An Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) witness in the trial of Engineer Tuoyo Omatsuli, a former executive director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and three others, today, told a Federal High Court, Lagos, how he got a contract from the Commission and ended up paying the sum of N3.6 billion to a private account in the name of ‘settling the Niger Delta youths’ who have been harassing members of the Commission.
The anti-graft agency had on November 8, 2018, docked Omatsuli alongside Don Parker Properties Limited, Francis Momoh and Building Associates Limited before Justice Saliu Saidu on a 45-count charge bordering on the alleged offence.
The witness, Mr Ibinabo Michael West while being led in evidence by counsel to the EFCC, Ihenacho Ekene, told Justice Saidu that sometimes between 2001 and 2014, he got a contract from the NDDC to assist the Commission in collecting the outstanding revenue owed the Commission by Oil companies operating within the Niger Delta region of the country.
The witness said immediately after winning the contract, his company, Starline Consulting Services, wrote to the National Assembly, NASS, intimating them of the contract and the need to invite the oil firms to help in reconciling the outstanding indebtedness.
West said the NDDC Act provides that the oil companies shall remit 3 percent of their annual budget to the Commission which operation has fall into arrears. Adding that within two years of the contract his company was able to recover over N100 billion in lost revenue to the Commission, and he received about N12 billion as commission.
The witness said that sometimes after winning the contract the Executive Director, Finance Tuoyo Omatsuli called him and told him that the Niger Delta youths were frequently harassing the board members either by locking their gates or making one demand or the other.
He said Omatsuli asked him to contribute to cushioning the effect of the youths harassment by making contribution each time he got paid from the Commission.
He said he consented to the request consequent upon which Omatsuli provided the account of Building Associate, the fourth accused in the charge, domiciled in Diamond Bank where he eventually remitted about N3.6 billion in many tranches.
The witness also told the court that sometimes in 2016, following the dissolution of the former board of the Commission, the Executive Director Finance called him and told him that EFCC is investigating the board and Building Associates and that he should help to issue a letter of sub-contractor to Building Associates so as to cover the money remitted into the company’s account and that he obliged the request.
However, during cross-examination, by the defence team led by Professor Amoda Kanike and Quakers Norris both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), the witness stated that his contract with NDDC was not influenced by any of the defendants and that the money he received for the job done was not proceeds of crime, neither the money paid to the account of the Building Associate was not meant to bribe any member of the commission for his money to be released.
In the charge, Omatsuli was said to have procured the third and fourth accused (Momoh and Building Associates) to utilise a total sum of N3.6 billion paid by Starline Consultancy Services Ltd into an account operated by fourth accused.
The prosecution said that they ought to have known that the said sums, formed part of the proceeds of their unlawful activities which includes corruption and gratification.
The offences which were allegedly committed between August 2014 and September 2015 were said to have contravened the provisions of Sections 15(1), 15(2), 15(3) and 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, as amended by Act No 1 of 2012.
Further hearing of the matter has been adjourned till Tuesday, tomorrow.