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EFCC re-arraigns ex-Customs boss for alleged N1.9bn contract fraud

By Joe Udo

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday, 26th April 2024 re-arraigned a former Assistant Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Bridget Okafor, before Justice Venchak S. Gaba of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, Kuje, Abuja.

Okafor alongside her Company Bridkass Investment Integrated Limited, is facing trial on 13-amended count charges bordering on abuse of office, misappropriation and contract scam to the tune of N1,966,378,045.85 (One Billion, Nine Hundred and Sixty-Six Million, Three Hundred and Seventy Eight Thousand, Forty-Five Naira, Eighty-Five Kobo).

Count seven of the charges reads; “That you, BRIDGET CHIENYEZU OKAFOR whilst being employed in the public service as Assistant Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service in charge of Finance and Revenue, sometime in 2014 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did knowingly acquire private interest in contracts awarded by Nigeria Customs Service to NIKOBI INTERNATIONAL, a business enterprise of your son (CHIKWADO OKAFOR) and for which the Nigeria Custom Service paid the gross sum of N329,021,640.00 (Three Hundred and Twenty Nine Million, Twenty One Thousand, Six Hundred and Forty Naira) only and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000”.

She pleaded not guilty to all the thirteen-count charges when they were read to her.

In view of her plea, prosecution counsel, Attah M. Ocholi requested the court to enter the second defendant’s plea as not guilty too since it’s her company. He, however, requested for continuation of the testimony of the sixth prosecution witness, PW6, Agid Mohammed.

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Mohammed, a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC said the Commission in January 2016 received intelligence about valuable items suspected to be proceeds of crime kept at the residence of a former Comptroller General of Customs, late Abdullahi Dikko Inde.

“After receiving the Intel, a surveillance was carried out, and then we obtained a search warrant. We went to the apartment and conducted a search and found incriminating items, and were duly recovered.”

“We wrote to the Customs Service and requested for 7% cost of collection and 1% comprehensive import supervision scheme of 2014-2015, and how it was disbursed. We received and analyzed it, and then we wrote to Customs and invited the first defendant, that is Mrs. Okafor for an interview. She came and volunteered her statement in writing. She was interviewed in a well-ventilated office with windows and other people were present too.”

Testifying further, Mohammed informed the court that the EFCC received another intelligence in January 2016 about other valuable items suspected to be proceeds of crime kept at the residence of a former Comptroller General of Customs, late Abdullahi Dikko Inde. A search was conducted, and incriminating items were recovered.

“Further investigation revealed a fraudulent diversion of over N40 billion from the Nigerian Customs Service in 2014, allegedly involving the first defendant. “The first defendant was asked if she wanted to volunteer her statement, and she agreed. I then brought out the EFCC statement sheet, and she volunteered a written statement and signed it, and I counter-signed as a witness,” he said.

Asked what they recovered when they secured a search warrant in the first defendant’s home, Mohammed said they recovered various items, including letter-headed papers of companies linked to Okafor’s children in her bedroom.

“The companies, Ponial Interglobal Investment Nigeria Limited, Nikobi International Limited, Tabes Concept International Limited, Bridkass Investment Integrated Limited and Guap Properties and Realtors Services Limited, were all linked to the first defendant’s children, and they executed contracts with the Nigerian Customs Service and received payments”, he said.

The witness also disclosed that Okafor was the signatory to various bank accounts and had influence over the award of contracts in the Nigerian Customs Service because she was still in active service when the contracts were awarded.

“My Lord the first defendant was still the Assistant Comptroller General of Customs when the contracts were executed, and she reported to the Deputy Comptroller General, Finance, Administration, and Technical Services, whose office is saddled with the responsibility of awarding contracts in the Nigerian Customs Service.”

After listening to the testimony of Mohammed, Justice Gaba adjourned the matter until 26th June 2024, for cross-examination and continuation of the trial.

Okafor was first arraigned on 19th May 2019, before the same judge in FCT High Court, Kwali before he was transferred to Kuje FCT High Court.

Joe Udo
Joe Udo
Joe Udo is a creative writer and a Blogger with several years of experience.

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