A former Minister of Power and Steel, Bashir Dalhatu, on Wednesday told an FCT High Court in Zuba that he lost N68.9 million to a fraudster.
The ex-Minister testified as a prosecution witness in a case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against a businessman, Imeh Akpan, charged with two-count charge of Criminal Breach of Trust.
The former minister said he was introduced to the accused person sometime in 2004 through his friends, late Alhaji Aliyu Alkali and one Haruna Ningi.
He alleged that the accused person told him to invest in the Aviation industry by buying shares in the airline he was floating.
Dalhatu said: “He informed me that the business was profitable at that time.
“He said the business was a win-win.
“At the end of the presentation, I accepted to buy shares to the tune of N1.8 million, representing 34 per cent of the company’s share capital.
“He (the accused person) told me that he was in the process of negotiating with First Atlantic Bank to obtain a loan facility for his company, Commodore Aviation Services.”
The former minister said the accused told him that the loan facility was to enable the accused person buy aircraft to be used in the country by Commodore Aviation Services.
Dalhatu told the court that the accused met him again and request that I assist him with N50 million to facilitate the loan.
He said: “I agreed to provide the N50 million security deposit on two conditions: one of the conditions was to open an interest saving account in the name of Commodore Aviation Services and keep the money there.”
The second condition was that the interest that accrues from the account would be his own and it should be reverted back to him at the end of six months.
Dalhatu explained that the six months period was the time within which he and the bank agreed to disburse the funds to the company.
The former minister said it was also agreed that neither him nor the accused person would remove any amount from the security deposit account, adding that on this understanding, an account was agreed to be opened with two signatories.
Dalhatu said on May 28, 2004, a cheque of N58 million, representing the shares and security deposit, was delivered to Commodore Aviation Services and acknowledged by Haruna Ningi on behalf of the company.
He said the accused person also approached him to provide further funding of N10.7 million to kick-off the operation of a National Airline in Niger Republic, which he also obliged him.
He added: “After a while it occurred to me that the business was not as good as he said.
“The accused person frustrated my request for an audit exercise in spite of my persistence.
“I therefore asked the accused person for the return of my money and whatever interest that might have accrued on the money.
“That also became impossible.
“I later discovered that the cheques for the security deposit were credited to an existing account of Commodore Aviation Services, an identical to the suggested name given to me where he was a sole signatory.”
Dalhatu said in January 2013, he went to the EFCC with a petition enumerating the frictions between him and the accused person, and urged the commission to investigate and prosecute him if they found adequate grounds to do so.
After his testimony, the Defence Counsel, Steve Imoke, prayed for an adjournment to cross-examine the Minister.
The EFCC Counsel, Fatima Ado-Gwaram, did not object to the application.
Justice A.O. Ebong granted the prayers of the defence counsel and adjourned the matter until March 2 for cross-examination.