By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Star witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nneka Ararume, yesterday, narrated before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja how she helped the embattled National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, to transfer $2 million into his company’s account.
The witness, who testified as PW-1, told the court that she is a Wealth Manager at Assets & Resources Management, ARM, a company that hitherto managed the asset portfolio of Metuh’s firm, Destra Investments Limited.
EFCC had cited both Metuh and his firm as the 1st and 2nd defendants in the seven-count charge bordering on alleged N400million fraud.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the PDP spokesman had in November 2014, received N400million from erstwhile National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd).
The fund, which was withdrawn from an account the office of the NSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was allegedly transferred to Metuh through account no. 0040437573, which Destra Investments Limited operated with Diamond Bank Plc.
EFCC insisted that whereas the fund was earmarked for campaign activities of the PDP, Metuh diverted most of it to his personal use.
It alleged that Metuh converted part of the money to one million US Dollars which he used for his personal businesses.
Besides, Metuh was alleged to have transferred the sum of N21.7m to another chieftain of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih.
In her testimony, yesterday, PW-1, Nneka, whose company specialised in management of equities, fixed income instruments and real estate, told the court that she received the $2m from Metuh at his residence in Abuja.
She said the money was eventually changed to its Naira equivalent through two Bureaux de Change, BDC, operators.
The witness said: “In early December 2014, the 1st defendant, Metuh, called me to bring report regarding portfolio of ARM.
“When I got to his house at Prince and Princess Estate, there were visitors in the living room, so I went to his home office and we discussed the portfolio.
“Thereafter, he gave me the sum of $2m in $100 bills. It was taken to bureaux de change operators who would then transfer the money to ARM. From there, I proceeded to Mr. Sie Iyenome’s office at Wuse 2 where I gave him the sum of $1m.
“I also invited Mr. Kabir Mohammed and gave him the sum of $1m to transfer the Naira equivalent in favour of Destra Investment Limited. Later on the same day, December 2, 2014, Messrs Kabir and Sie Iyenome confirmed the receipt. The $2m was in cash.”
The witness maintained that ARM was a duly registered organization that deals in funds of its clients, saying the business the firm had with Metuh and the BDC operators was based on trust.
Earlier, the court refused application by Metuh’s lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, for the matter to be adjourned till a later date to enable him gather documents, including the bank account details of his client, which he said would aid him to properly cross-examine the witness.
In a bench ruling, yesterday, Justice Okon Abang agreed with the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, that all the documents were duly front-loaded by the prosecution in the proof of evidence before the court.
“This court is a court of summary trial. It is for the defendant to ask the witness questions based on her evidence, unless it does not have questions for her.
“The defendant has been accorded all the privileges stipulated in Section 36(6) of the 1999 Constitution. He has been given all the facilities to prepare his defence,” he said.
Justice Abang said the court should not be blamed if Metuh was not able to meet his bail conditions.
My role in Metuh’s money transfer — Witness
Meanwhile, one of the BDC operators that helped Metuh to change the $2m, Mr. Sie Iyenome, also testified before the court yesterday. Iyenome told the court that though he did not have any personal dealings with Metuh; he had transactions with his company, Destra Investment Limited, through the PW-1.
He said: “My lord on December 2, Nneka Ararume called me that she has $1m dollars to sell. I asked her who is selling and she told me that it was her client at ARM. At that time, she did not disclose her client’s identity to me. We then agreed on a rate, N183 per dollar. I called in Capital Investment & Trustees, which also runs a BDC and they said they were interested and paid for $500, 000.
“The second $500, 000 was sold to Etionye, another BDC operator and he paid N92m into Destra’s account.
“The first transaction which was in tranches, amounted to N91m, while the second one was N92m. The whole transaction totalled N183m. Typically, the lower currency which is the Naira, will be paid first to the beneficiary’s account. After Nneka confirmed the receipt of the N183m, she brought the equivalent which is $1m.
“She brought it in cash; I then passed it to Capital Field Investment & Trustees. The role I played was that of a broker.”
Asked under re-examination if he was aware of the forex laws in Nigeria, the witness said: ‘Yes, my lord. I am aware of the law which says that we should sell a total amount of $4,000 for individuals travelling outside and $5,000 for business people”.
Justice Abang adjourned further hearing on the matter till today. The anti-graft agency had earlier informed the court that it had lined up 18 witnesses to testify against Metuh and his firm during the trial.
Among those to testify in the case are representatives of the Office of the NSA, representatives of Diamond Bank, Access Bank, Sterling Bank, First Bank, Heritage Bank, Nneka Nicole Ararume, Alhaji Abba Dabo, Mallam Kabiru Ibrahim, Olayinka Badejo-Okusanya of CMC Connect, Ahmadu Umar of Kwalaye Investment Limited, Theophilus Musa of Capital Fields Investment and six EFCC investigators.
Metuh begs court to vary bail conditions
Meanwhile, Metuh, yesterday, begged the court to vary his bail conditions, saying he could not meet the conditions which he said were too stringent. However, the court deferred hearing of the application after EFCC lawyer, who said it was only served on him yesterday, applied for time to file his response.
The court had on January 19, granted Metuh bail to the tune of N400m and directed him to produce two sureties who must deposit N200m each. Justice Abang stressed that the sureties must not only be residents in Abuja, but also own landed properties within the Maitama district of the FCT. The sureties are to submit the Certificate of Occupancy of the properties to the Chief Registrar of the court for verification, as well as submit their three years tax clearance.
According to the court, the sureties must swear to an affidavit of means and also submit two recent passport photographs.