The suspended Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, voluntarily returned nearly $900,000 in cash, according to a witness who testified before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama on Wednesday.
The witness claimed that the money that was returned came from the public monies that the beleaguered Idris is accused of misusing. The former AGF is currently in court for allegedly embezzling N109 billion in public monies while in office.
The court also heard how certain top government officials split N84.7 billion that was seized from the $2.2 billion owed to the nine oil-producing states. While giving testimony at the trial of Idris and three other defendants, Hayatudeen Ahmed, an EFCC officer, disclosed the information.
The suspended accountant-general is being tried on a 14-count charge of theft and criminal breach of trust amounting to N109 billion, along with his former technical assistant, Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, a director in the Office of the AG-F, Mohammed Kudu Usman, and a company connected to Idris, Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited.
Rotimi Jacobs introduced Ahmed, the first witness for the prosecution, as evidence (SAN). He provided specifics on how his team looked into a petition in which Idris was charged with abusing his position and jeopardizing the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIVMIS), among other government platforms.
When Idris was faced with the truth, the witness claimed, “he (Idris) returned $900,000, less $100 ($899,900), voluntarily, and it has since been an exhibit in the case.
He said that so far, N32 billion has been recovered out of the N84.7 billion that was distributed among select government employees. In addition, the witness detailed how Idris reportedly employed his former assistant, Akindele, as a consultant to disburse N84.3 billion out of the N84.7 billion.
He said that Akindele afterwards handed Idris N4.2b as thanks for hiring him as the consultant to manage the money distribution.
The witness said: “After the petition was assigned to our team, investigation commenced. We wrote to banks, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and other government agencies.
“From analysis of bank documents received, we discovered that a Baita Kura of B. I. Kura Enterprises, a bureau de change operator, made several deposits of money amounting to N280 million between 2019 and 2021 into the account of the fourth defendant – Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Ltd.
“Based on this finding, Baita was invited. He admitted in his statement that those monies that he paid into the first defendant’s (Idris’) account, were given to him by the first defendant.
“We discovered that the payments made were on the instruction of the first defendant.
“We also discovered from other bank statements analysis that a certain Architect Mustapha Muktar of Marcs and Construction Ltd received various sums from Baita Kura, amounting to about N866 million.
“Based on this, we invited Architect Mustapha, who gave statement and explained that the money he received from Baita were on the instruction of the first defendant.”
The witness claimed Mustapha said Idris asked him to use the money for the construction of the Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange in Gezawa Town, Kano.
He said his team learnt of the agitation by the nine oil producing states about the lack of deductions of 13 per cent derivation accrued to them from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
The witness added: “It was discovered further that this agitation was tabled before the Post-mortem sub-committee of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
“The committee deliberated on the request and came up with a figure of about $2.2b as what was due to the nine oil-producing states. And, that deductions for this payment would be made over a 60-month period.
“A total of 11.5 per cent of the total sum, which is equivalent N84.7 billion, was set aside as facilitation for some public officials to approve and release the request. This was done under the guise of consultancy.
“The services of Olusegun Akindele & Co, a firm belonging to the second defendant (Akindele), was used for this purpose.
“The proprietor of Olusegun Akindele & Co is the second defendant – Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, who was until recently, a staff of the office of the AG-F and a technical assistant to the first defendant.
“The account of Olusegun Akindele & Co received the cumulative sum of N84.3 billion, representing 9.8 per cent, less taxes from the 11.5 per cent that was set aside earlier.
“He received the money in his First Bank account, from the FAAC withheld Escrow account, under the control of the first and third defendants (Idris and Usman).
“The third defendant is Mohammed Kudu Usman, a former director in the office of the AG-F.
“When the statement of account of Olusegun Akindele & Co was received, we analysed it and found that after the receipt of N84.3 billion, it was shared among five groups.
“The first group was the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) group, represented by a commissioner in the commission, by name Chris Akumas. It received 2.2 per cent out of 9.8 per cent, which amounted to N18.7 billion.
“After the second defendant received the money, he converted the amount to United States (U.S.) dollars and handed same to Chris Akumas for members of that group.
“The second group is the accountant-general group, represented by the first defendant, which received N18.1 billion, equivalent of 2.1 per cent
“Some of these funds were also converted to U.S. dollars and handed to the first defendant. From the second group, the third defendant received about N1.8b equivalent in U.S. dollars.
“The third group is that of the Commissioners of Finance of the nine oil-producing states, which received 2.5 percent amount to N21.4 billion. This same amount was converted to U.S. dollars by the second defendant and given to Chris Akumas for the group.
“There was the Abdulaziz Yari group, represented by the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazid Yari. This group got N17.15 billion, representing two per cent.
“Payment to this group was made to a company nominated by Yari, known as Fintes Consultancy Ltd. This was not paid in dollars. It was transferred to the company’s account on the instructions of ex-governor Yari.
“The last group is the group of the consultant, who got about 1.04 per cent, amounting to N8.9 billion, out of which he converted about N4.2 billion to U.S. dollars and handed to the first defendant as appreciation for nominating him as the consultant. The consultant benefited about N4.6 billion.
“The second defendant was invited and he made statement. He admitted to receiving and sharing the money as I had stated.
“These funds were also traced to the purchase of properties, both commercial and residential in several parts of Kano, the FCT, and Minna in Niger State.
“So far, the sum of $2.7 million, less $100, has been recovered in cash from the first, second and third defendants. As at today, N32b has been recovered from the five groups.
“From the accountant-general group, $2.7 million, less 100 dollars, was recovered. N304m was also recovered from the group.
“Another N50 million was recovered from the third defendant, who is part of this group, in addition to properties recovered.
“The bulk of the N32 billion was recovered from the first, second and third groups.
“The sum of about N3b was traced to the construction of the commodity market at Gezawa Town, Kano, from funds received by the first defendant from the second and fifth groups.
“N504 million was also traced to the reconstruction of Alikhlas Supermarket also known as Kano City Mall, belonging to the first defendant, located at Mandarin area of Kano.
“In relation to the $2.7 million less than $100, the sum of $1.8 million cash was recovered from persons who received the $1.8 million from the first defendant.
“$900,000 less $100 was recovered from the first defendant himself, who returned same voluntarily.
“He returned it in cash, which has been received and registered as exhibit in this case by the commission,” the witness said.
Although Chris Uche, Joe Abraham, Mohammed Ndayako, and Gordy Uche (all SANs), the defendants’ attorneys, protested, Justice Halilu Yusuf accepted the petition filed against Idris and Akindele’s firm’s financial accounts into evidence.
However, they disputed the defendants’ acceptance of their statements, arguing that they were gained through coercion and enticement. Justice Yusuf decided to have a trial inside a trial at the request of the defense attorneys to determine whether the comments were voluntary or not. He set a new date of January 30 for the trial inside a trial to begin.