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SURE -P Funds: I did not interview concerned govt agencies before prosecution‎ - ICPC witness tells court

By Dansu Peter

A witness in the ongoing trial of a United Kingdom-based Professor of Neurology, Reuben Oluwakinmilehin Obaro and his wife, Mrs Ayodele Olubunmi Obaro, a practicing nurse in the UK, Mr. Seidu Mohammed, has told Justice A. O. Ebong of a high court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, sitting in Zuba, that he did not interview relevant persons and government agencies before going ahead with the prosecution of ‎the medical practitioner and his wife.

Seidu, an investigator with the‎ Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is one of the star  in the trial of the professor and his wife.

They were charged to court for allegedly misappropriating N233.6 million.

They were accused of misleading officers of the Commission, frustrating investigation and misappropriating funds meant for the establishment of a stroke centre in Nigeria being funded partly by the defunct Subsidy Reinvestment Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) and personal money of the Professor and his wife.

When the case came up last Friday‎, Seidu, under cross-examination, told the court that he did not interface with the former Chairmen of SURE-P and the Federal Ministry of Health, which authorized the release of the fund in question, before charging the defendants to court.

Seidu, under cross-examination by counsel to the defendants Mr. John Nnaemeka Egwuonwu, a senior advocate, admitted that he did not find out from SURE-P how mulch the stroke centre will cost.

In the words of the witness, "In the course of my investigation,  I did not interface with Dr Christopher Kolade, the then Chairman of SURE-P.

"I did not also interface with Dr.Martins Luther Agwai, the successor to Dr Christopher Kolade. I also did not interface with Mr Ishaya Akan, the last SURE-P Chairman before it was dissolved",he said. 

Although, the witness acknowledged that SURE-P was under the direct supervision of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, but  he pointed out that the only interface he had with the office was through a letter from the ICPC office to that office. 

Seidu stressed further that he did not have any contact with the Federal Ministry of Health, despite the fact that the ministry was deeply involved before the seed grant was released to the defendants by SURE-P.

Asked if he made his findings from the SURE-P office in the course of his investigations, the witness said, "I did not find out from SURE-P the type of building to be built. I did not find out its cost and I did not find out the time line for the building to be completed". 

He similarly said that he was not aware of whether SURE-P appointed external auditor for the defendants. 

Seidu told the court that he never invited the defendants to confirm or deny the cash analysis he did on the money spent on the project so far. 

He revealed also that he did not investigate whether the defendants organized an awareness campaign lecture in Abuja, "because the Commission (ICPC) saw it as unnecessary to so investigate it".

While a total sum of N450million was released by SURE-P for the project, the court heard that the defendants have so far spent over N300‎million additional personal money on the project.

According to the ICPC the actions of the husband and wife violated Sections 25 (1) (a), 15 and 16 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and were punishable under the same sections.

Professor Obaro and his wife had proposed to SURE-P the establishment of a specialised stroke centre for the management of the rising incidence of stroke among Nigerians to be run by them for the government.

Tthe defendants used their company, Stephen James Healthcare Limited to access a seed grant of N450 million in January 2015, from SURE-P for the construction and purchase of medical equipment for the centre to be known as Stephen James Stroke Centre for Excellence.

The case has been ‎adjourned to July 5th and 9th, 2018.

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