Pension scam suspect told us she made $544,000 selling ‘pure water’ —EFCC

AN operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rukayya Ibrahim, on Tuesday, told Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 4, sitting at Maitama, Abuja, that the fourth defendant in the ongoing police pension scam trial, Mrs Veronica Onyegbula, informed her that she made $544,000 selling ‘pure water.’

Ibrahim revealed this while giving evidence in the trial within trial called for by the counsel for Mrs Onyegbula, Ernest Ikeji, to prove to the court that she made some of her statements, which were made on different days in 2012,  to the anti-corruption commission under duress.

Onyegbula is facing trial alongside Esai Dangabar;  Ahmed Inuwa Wada,  Atiku Abubakar Kigo,  Sani Habila Zira, Uzoma Attang and Christian Madubuike on criminal charges bordering on conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.

Ikeji  had on November 29, 2016,  objected to the tendering of the eight  statements she made to EFCC when the prosecution, through the fourth prosecution witness (PW4), Mustapha Gandaya, sought to tender them as exhibits, informing the court that the fourth defendant did not make them voluntarily.

He,  however, told the court on Tuesday, that his client was only objecting to the statements made on  February 13, 15, 17 and 27, and May 2, 2012.

The prosecution counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, holding brief for Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), urged the court to admit the statements made by the fourth defendants on February 16, 26, March 22, 2012 and October 22, 2012  which were not objected to by Onyegbula.

Following no objection to this, the trial judge, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, admitted the statements and marked them as exhibits.

Giving her evidence in chief while being led by Atolagbe, Ibrahim told the court that all the statements made by Onyegbula were voluntarily made by her, adding that the interaction between her and the defendant was cordial.

According to the witness, “For every singular statement she wrote, I would caution her, she would sign with the exception of the documents I showed her.

“Everything she wrote was based on documents showed her and her reaction to them. For example, I remember vividly during our oral interview, I remember asking her of the $544,000 which was the balance in her company’s account, which statement of account was found during the search of her house.

“She said she made the money through selling ‘pure water’ and I joked with her that I would resign and start selling ‘pure water’ too.”

The  EFCC operative, who said that she was a member of the pension investigation team, told the court that sometimes in 2010/2011 based on intelligence received by EFCC, her team was asked to investigate the alleged cash withdrawal of over N14 billion from the police pension office contrary to the epayment circular that time.

According to her, she was the investigating officer of  Mrs Onyegbula saddled with the responsibility of taking her statements and searching her house, saying that “during the course of investigation, I recorded the majority of her written statements.”

Ibrahim told the court that she never met the fourth defendant before February 13, 2012 when Onyegbula made her first statement to the anti-graft agency, adding that she (witness) was together with her colleague, Mr  Mustapha Ganaya, in one of EFCC’s interview rooms.

“My colleague, Mr Mustapha Gandaya, was the one that cautioned her, though I was present when the statement was recorded. The cautionary words were read to her and she said she understood what they were meant for. She appended her signature to the cautionary words.

“We then had an oral interview with her to know her level of involvement. During the course of the interview, we showed her some documents, specifically cheques that her name appeared on. After  that, she was asked to reduce what transpired during the interview into writing, which she did,” Ibrahim told the court.

Based on the request of the prosecution counsel, Atolagbe, Justice Baba-Yusuf, adjourned the matter till today for continuation of the trial within trial.

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