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Oyo-Ita Trial: Ex-Head of Service Accused of N3bn Diverted to Private Firms – Witness

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At the Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja, Hamma Bello, the eighth prosecution witness, Hamma Bello, described in detail how Winifred Oyo-Ita, a former Head of Service of the Federation, and her friends diverted almost N3 billion of public funds into private companies. Oyo-Ita, along with a number of her personal assistants and associated companies, is facing several allegations related to money laundering, official corruption, unlawful diversion of funds, and misappropriation in the case overseen by Justice James Omotosho.

The first defendant in the trial, Oyo-Ita, is charged with crimes along with her special assistants, Ugbong Effiok (the seventh defendant) and Garba Umar (the fourth defendant), as well as six businesses: Good Deal Investments, Asanaya Projects Limited, Frontline Ace Global Services Limited, Slopes International Limited, U and U Global Services Ltd, and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd. These organizations are said to have played a key role in the corruption scheme.

During his testimony, Bello, guided by prosecution counsel Faruk Abdullahi and H.M. Mohammed, pointed out that Oyo-Ita used her influence to fraudulently award government contracts to herself through proxy companies such as Slopes International Limited and Good Deal Investments Limited. He provided detailed transaction records, including a payment of N42,748,201.47 to Good Deal Investment Limited’s Zenith Bank account in February 2019, indicating Umar’s involvement with the full knowledge of Oyo-Ita.

Upon closer examination of the financial statements of these companies, it was discovered that Umar, who works for the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing, has received many payments from the ministry. Umar admitted during interviews that he was a contractor and had made several payments to Oyo-Ita from the proceeds of these transactions.

The witness disclosed further a transfer of N20,027,142 in the name of Ibrahim Madu to the Zenith Bank account of Asanaya Projects Limited, with the account mandate card bearing Effiok’s signature and photo. Effiok, according to the investigation, had set up Asanaya Projects Limited and confirmed during interviews that he received funds without travelling for most of the stated purposes and that Oyo-Ita was fully aware of and benefited from these transactions.

The court also heard about the financial activities of U and U Global Services Limited, which received significant sums from the federal government labeled as Duty Tour Allowances and estacodes between 2015 and 2018. On one occasion, the company received a direct payment from the government amounting to N40,313,453.58.

Further evidence included transactions from the Fidelity Bank account of Prince Mega Logistics Ltd., showing large payments from Thomson Titus Okure, a former colleague of Effiok, with outbound payments made to various individuals including Oyo-Ita.

Bello concluded his testimony by pointing out that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had conducted interviews with important defendants, including Effiok and Oyo-Ita, during which time more incriminating material, including chat prints from Oyo-Ita’s phone that revealed conversations with subordinates and contractors, had been obtained.

The public and media will now have more time to process the enormous claims of corruption and incompetence within one of Nigeria’s most important government services, since the trial has been postponed until April 30, 2024. The fact that this issue is still receiving a lot of attention highlights the continuous problems with accountability and corruption in the country’s public sector.

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