Mr. Abdulrahman Mohammed, an Accountant with the Rural Electrification Board, Jalingo, Taraba state, who is a key witness in the prosecution of the former governor of Taraba state, Rev Jolly Nyame, on Wednesday March 28, 2012, told Justice Adebunkola Banjoko of Abuja High Court how 20 Zenith Bank PLC, cheques valued over N282 million (Two Hundred and Eighty Two million Naira) were issued and the money withdrawn and given to the ex-governor in Abuja.
The ex-governor who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is facing a 41 count charge of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and gratification, totaling one billion, three hundred and sixty million naira (N1, 360,000,000)
At the resumed hearing of the case, Mr. Mohammed, while testifying in the case, said between 2003 and 2007, he was the Accountant, Taraba state liaison office, Abuja, where he was in charge of the account department of the liaison office.
Led in examination by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacob, Mohammed said any time the ex-governor was in Abuja, the permanent Secretary, Government House, Jalingo would call the permanent Secretary, Liaison Office, Abuja, Mr. Japheth Wubon and instruct him to go to the bank and withdraw money for the governor.
Mohammed said that Mr. Wubon would in turn call on him to prepare a Zenith Bank cheque which he would later cash and take the money to the former governor at the lodge at T Y Danjuma Street, Abuja. He said he is always accompanied on the assignment with at least two police escort and a driver to the bank and to the lodge.
He further told the court that the money which was either received by the governor or a steward was always never receipted neither was any voucher signed by the governor each time he receives money from him.
Mohammed identified exhibit “M” and “S” which are the Zenith Bank financial statements and copies of the cheques he signed with which money was paid.
According to him, the money he withdrew for the ex-governor in 2006 were: March 13, N15.5 million; May 4, N25 million; June 16, N5 million; June 29, N25million, twenty thousand Naira; July 21, N3 million, October 10, N5 million, Ten thousand Naira; October 31, N10 million; November 7, N20 million; November 13, N25 million, Ten thousand naira.
The 2007 withdrawals Mohammed made for the ex-governor, according to his testimony before Justice Adebunkola are: January 8, N25 million; January 18, N15 million; January 30, N25 million; February 19, N20 million; March 7, N2 million and ten thousand naira; March 21, N4 million; March 24, N6 million; March 30, N20 million and May 7, N20 million
But the defence counsels, led by Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, objected to the cheques being tendered in evidence as he maintained that the cheques, having being drawn and received by Zenith Bank, upon which payments were made, cannot be tendered by the witness. “The witness is a staff of Taraba state government and not an employee of Zenith Bank. The document to be tendered is ordinarily in possession of Zenith Bank, how did the witness come in possession of these cheques? To me, it is a mystery. This is a criminal matter and the process by which the guilt of the accused is arrived at must be seen to be pure and clean. I urge your Lordship to reject these documents”, Fagbemi said.
But Jacobs, citing Section 147 and 148 of the Evidence Act said in his reply that so long as “the witness wrote and signed the cheques during the period under scrutiny, he has link to the exhibit. I therefore urge my Lord to discountenance the objection”, he said. While the argument lasted, the judge adjourned the case till April 30, May 24 and 25, 2012.