By Ayo Kehinde
The money laundering trial of a former governor of Niger State, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, and two others; Tanko Beji and Umar Muhammad Nasko continued on Tuesday March 30, 2021 with the first prosecution witness, PW1, Muhammad Ndawuye Nmadu, telling the Court that auditors could not trace the address of contractors that received about N1.7bn from the Niger State government in 2014.
Nmadu, a retired auditor general of the state from 2007 to 2020, who was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdullah, told the Court that his responsibility as auditor general was to audit the books of account of the State.
“We have the responsibility to visit all Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including Courts, House of Assembly to ascertain the true nature of expenditure of the state. At the end of the year, we submit the report to the State House of Assembly.”
The witness said that in the course of auditing the accounts of the State for the year 2014, they discovered that about N1.7billion which was received by the Ministry of Environment in the State was split and paid to three contractors. “2014 was not initially exceptional; the normal audit was conducted except that during the audit, the sum of N1.7billion was received by the Ministry of Environment and the same amount was split and paid to three contractors”, he said.
The witness further revealed that aside the fact that the documentation for the contracts were incomplete especially the absence of Certificate of No Objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement, “We also sent someone to the addresses of the contractors, (someone here means a member of the audit team that visited the area) and we could not locate the addresses of the contractors”.
According to the PW1, the 2014 report which is in a booklet form, covers the report of the Auditor-General and the Account of Niger State for the year ended.
Prosecution counsel, Faruk Abdullah sought to tender the report of the Auditor-General on the accounts of Niger State government for the year ended December 31, 2014, but counsel to the first, second and third defendants objected. However, their objection was overruled by the trial judge. The Court accepted the document in evidence, marked as Exhibit ‘A’.
Furthermore, the PW1 also told the court that the audit team observed that payment vouchers were not checked by Internal Audit, and payments were made to contractors without budgetary provisions.
Justice Mikail Aliyu adjourned the matter at the instance of the first defendant till April 19 and 20, 2021 for cross-examination of PW1.
Aliyu, Nasko and Beji are being prosecuted on amended seven-count charge of money laundering and criminal breach of trust to the tune of about N2billion before Justice Aliyu of the Niger State High Court.