The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has faulted the claim by former Accountant General of the Federation (AGoF), Jonah Otunla that the Federal Government entered into a non-prosecution agreement with him, which accounted for why he facilitated the return of about N6.4billion to the government’s coffers.
An investigator with the EFCC, Hamman Adama Bello said, on Wednesday, that there was no agreement of non-prosecution between the Federal Government and Otunla during his investigation for alleged complicity in the diversion of funds from the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) pension scheme.
Bello spoke while testifying before a Federal High Court in Abuja as a defence witness in a suit filed by Otunla to enforce the alleged non-prosecution agreement.
Led in evidence by EFCC’s lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, Bello said he was part of the team that investigated the cases involving Otunla.
The witness adopted his witness statement on oath which was filed before the court. on January 11, 2021. Tahir also tendered through him, a copy of the charge, he said, was filed against Otunla and others before the court on October 12, 2019, at the conclusion of the investigation.
Bello urged the court to “dismiss this suit, because there was no agreement of non-prosecution, as nothing of such exist.”
Under cross-examination by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), the witness said although he led the team that investigated the N2billion case involving Otunla; he was not part of the Air Vice-Marshal Odey panel that investigated the arms purchase case at the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
He said he only interacted personally with Otunla in relation to the N2b case, in respect of which he led a team. As it relates to the PHCN case, the witness said he got information from his colleagues, particularly Chris Odofin, and also read the case file.
“As it relates to the N2b case, I interacted with the plaintiff. But, in the PHCN case, I interacted with Chris Odofin and the case file that I perused,” the witness said.
Bello said he is not always privy to all information available to the Chairman of the EFCC.
At the conclusion of Bello’s testimony, the defence announced the closure of its case, following which Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned till April 19, 2021, for the adoption of final written addresses.
The plaintiff’s sole witness, Bebia Victor Okangbe had while testifying on February 16 this year, insisted that a non-prosecution agreement was entered between Otunla (who he represented as a lawyer) and the Federal Government.
Okangbe said he represented Otunla all through the process leading to the agreement. He said the agreement was oral, and that he was not a party in the agreement, but represented his client all through.
“I acted as his counsel during the investigation by the EFCC and the office of the National Security Adviser. I was not investigated. I only acted as his counsel,” the witness said.
He added that the oral agreement was extracted from the then Chairman of the tribunal of inquiry set up by the government, Air Vice Marshal Odei (rtd).
The witness added that, out of the four companies that also made refunds to the government along with the plaintiff, Otunla has an interest in only two.
Otunla claimed, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/122/20 that Magu promised him that he would not be prosecuted should he return funds traced to him, companies linked to him and his associates.
He stated that sometime in 2015, he was invited by a team of EFCC’s investigators, probing alleged diversion of funds from the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) pension funds.
Otunla said he later met with Magu, in the course of the investigation, when the then acting EFCC Chair told him in person to “refund the monies linked to your companies and nobody will prosecute you.”
He said based on Magu’s promise he had a reconciliatory meeting with the team of investigators, where he immediately undertook to make available some funds as refunds.
In line with the agreement, Otunla said one of the companies linked to him – Stellar Vera Development Ltd – refunded N750m; another company – Damaris Mode Coolture Ltd – refunded N550m, while the two firms later made an additional joint refund of N2, 150,000,000.00.
He added that, at a point, he raised several managers’ cheques for N10m in favour of the EFCC, which he handed to its Economic Governance Section.
Otunla said, in all, he made a refund of N6, 392,000,000.00 to the Federation Account through the EFCC.
He is praying the court to, among others; hold that, in view of the assurance given to him by Magu, which informed his refund of the money, he could no longer be prosecuted for his actions while in office between 2011 and 2015.
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