Tuesday, January 25, 2022

How FIRS official siphoned N2bn through DTA, witness tells court

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The ongoing trial of Emmanuella Eteta Ita, head of Stakeholders Unit of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, and Surestart School Limited continued on November 22, 2021 before Justice F. Giwa Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court, Abuja with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, presenting two more witnesses.

The fourth prosecuting witness, Ijeoma Matilda, an operative of the EFCC, while being led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, told the court that sometime in November 2015, the commission received an intelligence report, alleging that the former coordinating director of the FIRS, Peter Hena, conspired with the first defendant using staff of the unit to siphon money from the FIRS through Duty Tour Allowances, DTA, to the tune of over 2bn.

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 “We went ahead to investigate the first defendant, she denied receiving any money from Peter Hena.

“She admitted that Peter Hena gave her a bag to give to the then chairman, Tunde Fowler, which she didn’t know.

“We further investigated the first defendant’s UBA salary account, where we discovered various payments from FIRS, for various reasons. We also found out that, between 2015 and 2017, she had received a total sum of N277.5m.

“She received another N173, 346,219.50 for DTA and Entertainment expenses.

“From the above sum, we discovered that she transferred N145.8m between 2015 and 2017, to the account of the second defendant,” said the witness.

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The witness further disclosed that the first defendant could only account for N32.4m during a reconciliation of her account.

“We also verified some of the receipts, belonging to Lomein Express Ltd and discovered that 26 of the documents amounting to N76.4m were forged, as confirmed by the owner of the company.

Also testifying, the 5th prosecuting witness, Ibom Uche, a director of Accounts with the FIRS, told the court that sometimes in October 2020, the EFCC sent a letter addressed to the Executive Chairman of FIRS, which was minuted to him, to certify some documents, which he carried out.

He narrated to the court the procedure for funds approved, processing and disbursement from his office.

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Under cross-examination by Benjamin Ogbayi, counsel to the first defendant and Andrew Hassien, counsel to the second defendant, the witness pointed out that he only worked based on the instructions.

Justice Ogunbajo adjourned further hearing to November 24, 2021.

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