Two witnesses have been presented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 in a case of N65 million fraud involving two former staff of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) in Borno State, Mahmud Deji Sambo and Mohammed Saleh Kasim.
Sambo and Kasim, 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 N61million before Justice M. T. Salihu of the Federal High Court, Maiduguri.
In one of the counts, Sambo, Assistant Director Finance, UMTH, was said to have between March and December 2009 connived with kassim, a former Executive Officer of the Hospital to fraudulently collect N35,882,000 (Thirty-five Million, Eight Hundred and Eighty-two Thousand Naira) from the coffers of the UMTH under the pretext that it was for supplies to the hospital and contractual salary for Babagana Saleh.
When the case came up on Wednesday for hearing, two witnesses: Babagana Mohammed, Director of Administration, UMTH and Abullahi Sirajo, an operative the EFCC testified as PW5 and PW6 respectively.
Mohammed told the court that, “sometime n 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 that, “In 2013, the EFCC wrote us again requesting to know the staff that are authorized 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 authorized to open the account on behalf of UMTH”.
The first and second reply letters from UMTH were tendered and admitted as exhibits S & T respectively.
In his testimony, Sirajo told the court that sometime in 2010, a petition which emanated from the defunct Afribank Plc. attached with an investigation report conducted by the bank’s compliance unit 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 NHIS, capitation funds, amenity services and retainership.
He went on: “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 PW6 also stated that, “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 also aligned himself with Hamsa’s objection on the ground that the statements were not obtained freely.
Thereafter, Justice Salihu adjourned to February 20 – 21, 2018 for trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of the statements.