How I credited church account for Gen. Atewe, EFCC witness tells court
Atewe, who served as the Commander of the Military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta before his retirement, is facing 22 counts charge, together with others, before Justice A.O. Faji.
The other defendants in the case are the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
The EFCC accused them of conspiring among themselves to divert N8.5billion from Operation Pulo Shield between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015, using six companies.
The six companies are Jagan Ltd; Jagan Trading Company Ltd; Jagan Global Services Ltd; Al-Nald Ltd; Paper Warehouse Ltd; Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd.They have been arraigned on three occasions and had on each occasion pleaded not guilty to the offence.
Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, Ahidjo, who introduced himself as a businessman, who deals in stationeries, printing and general contracts, said he carried on his trade under his five companies based in Abuja.
He added he was a registered contractor with the National Assembly, the National Population Commission (NPC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to which he made supplies.
He claimed to have known Atewe from Villa Church in Abuja, where they both worshiped, when the retired general was still a Guards Commander.
Testifying, he said: “Each time I received it (money), I would call a BDC operator, named Jimoh. I knew him before this time. “He would change the money. I would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars. Once I changed it, I would wait for instruction either from Atewe or Kime.
“That was what we continued to do until the end of the transaction in 2015.”He said he received a total of N4, 915,163,103 within the period, out of which about N4.1billion were converted to dollars and delivered to Engozu, who in turn issued a receipt for each payment based on Atewe’s instruction.
Ahidjo said of the remaining amount, he was instructed by Atewe to transfer N35million to Winners’ Chapel; N103million to INP Ltd; N170million to First Investment Ltd; N99million to Lord Fem Ltd; N88million to Ocean Gas; and N297million to Cisco Nobot.
Asked by the prosecutor the purpose of the transfer to Living Faith Church, Ahidjo said: “I don’t know what it was for; it was on the instruction of Atewe.
“All these monies, I don’t question what they were meant for. It is not my money, so I can’t question what it was for. Atewe asked me to act on instruction.”
The witness said he cultivated a good relationship with Atewe to the extent that he attended “midnight church” in Atewe’s house in Abuja three times a week.
Ahidjo narrated to the court how Atewe moved to Bayelsa State between July and September 2014, where he served as JTF Commander.
“He invited me to Bayelsa State and I went. He told me that the Federal Government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I had any company into which account money could be paid.
“And being somebody I knew very well from Guards Commander to Major General, I provided the companies that I listed earlier,” Ahidjo said.
He said on a second invitation and visit to Atewe in Bayelsa State, Atewe told him that three payments were about to be made into his accounts and as soon as they were made, he should acknowledge the payments and await further instructions.
He said within two to three days of the meeting, he started receiving the payments and accordingly informed Atewe, who asked him to hold on till he (Atewe) returned to Abuja.
The witness said upon Atewe’s return to Abuja, he invited him to his office at Niger Barracks, where he introduced Engozu, who is the 3rd defendant, as the person that would take delivery of the money from Ahidjo.
Ahidjo said in view of the volume of the monies, Engozu advised him to change the money from naira to dollar before delivery, and he according contacted a Bureau de Change operator, named only as Jimoh.Justice Faji adjourned till March 21, 2017 for Ahidjo to continue his evidence.