By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja, Sept. 21, 2020 The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s witness, Mr Umar Tahir, on Monday, contradicted himself in the ongoing trial of a former Minister in the President Goodluck Jonathan-led government, Taminu Turaki.
The development occurred when Tahir, who was a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Islamic Affairs in the same government, was being cross-examined by Counsel to Turaki, Joe Gadzama, SAN, before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Turaki, the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs between 2013 and 2015, is facing a money laundering charges involving about N854 million.
He also served as the supervising Minister of Labour from 2014 to 2015 in President Jonathan-led administration.
NAN reports that the EFCC had, on May 4, arraigned the former minister alongside his former Special Assistant, Sampson Okpetu, and two firms; Samtee Essentials Limited and Pasco Investment Limited, on 16 counts of money laundering.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants used the companies to launder funds totaling about N845 million stolen from the two ministries where the minister held sway under the then administration.
However, Turaki and Okpetu pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Tahir had, on June 23, while giving his evidence-in-chief, alleged that Turaki released N200 million to him out of the N359 million approved by former President Jonathan to launder the image of the government through sensitisation of Muslim groups in parts of the country in 2014.
At the cross-examination on Monday, Tahir admitted that N150 million was transfered to him in tranches while the remaining N50 million was handed to him by Tukari’s aide.
When Gadzama asked Tahir how much he had so far paid out of the N67 million the EFCC asked him to refund from the N200 million, the witness said the anti-graft agency only asked him to refund N20 million.
“How much have you refunded so far?” he asked.
“I have refunded about N1.7 million,” he responded.
But Gadzama disagreed with him, saying from the documented evidence before the court, he had, at three different occasions, paid about N3 million to the EFCC, of which Tahir did not object to.
Asking further, Gadzama said: “I put it to you that the entire money, which is N404 million, was released for the project.”
“I am not aware that the total money was N404 million,” Tahir responded.
The lawyer then proceeded to show him the amount from the documented evidence.
“N404 million was released for this project from this memo. Do you agree with me; from the exhibits in court?” he asked again.
“I am not aware. I am only concerned with what was giving to me and this has been my argument with EFCC,” Tahir replied.
The lawyer asked him what step did he take when he saw that N200 million was released to him from the N359 million.
Tahir, however, refused to give a direct answer, insisting that he had to offer an explanation.
“I seek the protection of my lord to offer an explanation,” he said.
“No, this is simple question. You told the court that N359 million was approved to you and you got N200 million. What did you do to get the balance,” the lawyer asked again.
Tahir said: “I asked the minister and he said the release was in tranches and I have no reason to doubt him.”
Justice Ekwo, however, cautioned Tahir when the cross-examination session turned into heated argument.
“Did you want me to form an opinion about you that you are not cooperating with the evidence?
“Your language is very bad. You need to know you are before the court,” the judge said
Ekwo, adjourned the matter until Sept. 22 for continuation of cross-examination and trial.