Alleged Fraud: EFCC Presents First Witness In Sirika’s Trial

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama heard on Monday, June 10, that the N1.4 billion Apron Extension contract at the Katsina Airport allegedly awarded to a firm linked with the son-in-law of former Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika was not executed as of May last year.

A former director of procurement in the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Azubuike Okorie told the court that the firm, Al Buraq Global Investment Limited was one of the companies to which the contracts at the Kastina Airport were awarded.

Okorie said he was the special assistant to the aviation minister on projects between 2022 and 2023 and was also the Chairman of the Project Implementation Committee.

He said his committee was responsible for monitoring and evaluating projects to ensure execution.


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Okorie said when his committee visited the Katsina Airport for project monitoring and evaluation, Al Buraq and other contractors were not on the ground.

He said: “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,” Okorie said, adding that as when he left the civil service on May 23, 2023 “the contract was not executed, to the best of my knowledge.”

Okorie spoke while testifying as the prosecution’s first witness (PW1) in the trial of Sirika, his daughter, Fatima his son-in-law, Jalal Sule Hamma and Al Buraq Global Investment Limited on a six-count charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the charge, the EFCC accused Sirika of conferring undue advantage, between April 2022 and March 2023 in Abuja, on some entities allegedly owned by his associates.

EFCC alleged that Sirika abused his office by awarding N1.3 billion consultancy contract for the Nigerian Air start-up to a firm, Tianero Nigeria Limited.

It alleged that Sirika used his “position to confer an unfair advantage upon Al Buraq Global Investment Limited, whose alter ego, Fatima Hadi Sirika and Jalal Sule Hamma, are your daughter and son-in-law, respectively, by using your position to influence the award to them, the contract for the Apron Extension at Katsina Airport for the sum of N1,498,300,750.”

Fatima is said to be a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd, while Jalal Sule Hamma is described as an employee of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

Okorie, who was led in evidence by prosecuting lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said it was the practice that before a contract is awarded, the user agency – in this case, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) – would have first secured the land on which the project would be sited by obtaining the required documents, including a certificate of occupancy (C of O).

He said when his committee members met with the Katsina state commissioner for lands, they were informed that no land was secured for the projects at that time because of the conflict between the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.

The witness added that since no land was secured as of when his committee members visited, the contractors could not go to the site.

When asked if he was aware that Al-Buraq was paid 100 percent for the contract, the witness said he could not confirm what was paid.

Okorie, who was a subpoenaed witness, said he was only aware of the 30 percent mobilization fee paid to every contractor at the commencement of a project.

He added: “As Chairman of the project Implementation Committee, I was not involved in payments.

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

After his testimony-in-chief, lawyers to the defendants – Kanu Agabi (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), and Michael Numa (SAN) – applied for an adjournment to enable them to return for the cross-examination of the witness.

Jacobs did not object, following which Justice Sylvanus Oriji adjourned till June 11.

 






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