The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday revealed to a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja, some of those that were paid from a secret account allegedly kept in the name of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force by a former Head of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye.
The EFCC is prosecuting Oronsaye on two counts of breach of trust which he allegedly committed between 2013 and 2014 by defrauding the Federal Government of N190m using his position as the then Chairman of the Presidential Committee on FATF.
Oronsaye was accused of converting the N190m to his personal use through investment of the fund in Access Bank Plc’s Banker’s Acceptance for a tenor of 90 days at nine and 12 per cent interest rates, “in violation of the extant financial regulations.”
The Access Bank officials in charge of the account, Olubunmi Ojoko, had in her testimony as the second prosecution witness on Wednesday, narrated to the court how Oronsaye opened the account in the name of PCFATF in 2012 without obtaining the approval of the Accountant General of the Federation.
The EFCC called additional two witnesses on Thursday, one of whom was the then Secretary to the PCFATF, Mr. Jalal Arabi.
Arabi, who is now the Permanent Secretary, State House (Presidential Villa), denied any knowledge of the Access Bank account which was said to have been unilaterally operated by Oronsaye in the name of the committee between 2012 and 2015.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Offem Uket, Arabi who was testifying as the fourth prosecution witness, said he never knew most of the beneficiaries whose names he read from the statement of account in the course of testimony.
As secretary to the committee since its inauguration on October 13, 2009, Arabi said the only account of the committee known to all members and which he and Oronsaye were its co-signatories was the one kept with Zenith Bank.
According to the witness, in addition to a series of withdrawals which Oronsaye was said to have personally made on the account, payments from the account were also made to Friday Ololo, Sunday Ogey, Mohammed Yaro, Olalekan Ajayi, Udiumminju Ikechukwu and Ezeneka E.N.
Arabi said apart from Ikechukwu, other beneficiaries who were paid millions of naira as read out in the statement of account, were not members of the committee.
Then asked by the prosecutor if any of the beneficiaries was a member of the committee or was given any job by the committee for which they were paid “such huge sums of money”, the witness simply responded, “No, that I can remember.”
But the witness confirmed that Ikechukwu, who was paid N400,000 by Oronsaye on March 24, 2015, was a member of the committee.
Arabi said, “On March 24, 2015, Udiummiju Ikechukwu got N400,000.
“He is a member of the committee. I’m aware of the money given to him. But I would not have known whether the money was sourced from the Access Bank account.”
Arabi, who highlighted his duties to include the keeping of the records of the committee’s proceedings and its expenditures, said he only became aware of the Access Bank account when he was summoned by the EFCC in July 2015.
He added the Zenith Bank account “was opened after proper documentation.”
He said, “Besides the Zenith Bank account, my lord, I only got to know in July 2015 that there was another account.
“I was summoned by the EFCC sequel to a petition. There was investigation. That was when I knew of the account. The account was domiciled in Access Bank.
“Based on what I saw in the course of investigation, I noticed that the account was opened by the defendant (Oronsaye).
“It was opened under the same name the PCFATF.
“From the forms presented to me, the defendant, my chairman, was the signatory.”
But he confirmed that apart from the funding received from government, the committee’s activities were also often funded by Oronsaye.