A witness, Clara Omatseye, in the trial of a United Kingdom-based Professor of Neurology, Reuben Oluwakinmilehin Obaro, and his wife, Ayodele Olubunmi Obaro, a practising nurse also in the UK, has told Justice A. O. Ebong of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Zuba that his firm, JNC International, planned and designed a world class stroke centre for Nigeria.
Omatseye, a Pharmacist and the Managing Director of JNC International, who is one of the prosecution witnesses, narrated in her evidence on how her firm was contacted by Stephen James Stroke Centre to plan, design and supply medical equipment for the establishment of stroke centre in Abuja.
Also on Wednesday at the court, counsel to Dr. Obaro and his wife, John Nnaemeka Egwuonwu, a Senior Advocate, told the court of his intention to file a no case submission in the trial.
Omatseye is one of the witnesses in the case filed by Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission against Prof. Obaro and his wife.
They were charged to court for allegedly misappropriating N233.6 million.
They were accused of misleading officers of the ICPC and frustrating investigation and misappropriating funds meant for the establishment of a stroke centre in Nigeria being funded partly by the defunct Subsidy Reinvestment Empowerment Programme and personal money of the Professor and his wife.
In her evidence before the court, Omatseye said a spacious land had already been acquired for that purpose which is yet to be developed.
She added that while waiting for the property to be developed, Stephen James Healthcare Limited rented a spacious property in a prime area in the FCT for the stroke centre pending when the permanent site will be developed and ready for business.
Omatseye told the court: “There was a land acquired for the stroke centre but a property with plenty of space for extension was rented pending when the acquired property will be developed.
“The property was rented in a prime area of the FCT.
“I am aware that they (the Medical Doctor and his wife) had some money of their own and are also approaching Bank of Industry for loans.
“I am also aware that they were looking for money elsewhere.
“Establishment of stroke centre is in different stages.
“You need equipment for rehabilitation, diagnosis and treatment.
“The stroke centre was meant to be a state of the earth centre.
“We have put up a robust level of requirements of equipment.
“We planned to buy equipment of $6 million.”
When asked why the equipment were yet to be supplied, Omatseye said they were not supplied because of their sensitive nature.
The Pharmacist disclosed that her organisation issued receipts for all the transactions they had with Stephen James Healthcare Limited.
The case has been further adjourned to October 21, 2019.
One of the witnesses earlier called in the course of the trial, Mohammed Seidu, an ICPC investigator, had told the court that he did not interview relevant persons and government agencies before going ahead with the prosecution of the medical practitioner and his wife.
Seidu, under cross-examination, told the court that he did not interface with former Chairmen of SURE-P and the Federal Ministry of Health, which authorised the release of the fund in question, before charging the defendants to court.
Seidu, under cross-examination by counsel to the defendants, Egwuonwu, admitted that he did not find out from SURE-P how much the stroke centre will cost.
In the words of the witness then: “In the course of my investigation, I did not interface with Dr. Christopher Kolade, the then Chairman of SURE-P.
“I did not also interface with Dr. Martins Luther Agwai, the successor to Dr. Christopher Kolade.
“I also did not interface with Mr. Ishaya Akan, the last SURE-P Chairman, before it was dissolved.”
Although, the witness acknowledged that SURE-P was under the direct supervision of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), he pointed out that the only interface he had with the office was through a letter from the ICPC office to that office.
Seidu stressed further that he did not have any contact with the Federal Ministry of Health despite the fact that the Ministry was deeply involved before the seed grant was released to the defendants by SURE-P.
Asked if he made his findings from the SURE-P office in the course of his investigations, the witness said: “I did not find out from SURE-P the type of building to be built.
“I did not find out its cost and I did not find out the time line for the building to be completed.”
He similarly said he was not aware of whether SURE-P appointed external auditor for the defendants.
Seidu told the court that he never invited the defendants to confirm or deny the cash analysis he did on the money spent on the project so far.
He revealed also that he did not investigate whether the defendants organised an awareness campaign lecture in Abuja “because the Commission (ICPC) saw it as unnecessary to so investigate it”.
While a total sum of N450 million was released by SURE-P for the project, the court heard that the defendants have so far spent over N300 million additional personal money on it.