Richard Ihediwa, the first defence witness in the ongoing trial of erstwhile national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, told the court on Thursday, November 3, 2016 that the N400 million Metuh is standing trial for, came directly from the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has alleged that Metuh got the N400 million from the office of the national security adviser which was occupied by the embattled Sambo Dasuki, a retired army colonel.
In his testimony, Ihediwa said after a meeting with Jonathan, the former President requested for a corporate account from Metuh to forward the funds for the project.
“In accepting the presentation by the team, the former President said that there were some components by other groups and feel it was important that they should be implemented,” he told the court.
“He said other teams should collapse into the one led by the first defendant so that through his team, those components could be implemented.
“At this point he said he was going to make funds available for the project and said the project was of great importance to the nation and asked that we should all take it seriously.
He then requested the first defendant to provide corporate account so that he could forward the money for the project”
The witness said Jonathan called Metuh everyday.
Ihediwa continued: “One morning as I was discussing with Metuh a call came from the President. At the end of the discussion he said I will call him now. When Metuh dropped the phone he called his personal assistant to asked the bank, Diamond Bank, if there was any cash inflow of N400m.
“When the PA called the bank, the first defendant who was sitting with me asked the PA to put the phone on speaker and asked the other party on phone if there was cash inflow in his account. The voice on the other end was of a lady. The answer was direct, “yes” N400m. That was the end of that discussion.
“Metuh got across to the president on phone and told him that the bank had confirmed the payment.
“At that point, he told me to get ready for work and called the consultant to immediately come to Abuja. The consultant came in with one of his aides and work started in earnest.”
Giving a breakdown of how the N400 million was spent, he said a centre outside office of the PDP was hired at Samora Machel, area of Asokoro.
When asked who the rent of the centre was paid to, he said Chief Tony Anenih was paid N21 million.
Continuing, Ihediwa said: “The work that was being done has lots of security components which ordinarily at that time was not in public domain. In line with directive of President he mobilised the consultant, who started the work which was mainly advocacy and assurances regarding the facts that the military was on top of the situation of the security problems in the country.
“The consultant drove advocacy materials in news media, giving assurance of unity of the country, assurance of the gallantry of the military and the fact that they were safe in the country.
“This was necessary because certain foreign interest had inundated the media with negative perception that the country was going to disintegrate. There was fear in the country because of this. There was extensive advocacy mounted by the consultant and was directed at quelling that fear that the country was going to disintegrate.
So the project that the first defendant was asked to undertake has nothing to do with the party. We have to hire somewhere in Samora Machel, Asokoro because we were dealing with different elements in the society. The place has security system, situation room and fully furnished with gadgets.
“The centre was acquired, including those with high technical know how, including power generating set that can power the whole complex because the work was enormous. I met some personal on ground and team hired more hands.
“I recall there was a professor, an economist, researchers and media experts. It was a big project and we retained that centre as long as the assignment lasted.
“The place was acquired with the sum of N21 million including the cost of equipment and operational vehicles there. The place was acquired through Chief Tony Anenih. Payment was made to Anenih for the centre. We operated from that centre and from there activities interventions carried out across the country was monitored.
“In other to carry out the project effectively State Coordinators were brought on board. They were trained at Ebeto hotel in Abuja. They were made to understand the seriousness of the image of the country. They were given materials and gadgets after which they went back to their states.
“I’m aware that some government functionaries, in regards to the components, also came to him for their own work in line with the directive of the former President. Metuh released amount approved for the projects to them. I remember personal assistance to the president on strategy, documentation, and research, the late Oronto Douglas, came.
“I’m aware too that Abba Dabo was paid N25m for the group he coordinated.. I’m not aware of the exact amount released to Oronto Douglas. But I know money was released to government functionaries in line with the directive from the President.”
Ihediwa continues his testimony on the 15 and 16 November.
This article originally appeared on The Street Journal.