N2.7bn Fraud: Ex-director Testifies Against Sirika

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SIRIKA

N2.7bn Fraud: Ex-director Testifies Against Sirika

 

The N2.7bn contract fraud trial of the immediate-past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, opened on Monday with a former Director of Procurement in the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Azubuike Okorie, testifying against him.

Sirika is standing trial alongside his daughter, Fatima, son-in-law, Jalal Hamma, and their company, Al-Buraq Investment Limited.

The defendants are being prosecuted on six counts, bordering on contract fraud, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The EFCC alleged that as minister, Sirika abused his office to confer undue advantage on his daughter, son-in-law and company, by allegedly awarding contracts to them.

Led in evidence by the EFCC lead counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the subpoenaed witness, Okorie, informed Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja that a certain N1.4bn Apron Extension contract at Katsina Airport was not executed till he left civil service on May 23, 2023.

“As of the time I left civil service on May 23, 2023, the contract was not executed, to the best of my knowledge,” Okorie told the judge.

The witness said he served as a Special Assistant on Projects to Sirika between 2022 and 2023.

Okorie said he also served as the Chairman of the Project Implementation Committee, which was responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of projects.

He identified Al-Buraq Investment Limited as one of the contractors, which got jobs from the aviation ministry.

Okorie said Al-Buraq Investment Limited was awarded a project at the Kastina State Airport.

He, however, told the court that when his committee visited Katsina for project monitoring and implementation, Al-Buraq contractors and other contractors were not on the ground.

“When we got there (Kastina Airport), we had a list of other contractors who were supposed to be on the ground, including Al-Buraq. My Lord, we did not find any of them on site then,” he said.

He explained that before a contract was awarded, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria would have secured land with a Certificate of Occupancy.

He, however, said when his committee  interacted with the  Commissioner for Lands in Kastina State, he informed that “because of a conflict between the Nigerian Air Force and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, they were not able to secure the land at that time and so the contractors could not go to the site.”

Okorie said he was aware that  Al-Buraq Investment Limited had already been paid  30 per cent of the contract sum as mobilisation fee.

“As Chairman, Project Implementation Committee, I was not involved in payments.

“Payments are made in stages until a contractor finishes the contract,” he said.

The lead defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), asked the court for an adjournment to cross-examine the witness.