Hamma-Adama Bello, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) witness, has told the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court how Winifred Oyo-Ita, former head of service, used her companies to launder money while in office.
Mr Bello, a chief superintendent of EFCC and head of the 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.
He stated that the intelligence bordered on the activities of the first defendant (Ms Oyo-Ita), her minister, and then in the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, where she served.
The first defendant was the permanent secretary then, and other staff members, including Ubong Effiok, the seventh 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 office to get contracts for companies they incorporated or have interest in,” he added.
The witness said the team invited Ms Oyo-Ita and her special assistant, Ubong Effiok, having received analysed documents relating to the intelligence.
“The team had an interaction with them, and in the cause of the interaction, Garba Umar, also the fourth defendant, became a person of interest for the investigation and was invited. We also had an interaction with him, he said.
According to him, it was discovered that the 1st defendant was the beneficial owner of two companies: Frontline Ace Global Services Limited and Asanaya Projects Ltd.
“We also discovered that the 1st defendant also has an interest in Asanaya Farms Ltd,” he added.
Mr Bello told the court that the investigation revealed that Ms Oyo-Ita maintained two accounts in Zenith Bank Plc for Frontline Ace Global Services Limited.
Besides, he said it was discovered that the ex-HoS had sat as chairman and CEO of Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd, where she issued both resolutions to open the accounts.
He explained, “Having analysed these two board resolutions issued by the first 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 came to a conclusion that about N124 million has passed through this account.”
He added, “We realised that there were payments in 2010 from the 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.”
The judge adjourned the matter until January 26 for continuation of trial.
Ms Oyo-Ita and her co-defendants were, on January 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 regarding duty tour allowance (DTA), estacodes, conference fees and receiving kickbacks on contracts.
The defendants all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Ms Oyo-Ita and her co-defendants were earlier tried before Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a sister court before he retired in July 2022.
They were arraigned before Justice Taiwo on March 23, 2020, on the same count charge.