Alex Enumah in Abujai
As the trial of the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, resumed yesterday, the 5th prosecution witness, Richard Ihediwa, revealed how the former Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, helped Metuh procured a Media Intervention Centre to enhance the work of the media team set up by Metuh.
Ihediwa, made the disclosure yesterday before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, while expanding on how Metuh spent the N400 million transferred to him from the Office of the former National Security Adviser.
Led in evidence by counsel to Metuh, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), the witness stated that though the money for the acquisition of the property (N21million) was paid through the account of Anenih, he however said the property which is located in Asokoro area of Abuja, did not belong to Anenih, adding that the former BoT Chairman only assisted the team in securing the property.
He disclosed that following the payment the entire centre and all its facility including staff, utility vehicles, security personnel and others became the exclusive of the media team and this he said to a larger extent enhanced the productivity of the team.
Speaking further on how the N400million was spent, Ihediawa said apart from the media team, there were other groups that were coordinated by government functionaries including the late Oronto Douglas and Mallam Abbah Dabo for the same advocacy.
Though he could not be précised on the amount released to the late Douglass, he said the sum of N25 million was however released to Dabo in line with the directives of the former President Goodluck Jonathan as mobilization for advocacy groups been coordinated by them.
“When it came to the turn of our team to make presentation before the former president and other top government functionaries in a meeting conveyed by him, the lead consultant, Yomi Gadejo was called up and he reviewed the issues raised by the former president regarding the worries of the government over tension in the polity across the country.
“At that time, there was tension in the six geo-political zones of the country. In the South-south, there was problem of agitations for resource control and militancy issues.
“In the South-east, there were issues of kidnapping, and a section of the citizenry was also agitating for self-determination.
“In the South-west, there was an issue of demand of the implementation of report from the National Conference. Some leaders from the region were already agitating for self-determination for the region.
“In the North, there was problem of insurgency in the North-east and that of religious crises in other parts of the region. On the whole, the stability of the nation was at stake,” he said.
He explained that here were perceptions in some sections of the country that the problem was because of certain things the government did or did not do at that time, thereby necessitating the need for the advocacy.
The witness stated that because the stability and unity of the nation was paramount at the time, “Those at the meeting convened by Mr. President over the state of the nation were of a consensus that Metuh’s team was in the best position to handle the intervention.”
He said: “In accepting the presentation, Jonathan noted that there were some components in the presentation made by other groups that he felt were important and should be implemented.
“He then directed that the teams should collapse into the one led by Metuh so that through his team, those components might be implemented.
“At that point, he (Jonathan) stated that he would make funds available for the execution of the project, stressing that the project was of great importance to the government and the nation at large.
“He then requested that Metuh should give him a corporate account details to enable him transfer the money for the execution of the projects, both that presented by Metuh and some components of those presented by other groups.”
Ihediawa added Metuh, not wanting to fail the President and the country directed him to work out a time line for the project.
‘Every morning, we met and reviewed the time line and work plans while awaiting release of funds from the President.
“During that time, Jonathan was talking to him on daily basis to discuss issues regarding the project and Metuh was assuring him of the preparations in place while awaiting funds.”
On the payment of the fund, Ihediwa however told the court that Metuh’s P.A, I.K Samben Nwaosu handled issues of bank transactions and other issues personal to Metuh and that on one of the occasions when Nwaosu had to call the bank, Metuh had asked him to put the call on speaker.
“Then, he asked the banker if there was an inflow, a lady’s voice answered ‘yes’, N400 million and the P.A said ‘thank you’.
“Then, Metuh got across to the president on phone and told him the bank has confirmed release of the fund. At that point, Metuh told me that we should get ready for work,” he stated.
The trial was however adjourned on the agreement of all parties till15, 16 November, for continuation of trial, while the ruling on the first defendant’s application for the substitution of surety was fixed for November 15.