Government.
“The N80m paid to Union Homes turned out to have been paid to a Permanent Secretary, Ecological Funds Office, Kingsley Nkumeh.
“When interviewed, he said that was his share for facilitating the payment of the ecological funds to the state. The said amount was recovered by the EFCC from the Permanent Secretary of Ecological Funds Office.
“Charges were later prepared for him to be charged to court in Lagos. He was granted an administrative bail; he resigned and left the country. Our investigation at Union Homes revealed that the cheque was cleared into an account owned by the Permanent Secretary, Nkumeh.
“The bank gave us the mandate card of the Permanent Secretary, into whose account the N80m was paid. The N176.8m was traced to Ebenezer Retnan Venture’s account domiciled at All States Trust Bank. From investigation at the Corporate Affairs Commission, we found it was not registered. There was no record of the company’s existence.
“The N100m paid to the PDP South-West was traced to Marine Float Limited. The mandate we received from the bank showed that Marine Float is owned by a former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Efforts at recovering this money have been going on. We did not succeed in recovering it.”
The court proceedings were interrupted by an outage.
Sunday, also in the course of his testimony, narrated how the bank, All States Trust Bank Plc (now defunct), aided the former governor to lodge the cheque into his (Dariye’s) account instead of the state government’s accounts.
The witness said, “The CBN cheque and the handwritten disbursement letter were recovered and another additional type-written disbursement letter by the defendant to the bank’s branch manager was all recovered.
“When we recovered those documents and cheques from CBN, we traced it to where it came from. Investigation led us to the Ecological Funds Unit, under the Presidency. At the Ecological Funds Unit, we interviewed one Mr. Adewusi, who told us that there was a time the Plateau State Government applied for ecological funds for ecological problem in the state, and approval was given for N1.126bn.
“And that before the cheque was prepared, a payment voucher covering the said amount, which had other documents attached to it, were prepared and audited, at the end of which payment was made.
“When the cheque was ready for collection, the defendant and his orderly, one Inspector Victor, went to the Ecological Funds Office and, upon instruction by the defendant, the aide signed for the cheque and the defendant took the cheque to All States Trust Bank, Abuja.
“Investigation revealed that in the office of the bank manager, the defendant instructed the bank manager how the money should be disbursed to some individuals and companies. The bank’s branch manager complied with the defendant’s instruction.
“Instead of the money to be paid into any of the Plateau State Government’s accounts, the bank used its own bank accounts to clear the cheque and disbursed to individuals and companies as instructed by the defendant.
“Copies of his instructions, both type written and handwritten were made available to us during investigation.”
The detective said the names of some banks were mentioned on the petition.
The letter of request from UK Metropolitan Police and that from Attorney General of the Federation’s office were sent to EFCC under its former chairman Nuhu Ribadu.
According to him, as the team received the letter, they moved on the request to the mentioned banks. “First we went to All States Trust bank where we met the manager who made the account available to us and we also collected the mandate card for the account which was opened in the name of Haruna Dariye as signatory to the account.
“The signature on the mandate was signed by the accused Senator Dariye. An officer in charge of the account was arrested by EFCC to assist the commission identify “Haruna Dariye.”’
According to him, “The circumstance in which the said account was opened in All States Trust Bank was suspicious because there was no picture in the mandate card. We confirmed that waivers were given to Dariye not to use his passport photograph.”
Meanwhile the matter continues today by 10am.