Mr Kobis Arithimni, a principal witness, in the ongoing alleged N40 billion trial of former Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako, on Tuesday testified before the Federal High Court, Abuja, through a video link.
Justice Okon Abang, on October 30, granted the EFCC’s prayer to allow it take the evidence of Arithimni, who now resides in the United Kingdom (UK), through a video link, in accordance to Section 232(3) of ACJA, following its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs’ argument.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Nyako and his son along with others with N40 billion fraud.
Jacobs had told the court that Arithimni, who was Secretary to Adamawa State Government (SSG) during Nyako’s administration, sent a medical report that he could not come to Nigeria.
He said efforts by the anti-graft agency were unsuccessful.
At the resumed trial yesterday, Arithimni, who gave his evidence via video coverage, apologised to the court for being unable to come to the country to testify.
“I am a Christian and I am in London, receiving treatment,” he said.
The witness told the court that he was a commissioner in Adamawa State Ministry of Rural Infrastructure in 2007.
“In 2008 and 2014, I was appointed the Secretary to the State Government.
“My duty was to coordinate the activities of the state government between ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and to see to day-to-day smooth running of government,” he said.
Arithimni said he endorsed memos generated by permanent secretaries on funds before the Governor’s Office approved them.
“After the approval by the governors, the memos are brought back to my office and straight to the permanent secretary that generated the memo.
“The next stage is for the funds to be raised in the sum raised in the memo. Then, the funds would be released,” he said.
According to him, funds are raised after the voucher has been released by the accountant.
The witness said he knew Maaji Iro, a manager at Zenith Bank’s Yola branch, who was also listed as a witness.
Arithimni, who told the court that it was the governor who approved the memos for funds, said cheques were issued to Iro.
The witness also said he had at one time cautioned the permanent secretaries against giving Iro cheques without a copy of the approval of the memos.
“It is uncivil-service-like and to guide them, I told them that on no account should they give or issue cheques to Maaji Iro without a copy of the approval of the memos to serve as evidence that approvals were given,” he said.
The witness also told the court that Maaji Iro collected the cheques but did not give him the cash.
Arithimni said security outfits in the state were also given monthly allowances through the Office of the Permanent Secretary on Security, besides the inter-religious bodies.
During cross-examination, counsel to the first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth defendants, Ibrahim Isiyaku (SAN), asked if Arithimni recommended the release of the funds for which expenditures were to be incurred and he did not object.
“Your only problem now is that the money was not brought back to you. Right?” Isiyaku asked Arithimni, but he gave no response.
The lawyer noted that the witness told the court that Iro was a banker and had no role to play in Adamawa State government.
He asked the witness if he would be right to say that Iro managed the account of Adamawa State government in Zenith Bank and he concurred.
Counsel to the third defendant, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), asked Arithimni if he knew Ibrahim Emmanuel and the witness responded that he was a Permanent Secretary, Political Department, under his office.
Prosecution counsel Jacobs told Justice Abang that he was sure that he would be closing his case on the next adjourned date.
“I do not want to formally announce that I am closing my case today, but I am 99 per cent sure that I will close it in the next adjourned date,” he said.
When Isiyaku called the attention of the judge to some motions slated for hearing, Justice Abang said he would take them on the next adjourned date.
“I will take all pending applications filed by counsel on November 6,” he said.
Justice Abang adjourned till November 13 for continuation of hearing based on the parties’ agreement.
NAN reports that the former governor and his son, alongside others, were arraigned on a 37-count charge bordering on money laundering allegedly perpetrated while Nyako was Adamawa State governor.
Others arraigned along with them are Zulkifik Abba and Abubakar Aliyu.
Firms allegedly used to perpetrate the fraud, which were joined as the fifth to the ninth defendants, are: Blue Opal Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited.