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How Air Force chiefs diverted N3bn NIMASA fund –EFCC

Further hearing in the trial of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd) and two others continued yesterday before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Lagos with a prosecution witness narrating how the defendants allegedly diverted the sum of N3 billion credited to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Special Emergency Operations Account domiciled in a bank by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The trio of Amosu, a former Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Chief of Accounts and Budgeting, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun and a former Director of Finance and Budget, NAF, Air Commodore Gbadebo Olugbenga, were on 13th November, 2018, docked before the judge on a 13-count amended charge of alleged N21.5 billion fraud.

In his testimony yesterday, the witness, Okechukwu Akubue, an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told the court that an enquiry was launched by his team into the bank statement of the NAF’s Special Emergency Operations Account domiciled in one of the banks.

He said the bank statement was part of the responses to letters of investigation sent to several financial institutions by the anti-graft agency in the course of investigation. He said: “The credit of N1 billion from NIMASA to NAF on 28th August, 2014, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two bodies ‘was disbursed to support the NAF in protecting Nigeria’s waterways.’

“Further to the N1 billion credit inflow from NIMASA, we found a debit of N4.8 million on behalf of Hebron Housing and Property, a company linked to the second defendant (Adigun) by way of ownership. “The bank account, in which the money was credited, is also owned by the second defendant and the fund was not utilised for the NAF, but for the benefits of the defendants. “The sums of N228 million was debited from the NAF’s account in favour of Rite Options Oil and Gas, on 2nd September, 2014; N336 million in favour of same company on same day; N165.7 million on 4th September, 2014 in favour of Juda Oil Limited and another N170.2 million on same day.

“Investigating the transaction in favour of Rite Options Oil and Gas, we invited the owner of the company, Adedeji Adelakun, for questioning and in the course of interrogation, he admitted that he was not into oil and gas business, but that he was a bureau de change dealer. “Adelakun further confessed that the money in question was not utilised for the services of NAF, but that he converted same to United States dollars and gave to Olufunke Osisanmi, an official of the bank on the instruction of the defendant.”

Akubue further informed the court that NAF also got another N1 billion from NIMASA on September 15, 2014, following which several debits were made, including N258.6 million on September 16, 2014 in favour of Delfina Oil and Gas. He added that N261.4 million was on September 16, 2014, debited in favour of McAllam Oil and Gas, which also got another N235.9 million, while N243.9 million was also debited in favour of Delfina Oil and Gas on September 17, 2014.

“Investigations revealed that these two companies were owned and controlled by the second defendant, and like Rite Options Oil and Gas, and Juda Oil Limited, they had no contractual agreements with the NAF,” he also said.

Testifying further, the witness told the court that there was another lodgement of N1 billion from NIMASA into NAF’s account on September 23, 2014. “Following the lodgement, N146.2 million was debited in favour of Lebol Oil and Gas, which on same day, also got N153.7 million. Lebol Oil and Gas also got N135.2 million, N185.8 million, N186.4 million and N168.5 million all on September 24, 2014,” he said.

Further hearing in the matter has been adjourned to April 12, 15 and 20, 2021. The defendants had earlier been docked alongside eight companies by the anti-graft agency on June 29, 2016, before Justice Mohammed Idris on a 26-count charge bordering on the alleged offence. The companies involved are: Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd., Mcallan Oil And Gas Ltd., Hebron Housing and Properties Company Ltd., Trapezites BDC, Fonds and Pricey Ltd., Deegee Oil and Gas Ltd., Timsegg Investment Ltd and Solomon Health Care Ltd.

The case was, however, re-assigned to Justice Aneke to start afresh following the elevation of Justice Idris to the Court of Appeal. At the same time, an amended charge was filed by the anti-graft agency, leaving out the eight companies as defendants. In the amended charge marked, FHC/L/280C/16, Amosu and others were said to have conspired amongst themselves to convert the total sum of N21,467,634,707.43, property of the Nigerian Air Force, which sum they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of their unlawful activities to wit: criminal breach of trust, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

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