News - March 10, 2021

Witness denies being paid to defend embattled ex-Pension Fund Chairman Maina

A defence witness, Ngozika Ihuoma, on Tuesday, denied being paid to defend embattled Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, in the ongoing money laundering charge against him.
Ihuoma stated this during the continuation of his cross examination by the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided by Justice Okon Abang.
“My Lord, I was not paid money to come and testify in court,” he responded when Abubakar put the question to him in court.
On March 4, the witness while giving his evidence accused the anti-graft agency of mismanaging about 222 assets valued at N1.63 trillion and cash recovered by the PRTT.
Ihuoma, who alleged that Maina was being persecuted by the ongoing trial, said the former pension reformed chairman deserved to be reinstated in service to clean up the pension mess the workers are facing.
The witness told the court he was a management consultant, whose firm, Crincad & Cari Nigeria Limited was contracted by the PRTT to render consultancy services.
At the resumed hearing, the witness admitted defending Maina, even on national television on several occasions and was ready to accompany Maina if he was invited by the Senate or EFCC to give evidence.
When asked if it was true that when Maina was arrested in 2019, he did not go to volunteer a statement at the agency’s office, the witness said: “I was never invited by EFCC.”
When Abubakar asked him if he came to testify before the court as a witness based on subpoena issued by court, he gave a negative response.
Again, when Abubakar asked him if he was engaged to launder Maina’s image when he was engaging in money laundering, the witness said no.
“No, I don’t know him being involved in money laundering. So I would not have been laundering his image as a person.
“I have always defended him as chairman, PRTT. I am not a member of his personal staff neither a blood relation, but we have always met in the course of PRTT business.
“I am from Imo and he is from Biu in Borno,” he responded.
Earlier, the witness also denied he lied on oath when the EFCC lawyer asked him if it was correct to say he lied before the court that the judgment of Justice Adamu Bello quashed the Senate Committee Report that investigated the PRTT under Maina.
When Abubakar drew his attention to the exhibit tendered to prove Justice Bello’s decision was not the complete judgment, the witness said though the judgment document had pages 1 to 23, he said of relevant to the ongoing trial were pages 21 to 23.
“I never lied on oath. This judgment quashed the Senate report. I spoke the truth,” he insisted.
He told the court that he was the sole signatory to the Crincad & Cari Nigeria Limited’s account domiciled at the Union Bank Plc.
Ihuoma admitted receiving over N30 million into the firm’s account on December 10, 2013.
“Upon receipt of the money, I withdrew N50,000 cash. I made a transfer of N5 million to my personal account with Union Bank from the corporate account.
“I also made a transfer of N10 million to my client in Sterling Bank and N850,000 to my lawyer as legal fee,” he said.
The anti-graft agency lawyer said the witness and his lawyer were arrested on December 11, 2013 at Union Bank, Maitama while trying to withdraw the sum of N2 million from the account.
When Abubakar asked him further if it was true that he and his lawyer were detained at Maitama Metro Police Station on same day on account of the N30 million received for which the witness made withdrawals and confirmed, Ihuoma confirmed the statement.
“You were later moved to Clock Road Police Station Ikoyi, Lagos where you were further detained in respect of this money received?” Abubakar asked.
“Yes,” he responded.
“You were subsequently charged in Ikoyi Magistrate Court in charge No: Q/47/2013 before the Magistrate Court Igbosere, Lagos,” the lawyer said.
“Yes, it is an ongoing matter,” Ihuoma replied.
The witness admitted that NI40,000 was in his corporate account before he received the N30 million.
He, however, denied that the money was stolen from the coffers of the National Crop Research Institute.
The witness, who admitted he had received several payments from Maina, said it was in furtherance of his work as consultant to the pension task team.
He said he also received money from Maina in respect of the ongoing matter in which the pension reformed boss was asking for his reinstatement into the federal civil service at the National Industrial Court.
“Yes, on March 7, 2014, I collected money in furtherance of my work as consultant to PRTT.
“I received the sum of N50,000 in respect to ongoing matter at the National Industrial Court
“I received N100,000 in 2014 from Khalid who is Maina’s younger brother, in furtherance of the National Industrial Court matter to bring Maina back to service,” he said.
During reexamination by counsel to Maina, Adeola Oluwole, Ihuoma told the court that the two transactions received from Khalid were in relation to the matter before the Industrial Court and not the PRTT activities.
After the witness was discharged from the witness box, Justice Abang adjourned the matter until March 10 for trial continuation. (NAN)

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