A civil servant, Titus Okunriboye, on Wednesday, admitted before the Federal High Court, Abuja, that he was involved in the alleged illegal award of contracts to move money from the Federal Government’s coffers.
Okunrinboye, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC’s witness in the ongoing trial of former Minister, Tanimu Turaki, and others, stated this before Justice Inyang Ekwo.
The EFCC had arraigned Turaki alongside his former Special Assistant, Sampson Okpetu, and two firms; Samtee Essentials Limited and Pasco Investment Limited, on 16 counts of money laundering.
Turaki, who is a former presidential aspirant, was a Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs between 2013 and 2015.
He also served as the supervising Minister of Labour from 2014 to 2015 in President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration and as chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants used the companies to launder funds totally about N845 million stolen from the two ministries where the ex-minister held sway under the then administration.
However, Turaki and Okpetu pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed trial on Wednesday, the EFCC Counsel, Halima Shehu, told the court that the matter was slated for continuation of cross-examination of Okunriboye, the sixth prosecution witness (PW6).
Responding to questions from Abdulaziz Ibrahim, Counsel to the 3rd defendant (Samtee Essentials Limited), Okunriboye told the court that to access facts about project awards, the Department of Procurement was in charge.
Okunriboye, who was the Head of Central Pay Office at the then Ministry of Special Duties when Turaki was the minister, admitted ownership of Pinnacle Energy Limited, Boye Tom Nig. Enterprises Ltd, Efe Dunsin Ventures Ltd, and Overwhelming Synergy Pinnacle Ltd.
The witness did not object to the lawyer’s allegation that payments were sometimes made through his personal ‘companies and the money shared with other staff in the Finance Department of the ministry.
When Ibrahim put the question to Okunriboye that when he was in the ministry, N45 million was paid into Overwhelming Synergy Pinnacle Ltd in the name of contract award and they diverted the money into personal use, he did not deny the allegation.
“Also, Overwhelming Synergy Pinnacle Limited got a contract of N84 million, and the contract was never executed and the money was diverted for personal use.
“Your boss, the then Director of Finance, who is the PW5 in this trial got N45 million, you got N20 million and the balance was shared by the staff?” the lawyer asked the witness.
“Yes, it is true my lord,” Okunriboye responded.
He agreed with Ibrahim that the contract award, in which N84 million was moved out of the government’s coffers, was done with no proper documentation.
“When the PW5 (DFA) came before this honourable court and said there was a contract awarded to your company with proper documentation that means he lied,” Ibrahim asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t speak for him,” he responded.
The lawyer disagreed with Okunriboye in his earlier statement that he bought only a Toyota Camry car worth N4 million.
“You bought more than one car. You bought Toyota Camry worth N4 million, you bought a Honda car,” he said.
Okunriboye, who denied buying an Honda car from the ‘illegal proceeds” he got while serving at the Special Duties Ministry, said the statement he wrote at the EFCC office was not correct.
“What I wrote is not correct. I have a Honda Civic 2001 which I bought before I was at Special Duties,” he explained.
Ibrahim further asked him thus: “Part of the illegal proceeds was what you used to build a school in Ondo state.”
“Yes, my lord,” he responded.
“With the stealing of this humongous amount of money from government coffers, the EFCC still found you worthy to give an evidence against another person,” the lawyer said.
On his part, Counsel to the 4th defendant (Pasco Investment Ltd.), Nasir Saidu, asked Okunriboye if he knew the company before.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Saidu also asked him to confirm from the e-payment schedule exhibit before him if he had ever paid Pasco Investment Ltd any money, but the witness responded that he did not effect any payment regarding the company.
“You did not declare those four companies as part of your assets? You also did not declare those looted funds in you asset declaration form? he asked.
“Yes my lord,” he responded.
When the lawyer asked Okunriboye if he was still in government service, he said: “Yes, I am in service.”
Justice Ekwo then adjourned the matter until Dec. 16, Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 for continuation of trial.