Campaign fund: Witness narrates how Ochekpe, two others withdrew N450m

Courtroom Court

A prosecution witness, Annette Gyen, on Monday told a Jos Federal High Court how former water resources minister, Sarah Ochekpe, and two others withdrew N450 million from Fidelity Bank Plc.
Ochekpe, and the two others – Raymond Dabo, former Plateau PDP Chairman, and Leo Sunday Jatau, Coordinator of the President Goodluck Johnathan campaign in Plateau – are being tried by EFCC for allegedly collecting N450 million from former petrol minister Dieseni Alison, in 2015.
The anti-graft agency is alleging that the trio collected N450 million from one Annette Olije-Gyen, Operation Manager of Fidelity Bank, which exceeded the amount authorised by law.
The EFCC has also alleged that the offence contravened sections 18 (a)(d), 1 (a), 16(1)(d), and was punishable under section 16 (2) of Money Laundering  (Prohibition) Act 2012, (as amended).
Gyen, in her testimony, told the court that her boss, who was the then Group Divisional Head of Operations, Martins Ezuogbe, directed the bank cashiers to disburse the money to the trio.
She said: “On March 26, 2015, we obediently called the trio, who came to our office and were given the money.
“After confirming the money, we gave them our bullion van with which they conveyed it.”
She said that on January 8, 2017, the bank received a letter from EFCC asking for details of the transaction.
She added: “On January 11, we responded to that request.”
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria, who covered the proceedings, reports that the Prosecuting Counsel, Ahmed Munchaka’s request that the two letters be tendered as evidence was, however, vehemently rejected by the defence lawyers.
Gyang Zi and S.O. Oyewale, lawyers to Ochekpe, Jatau and Dabo, argued that the letters should not be admitted because they were not original copies.
They stated: “The bank should have produced original copies of the letters; the court cannot work with photocopies because they might have been tampered with. We can only accept original copies.”
Munchaka, however, insisted that the letters be admitted since they had been authenticated by all parties.
He said: “The letters are acceptable in law because they have been authenticated; they are as good as original copies.”
He further argued that the documents should be admitted because they were “very vital letters in evidence”.
After listening to the two parties, Justice Musa Kurya adjourned the case till May 17 and May 18 for ruling on whether or not to admit the letters, and continuation of hearing.