How Oyo-Ita used her companies to launder funds while in service – EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) witness, Mr Hamma-Adama Bello, has told a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, how Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, immediate-past Head of Service (HoS), used her companies to launder government’s funds while in service.

Bello, a Chief Superintendent of EFCC and Head, Special Investigation Team (SIT), told Justice James Omotosho on Tuesday in Abuja when testifying as the 8th prosecution witness (PW8).

The PW8, while being led in evidence by the EFCC’s lawyer, Farouk Abdullah, said his team received intelligence from the office of the anti-graft agency’s chairman sometime in 2019.

“The intelligence bordered on the activities of the 1st defendant (Oyo-Ita), her minister then in the Ministry of Special Duty and Inter-Governmental Affairs, where she was serving.

“The 1st defendant was the permanent secretary then, and other staff included Mr Ubong, the 7th defendant.

“The team developed intelligence and started the investigation.

“In the course of the investigation, we called for documents.

“The nature of the intelligence was such that the 1st and 7th defendants and a host of others were using their offices to get contracts for companies they incorporated or had an interest in,” he said.

The witness said the team invited Oyo-Ita and her Special Assistant, Ubong Effiok, having received an analysis of documents relating to intelligence.

“The team had an interaction with them, and in the course of the interaction, Mr Garba Umar, who is also the 4th defendant, became a person of interest for the investigation, and he was invited. We also had an interaction with him,” he said.

According to him, it was discovered that the first defendant was the beneficial owner of two companies: Frontline Ace Global Services Limited and Asanaya Projects Ltd.

“We also discovered that the first defendant also has an interest in Asanaya Farms Ltd,” he added.

Bello told the court that the investigation revealed that Oyo-Ita maintained two accounts at Zenith Bank Plc for Frontline Ace Global Services Limited.

Besides, he said it was discovered that the ex-HoS had severally sat as chairman, CEO of Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd., where she issued both resolutions to open the said accounts.

“Having analysed these two board resolutions issued by 1st defendant, the team realised that the 1st defendant is the beneficial owner of the accounts.

“We carried out a careful analysis of the account she was closing and concluded that about N124 million has passed through this account.

“We realised that there were payments in 2010 from Federal Ministry of Power into the account and other agencies like Power Holding Company of Nigeria (when it was a government agency).

“These payments were from government coffers while she was serving as a deputy director in the same ministry,” he told the court.

Justice Omotosho adjourned the matter until Jan. 26 for the continuation of trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Oyo-Ita and her co-defendants were, on Jan. 18, 2023, arraigned by the anti-graft agency on an 18-count charge of N3 billion graft.

She was arraigned alongside her special assistant, Effiok; Frontline Ace Global Services Limited; Asanaya Projects Ltd; Garba Umar and his companies, Slopes International Ltd; and Gooddeal Investments Ltd.

Other defendants include U & U Global Services Ltd., belonging to Mr Effiok, and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd.

They were all arraigned for alleged fraud in relation to duty tour allowance (DTA), estacodes, conference fees, and receiving kickbacks on contracts.

The defendants all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

NAN reports that Oyo-Ita and her co-defendants were earlier being tried before Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a sister court before he retired in July 2022.

They were arranged before Justice Taiwo on March 23, 2020, on the same count.

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