Clement Illoh, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, accused of stealing N14.1 million, yesterday told an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has no rights to question him on how funds received by his office were expended.
Illoh made this statement while being cross-examined by the EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo on how the sum of N14.1m disbursed to his personal account by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was spent.
Responding in a hostile tone, illoh said, “You don’t have the rights to ask me such questions. Why are you asking me such questions? Besides, the money in question wasn’t budgeted for either was it appropriated because it wasn’t the ministry’s fund. I collected the money in the capacity of my official office but It was NIMASA’s money that I spent and not from the Ministry of Labour’s office.
“I wrote a memo requesting for the transfer of N14m from maritime to my business account called Clement and Bob Associates, wherein Access Bank was asked to debit NIMASA and credit my account.
“The money was paid to my personal account, by NIMASA in a form of non-personal advance. The money does not belong to the Ministry so I had no reason to show receipts.
The civil servant also said that he reported only to himself as at the time he received the funds since there was no minister appointed to oversee the affairs of the Ministry of Labour.
The former permanent secretary also said that he didn’t keep any receipts to show transfer of funds neither did he write any memo to his superiors stating that NIMASA disbursed such an amount to him.
however, the EFCC had earlier arraigned Illoh on a three-count charge bothering on stealing by conversion of property to the tune of N14.1 million.
Illoh, who admitted remitting the sum of N616m to the federal government upon arrest, said that N3.5 million, which was the funds leftover from the N14.1million budgeted for the meetings was expended on logistics, honorarium, stationeries and transport.
“I paid the sum of N3.5 million to Mr John Tsonwa, my late Special Assistant and his the only person who has the details of how the money was used, but sadly he is late,” he said.
While denying taking money from the defunct Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, illoh said that his aware that the EFCC recovered funds from his office and some contractors but claimed that the deceased managed the sum of N3.4m for the workshop.
Illoh also admitted that there was no source or supporting document to show recipient of both the sum of N14m received in his official capacity as permanent secretary, and the N3.5m disbursed to late John was written from his office to the Ministry.
“There was no minister at that time so I reported only to myself as permanent secretary. I received the money in my official capacity as a desk officer and an account officer of the ministry. The money was for organising meetings of two departments of NIMASA and Ministry of Labour (Maritime Labour convention),” he said.
But when asked if his appointment as a desk officer was for the purpose of the convention, he said yes.
Illoh also agreed that it was his duty to comply with the financial regulations of the Federal government regarding disbursement of funds or how funds ought to be expended.
“I know that I am responsible for funds in my ministry and It is also true that the approved modality of government funds includes that all funds must be well documented before disbursement, but that doesn’t apply in this case.
“The money was paid into my personal account by NIMASA and I did not write any memo from my office to the ministry to show that I collected the money of even gave late Mr John the sum of N3.5m,” he said.
Illoh confirmed that there was no acknowledgement of receipt of the money by John to him because, according to him, that wasn’t the procedure.
The prosecutor thereafter attempted to tender the statement of the deceased man in evidence.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo thereafter adjourned the matter till December 3 for continuation of trial.