An Abuja High Court was Wednesday told by a staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and prosecution witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Hassan Maman, that once an estacode has been approved for an officer to travel, the money belongs to the said officer.
This is as he declared that the commission has never dragged any person to any court for failure to return an estacode meant for a trip the officer failed to attend.Maman, a Protocol Officer with SEC and the last prosecution witness, as the EFCC closed its case against Hon. Herman Hembe, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market and his Deputy Hon. Chris Azubuogu, told the court during cross-examination by counsel to Azubuogu Dr. Chuba Ikpeazu (SAN) that “in the case of SEC staff estacodes that was not used another trip would be arranged for them, and until another trip was arranged, he had done no wrong in keeping the estacode.
“The second accused approached me and inquired about how the ticket could be re-routed to Russia, I have never testified in any court over the failure to return estacode within five months, to the best of my knowledge the only conference organised by SEC was the one that ended on October 19, a ticket is valid for 12 months within which it is used or re-routed, the second accused person did not claim that he travelled when in fact he did not travel. He did not call me to inform me that he travelled no other trip was approved for the second accused to go to Russia.”
Another prosecution witness Usman Ibrahim, a staff of SEC during cross-examination by Ikpeazu blamed the delay in getting the tickets and estacodes for the trip to the accused persons on the bureaucracy in the civil service.
According to him, “it was the bureaucracy that resulted in the approval being made on the 11th and payment made on the 19th, I was following procedures. I am not the cause of the problem, it was the due process that resulted in the money being paid late, I never came in any direct contact with the second accused person.”
During re-examination by the counsel to the EFCC, Chile Okoroma, Ibrahim said: “The approval for the trip was made by the Acting DG of SEC, and that the Secretary of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, Femi Ogunsanya, came to collect the estacode to give to the two accused persons and I never met with them in person.”
Counsel to Hembe, Joseph Okutepa (SAN) and Ikpeazu for Azubuogu had after the prosecution closed its case told the court that the defence will make a no-case submission as the prosecution had not made any case against them.
Hembe and Azubuogu are being tried by the EFCC for allegedly misappropriating the sum of $4,095, an equivalent of N600,000 as estacodes given to them by SEC to travel to Dominican Republic for a conference.
The matter has been adjourned to April 30 for addresses on the no-case submission.