PUNCH: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday claimed that four National Assembly members — Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, Mr. Igwe Paulinus and Alhaji Jibo Mohammed — collaborated with six others to award 156 contracts under the Rural Electrification Agency in December, 2008.
The other suspects are the REA Director- General, Samuel Gekpe; the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Alhaji Abdulahi Aliyu; Mr. Simon Nanle; Mr. Lawrence Orekoya; Alhaji Abdulsalmad Jahun; and Mr. Kayode Oyedeji.
The EFCC claimed, while arraigning the suspects on 157 criminal charges at the Federal High Court, Abuja, that the contracts were awarded to phony contractors in order to siphon N5.2bn belonging to the Federal Government.
Analysis of the charges indicated that the contracts were awarded to 51 different contracting firms.
Some of the companies alleged to be fictitious benefited up to 10 times each in the contract largesse.
They include Omotoso & Sons; Willand Eng. Ltd; Constrcution Engineering Nig. Ltd; Damsal Nig. Ltd; Berna Dinois Nig. Ltd; Tometrix International Limited; Okia Morris Nigeria Limited; Mark E Engineering Limited; and Skipper Electrical Limited.
The N5.2bn was also alleged to have been paid to the firms upfront by the accused for non-existing rural electrification projects.
The trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, had to stop the reading of charges when it got to count number 130 out of the 157 count charges after seven hours.
After all the suspects had pleaded not guilty to the charges, Banjoko adjourned further reading of the charges to Friday (today) for the applications for bail to be argued.
She, however, ordered that the accused persons should remain in the custody of the EFCC.
The lawyer to the EFCC, Mr. Godwin Obla, had drawn the ire of the counsel for Elumelu, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), when he hinted that he would insist on the mandatory 48 hours within which he would respond to the applications for bail.
But Fagbemi stated that the 48 hours right was a luxury in the matter since the accused persons had been in detention for some days.
The SAN later told journalists that the charges were frivolous and an act of harassment.
Two of the charges were that the accused ‘fraudulently’ withdrew N32,814,631.28 as contract sum in favour of Aviva Global Concept and another N24,385,751.71 in favour of Stanley and Co Ltd.
The EFCC said that the sums were in a Central Bank of Nigeria account number 0103742014.
All the offences contravene Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation.