-A witness in the ongoing trial of Emmanuel Atewe has told the court that the defendant gave N35 million to Living Faith Church popularly known as Winners’ Chapel out of N8.5 billion
– The witness said N35 million out of the total amount diverted by Atewe, a retired general and former commander of the Military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield
– Atewe was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over fraud allegation to the tune of N8.5 billion
N8.5B fraud: Former military officer gave Winners’ Chapel N35 million
A witness in the ongoing trial of Emmanuel Atewe has told the court that the defendant gave N35 million to Living Faith Church popularly known as Winners’ Chapel out of N8.5 billion.
Nkem Ahidjo, an Abuja-based businessman said N35 million out of the total amount diverted by Atewe, a retired general and former commander of the Military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield in Niger Delta was paid to the church.
Atewe was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over fraud allegation to the tune of N8.5 billion.
He is facing a 22-count charge before a Federal High Court in Lagos alongside former director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Patrick Akpobolokemi, Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
Punch reports that the money was allegedly diverted through six companies by Atewe during the Operation Pulo Shield in the region.
The six companies include: Jagan Ltd; Jagan Trading Company Ltd; Jagan Global Services Ltd; Al-Nald Ltd; Paper Warehouse Ltd; Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd.
However, testifying before Justice A.O Faji, Ahidjo, the first prosecution witness who was led by EFCC’s counsel Rotimi Oyedepo said he carried out his trade – stationeries, printing, and general contracts – through his five companies in Abuja.
He said he is a registered contractor with the National Assembly, the National Population Commission, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to which he made supplies.
Ahidjo further informed the court that he first met the retired general at the Villa Church in Abuja where they both worshiped.
He said as a Pentecostal, he attended Living Faith Church with Atewe.
He also said he had a good relationship with the retired general to the extent that he attended “midnight services” in his house three times a week.
“He invited me to Bayelsa and I went. He told me that the federal government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I have any company into which account money could be paid. And being somebody I knew very well from Guard Commander to Major General, I provided the companies that I listed earlier,” Ahidjo said.
He however, noted that on a second invitation and visit to Atewe in Bayelsa, he was informed that three payments were about to be made into his accounts and as soon as they were made he should acknowledge the payments and await further instructions.
The witness said he started receiving payment three days after the meeting.
But Atewe had also asked him to wait until he returned to Abuja.
Ahidjo’s said upon Atewe’s return, he was invited to his Niger Barracks office where he was introduced to Engozu – the third 3rd defendant – as the person that would take delivery of the money from the witness.
“Each time I received it (money), I would call a BDC operator, named Jimoh. I knew him before this time. He would change the money, I would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars. Once I changed it, I would wait for instruction either from Major General Atewe or Mr. Kime. That was what we continued to do until the end of the transaction in 2015,” the witness said.
He told the court that he received N4,915,163,103 within the period, out of which about N4.1bn were converted to dollars.
He said the converted monies were delivered to Engozu, who issued a receipt for each payment based on Atewe’s instruction.
He was instructed by Atewe to transfer the remaining money – N35 million to the account of Winners’ Chapel, N103m to INP Ltd; N170 million to First Investment Ltd; N99 million to Lord Fem Ltd; N88 million to Ocean Gas and N297 million to Cisco Nobot.
He however, added that he did not know and was never told the purpose of the transfers made.
“I don’t know what it was for; it was on the instruction of Maj. Gen. Atewe. All these monies, I don’t question what they were meant for. It is not my money, so I can’t question what it was for. Maj. Gen. Atewe asked me to act on instruction,” he said.
Having heard the testimony of the first prosecution witness, the trial judge, Justice Faji adjourned the matter to Tuesday, March 21, for the continuation of the witness’ examination.