By Soni Daniel
ABUJA— AS the trial of the cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Azibaola Robert, and his company, Oneplus, over the receipt of $40 million from the Office of National Security Adviser enters the final phase, a witness, Wednesday, narrated to a Federal High Court how the money was shared to Niger Delta militants to persuade them from further disruption of oil production.
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The witness, and second witness called by the defence, who gave his name as Iyerifama Jaja, told the court that he was one of the operators of illegal refineries, also known as Kpofire Production, who carried out his illicit refining business with others between Akwa Ibom and Rivers states but were convinced by Robert company’s monetary offer of N5 million to back off from the illegal business.
Jaja, who claims to be holder of National Business and Technical Education Board certificate, said he was working with an international construction company in Nigeria before venturing into the business of illegal oil refining in Niger Delta as a means of survival, a development that drastically cut national output from 2.3 million to about 700,000 barrels per day before the Federal Government sent the firm to appease them with the cash payout.
Jaja’s testimony brought to an end arguments by the prosecution and the defence on the case, which has now been adjourned till March 28, 2019, after Justice Nnamdi Damgba asked both parties to file their written address and submit same before the date.
It will be recalled that the EFCC had dragged Azibaola Robert and his company, Oneplus, to court for allegedly receiving $40 million from the ONSA in 2014 without any contract, thereby violating financial regulations under the agency’s Act of 2004.
Robert and his company denied any wrongdoing, claiming the money was given out from the NNPC to solve oil bunkering and pipeline destruction at the time, which disrupted oil output drastically and reduced the nation’s cash inflows.