Fresh details have emerged on how the chief accounting officer of the Makurdi Zonal Office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Samuel Umoru, and a clerk in the same office, Mrs. Philomina Chieshe, allegedly conspired to stop financial audit of the office.
They reportedly tried to bribe the board’s auditor, Mallam Ibrahim Oba, with N50,000.
The first prosecution witness, Patrick Obilo, also an auditor with the board, revealed this when he appeared before Justice Peter Affen of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Maitama, on Monday.
Umoru and Chieshe were first and second defendants respectively in the case brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the disappearance of JAMB’s N35 million in its Makurdi Zonal Office.
During Obilo’s cross-examination by the prosecution counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, he disclosed that Oba was sent to the Makurdi office of JAMB in 2016 for a routine examination of the account books and consignment notes, which showed the number of items supplied such as e-facility cards.
He revealed that during the procedure, Chieshe visited Oba’s hotel room with an envelope containing N50,000 as ‘gift’ from her boss, Umoru, and urged him to return to Abuja.
The auditor, according to Obilo, sensed danger and returned to Abuja and reported the situation to the head of JAMB’s Audit Unit, James Ochijele, who ordered that the ‘gift’ be paid into the board’s account.
Ochijele had to replace Oba with Obilo for the same assignment.
While examining the accounts books in the Makurdi office, Obilo said he discovered a shortfall in the proceeds from the sales of e-facility cards and change of course forms to the tune of N35.48 million, which were not remitted to the board’s account.
Asked for an explanation, Chieshe began to cry, as she gave all manners of justifications for the disappearance of the money, including a tale that a mystery snake had been swallowing the money in Umoru’s office, even as it was kept in a safe.
In another incredible story, she claimed that a mermaid had appeared to her in her bedroom to attack her at various times and that her housemaid was a witch.
Real trouble started for Umoru and Chieshe with the coming on board of Professor Ishaq Oloyede as JAMB’s registrar, who set up a committee to look into the accounts of all the state offices.
The committee reportedly unearthed monumental stealing.
With no objections from counsel to the defendants, the prosecution tendered the report of the reconciliation committee and its summary, which Justice Affen admitted in evidence.
The trial judge adjourned till January 21, 2020, for continuation trial.