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N8.5B fraud: Atewe paid N35m to Winners Chapel, witness tells court

A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Major General Emmanuel Atewe, a former commander of the joint task force in the Niger Delta, on…

A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Major General Emmanuel Atewe, a former commander of the joint task force in the Niger Delta, on Friday narrated how funds for the task force was diverted.

The witness, Nkem Ahidjo, told a Federal High Court in Lagos that N35 million of the N8.5 billion allegedly diverted was paid to the Living Faith Church, popularly known as Winners’ Chapel.

The Army General was charged alongside Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Other defendants in the charged are two staff of the agency Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had slammed an amended 22 count charge bordering on fraud on the defendants.

At the resumption of trial on Friday, the witness who was led in evidence by EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo,  introduced himself as an Abuja-based businessman, who dealt in Stationary, printing and general contracts.

He also said that he is a registered contractor with the National Assembly, the National Population Commission and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to which he made supplies.

Ahidjo, claimed to have known Atewe from Villa Church in Abuja, where he said they both worshiped, when the accused was still a Guard Commander.

"He invited me to Bayelsa and told me that the Federal Government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I have any company account into which money could be paid. Since I knew him very well, I provided the companies account," the witness told the court.

Ahidjo said that on his second visit to Atewe in Bayelsa, he was told that three payments were about to be made into his accounts and as soon as they were made he should acknowledge the payments and await further instructions.

According to the witness, upon Atewe’s return to Abuja, he invited him to his office, where he introduced, Engozu, (third accused), as the person that would take delivery of the money from him.

Ahidjo said that owing to the volume of the monies, Engozu advised him to change the money from naira to dollar before delivery.

He said that each time he received the money, he would call the BDC operator, who would change the money and then, he would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars.  

According to him, he received a total of about N5 billion within the period, out of which about N4.1bn were converted to dollars and delivered to Engozu, who in turn issued a receipt for each payment based on Atewe’s instruction.

Ahidjo explained that out of the remaining amount, he was instructed by the army general to transfer N35 million to Winners’ Chapel; N103 million to INP Ltd; N170 million to First Investment Ltd; N99 million to Lord Fem Ltd; N88 million to Ocean Gas and N297 million to Cisco Nobot.

After the testimony, trial judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji adjourned to March 21, for continuation of the matter.

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