Former Director of Finance and Accounts, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Patrick Areh, yesterday told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that the statement he made in respect of the N2.8 billion fraud was not voluntary, as he was under duress.
Areh, who made a two-page statement on January 11, 2016 and endorsed same before the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged, through his counsel, Ike Chube Frank, that he made the statement, which admitted the transfer of N2.8 billion from the Commission’s bank account with Zenith Bank to Technology Advisor account under compulsion.
The defendant raised the allegation of duress, just as the prosecution counsel, Ben Ikani, applied to tender Areh’s statement through the 1st prosecution witness, John S. Ejim, an operative of EFCC.
Ejim had told the court that a petition written by one Oke Nwafor ignited the arrest of Emeka Mba, former Director General of Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC),
He said the defendants conspired among themselves and transferred the sum of N2,899,723,500.00, being proceeds of sales of 700 mega head of spectrum, from the commission Zenith Bank account to Technology Advisor’s account.
The witness said the diverted sum was illegally paid to five sectors boxes manufacturer under the digital switch over platform.
The court admitted, in evidence, copy of the petition sent to Executive Chairman of the EFCC that was addressed to the president.
Trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, said the court would conduct a trial-within-trial to ascertain the admissibility of the 2nd defendant’s confessional statement.
The four defendants are facing a 15-count charges. Part of the charge reads thus: “That you Emeka Mba (while being the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission), Patrick Areh, while being the director finance and account of the National Broadcasting Commission; Basil Udotai (trading in the name and style of Technology Advisor) and Babatunji Amure (trading on the name and Style of Divine Partners) on or about the 15th day of August 2015, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired among yourselves to commit an illegal act to wit ‘laundering the sum of N2,899,723,500.00, contrary to section 18 (a) of the money laundering prohibition act 2011, as amended, and punishable under section 16(3) of the same Act.
“That you Emeka Mba (while being the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission) on or about the 31st day of August, 2015, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did award contracts for supply of set up top boxes in the sum of N1, 237,400,000.00 for Digital Switch Over national broadcasting Commission to Gospel Digital Technology, Trefoil Global Investment Limited, Zinox Technology limited, Media Concept International Limited and nine other firms without seeking approval of the Bureau of Public Procurement, contrary to section 40 of the Public Procurement Act No 65, of 2007 and punishable under section 58 of the section 58 of same Act.”