A Federal High Court in Lagos today heard how Living Faith Church (LFC) Worldwide a.k.a Winners Chapel, allegedly got N35million out of the N19.7billion allegedly stolen from the accounts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The money was allegedly paid to the church on the instruction of Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, a former commander of the Joint Task Force, now facing trial for fraud.
Ahidjo Ikem, a witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), made the revelation in court today.
When asked by the prosecutor the reason for payment to the church, he said no reason was given by Maj.-Gen. Atewe.
Ikem is the Managing Director of five companies charged alongside the former JTF Commander and the former Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Ziadeke Akpolobokemi, and two other persons – Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga.
Ikem’s companies charged alongside the accused persons are; Jaggan Limited; Jaggan Trading Company Limited; Jaggan Global Services Limited; Al-Nald Limited; and Paper Warehouse Limited,
Other companies charged with the accused persons are: Eastpoint Integrated Services Limited and De-Newlink Integrated Services Limited.
In his testimony before Justice Ayokunle Faji, at the resumption of trial on Friday, Ikem disclosed how his five companies became the conduit pipes used by Major-General Atewe in laundering N4.9 billion from the JTF’s account.
Ikem, while being led-in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, said he came in contact with the former JTF Commander at the Villa Church where they both worship, when the JTF Commander was Guard Brigade Commander.
He said sometime between July and September 2014, when Major-General Atewe became the JTF Commander, he invited him to Bayelsa State and told him that he had been given a contract by the Federal Government for maintenance of security and building of barracks.
Atewe, he said, asked for the names of his companies, so that the payment could be made through them.
He stated that he gave the JTF Commander all the names of his five companies, with the bank details and the addresses.
Ikem informed the court that his companies had no contractual agreement with JTF, neither were they registered contractors nor suppliers of any goods or services to JTF.
The witness told the court that not quite long thereafter, the JTF Commander invited him to Bayelsa State again and told him that the money was about coming to his account, adding that once he received it, he should inform him.
He stated that two or three days after his visit to Bayelsa State, he received alerts, and when he called the JTF Commander, he told him to keep the money until he returned to Abuja.
He said when Major-General Atewe came to Abuja, he joined him at Niger Barracks, where he was introduced to Kime Engonzu, the third accused person.
Atewe, Ikem said, told him to hand over all the money to Kime.
Ikem who is the first prosecution witness in the matter said, the total money he received was N4.9 billion, out of which he changed N4.1 billion to $21.5m USD at a Bureau De Change (BDC) operated by a man named as Jimoh.
The Naira balance, he said, was given to some companies and the Winners Chapel as directed by Major-General Atewe.
Ikem told the court that he gave Kime the dollars, who in turn followed the instructions of the JTF Commander.
The witness also told the court that he collected $950,000 from one Chijioke, who is also a good friend of Major-General Atewe, and gave it to Kime.
He said N35 million was paid to Living Faith Church, N103 million to INP Limited, N107 million to First Investment Limited, while Lord Firm Limited got N99million, Ocean Gas, N88million and Sisco Nobort received N297 million.
The witness said in the course of the investigation of the matter, he was invited by the EFCC. He wrote four statements.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji, adjourned the matter till March 21, 22 and 23, following a complaint from the first accused person (Akpolobokemi) who said he had health challenges mid-way through the trial.
In the 22-count charge, the anti-graft agency alleged that the accused conspired to defraud NIMASA of N19.7 billion using the seven companies.
The EFCC alleged that the accused committed the fraud between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015.