Posted by News Express | 2 February 2018 | 1,453 times
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday presented two witnesses in a case of N65 million fraud involving two former staff of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Mahmud Deji Sambo and Mohammed Saleh Kasim.
The suspects, who have their aliases as Ardo Hamajam and Babagana Saleh respectively, are facing trial on an eight-count charge of conspiracy, uttering of documents and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N61 million before Justice M. T. Salihu of the Federal High Court, Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
In one of the counts, Sambo, Assistant Director Finance at UMTH, was said to have connived with Kassim, a former Executive Officer of the hospital, to fraudulently collect N35,882,000 from the coffers of the UMTH under the pretext that it was for supplies to the hospital and contractual salary for Babagana Saleh between March and December 2009.
When the case came up on Wednesday for hearing, two witnesses, Babagana Mohammed, Director of Administration at UMTH, and Abullahi Sirajo, an operative the EFCC, testified.
Mohammed told the court: “Sometime in the year 2011, the EFCC wrote to the UMTH seeking to know if a salary account domiciled with Afribank Plc (now defunct) belongs to the hospital. I went into our records and having discovered that the account does not belong to us, I replied the EFCC that it was fraudulent.”
He further said: “In 2013, the EFCC wrote us again requesting to know the staff that are authorised to open a corporate account on behalf of UMTH. We replied that once the Board of Management grants approval, four principal officers namely the Chief Medical Director, Director of Administration, Assistant Director of Finance and the Chief Accountant are authorised to open the account on behalf of UMTH”.
The first and second reply letters from UMTH were tendered and admitted as exhibits.
In his testimony, Sirajo told the court that sometime in 2010 a petition which emanated from the defunct Afribank Plc was assigned to his team for discreet investigation.
According to Sirajo, the petition contained allegations of financial impropriety against two officials of the UMTH. They were alleged to be operating illegal account bearing the name of UMTH through which they siphoned money, including revenues accruable to the hospital such as National Health Insurance Scheme, capitation funds, amenity services and retainership.
He further said: “Other funds that came into the account are over-stated salary bills in which Sambo succeeded in convincing Guaranty Trust Bank, where the UMTH main salary account is domiciled, to be issuing drafts in favour of some staff banking with Afribank along Shehu Lamin Way.”
The witness also stated: “After salaries were posted to staff, the surplus was converted into another draft in the name of UMTH and will be lodged into that fictitious account. As such, e-mandate will be raised duly signed by the two defendants instructing the bank to transfer the surplus into either ‘Babagana Saleh’s account’ managed by Mohammed Saleh Kassim or into Ardo Hammajam’s account managed by Mahmud Deji Sambo.”
Counsel to the defendants raised objection to the admissibility of the said statements when they were tendered by the prosecution counsel.
According to Z. Hamza, counsel to the first defendant, “the statements were obtained as a result of physical threat, promises, intimidation and under duress”.
Counsel to the second defendant, S. M. Konto aligned himself with Hamza’s objection on the ground that the statements were not obtained freely.
Thereafter, Justice Salihu adjourned to February 20 and 21, 2018 for trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of the statements.
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