Nigeria’s Sarb Energy Limited managing director Akpan Ekpene has told a magistrate’s court that former Republican President Rupiah Banda requested for an advance payment of US$1 million from the oil deal to ‘boost’ his 2011 election campaigns.
The Lusaka magistrate’s court also heard yesterday that Banda’s son, Henry, set up a company in Hong Kong to facilitate receipt of the advance payment after faking to have engaged in a power plant project with Sarb Energy because the advance payment should have been sent to the Zambian Government.
This is in a matter in which Banda, 75, is charged with abuse of authority of office relating to procuring a government-to-government oil deal between Zambia and Nigeria.
Mr Ekpene, 46, told Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda during continued trial yesterday that after the Nigerian government approved the oil deal for Zambia in which he had acted as an agent for Zambia.Banda allegedly requested him to make an advance payment of $1 million to use in his campaigns.
He said after former Zambian High Commissioner to Nigeria Richard Kachingwe, who was a special envoy to Nigeria in the oil deal, collected and signed the oil deal contract with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), he was invited to Zambia where he met with Banda at State House to explain the deal.
Mr Ekpene said while in a discussion with Banda, a young man who the former President later introduced as his son, Henry, came in the room and was delegated to deal with him on where to send the money.He said during the same meeting, he explained to Banda that since the contract had been signed, they would start lifting oil.
Mr Ekpene said Banda requested that since he was about to start his election campaigns, an advance payment of $1 million should be made available for use during the campaigns.
“His Excellency said please support us with a minimum of $1 million. I told him that we will do our best and his Excellency pointed at the young man (Henry) and said go with him and he will tell you what to do,” he said.
Mr Ekpene said he met Henry in a different room where he asked him what position he held in government but he told him that he was a private business executive.He said he asked Henry whether the account number he was going to avail him in which to channel the advance payment was in the name of government but he responded in the negative.
“I then said that it was going to a bit difficult to send the money because we had credit lines that we can easily tap to pay money to the Zambian government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. We already had that facility in place,” Mr Ekpene said.
He said he told Henry that since the money was to be sent to a non-government account he would need to offer him a service to justify the transferring of the money.He told him that this could be by way of generating documents in order to be able to transfer the money.
“This was so because we needed to show our bank where the money is going and for what purpose since it was not going to the Zambian government or the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation,” he said.
He said he asked Henry to do a feasibility study to which he provided him with a project name which he could use to show the bank the reason why he wanted to make the payments.He said it took Henry about two months to get all the paper work done and he informed him that he had been able to set up a company in Hong Kong that would facilitate the transfer of the money.
“The feasibility study was for the power plant and we were going to make payment going by that. The idea behind was that his Excellency had requested that we make an advancement payment for him to purchase campaign materials,” Mr Ekepene said.
He said in September 2011, $500, 000 was sent to a Barclays Bank Singapore account which Henry provided but as the elections drew nearer, Henry mounted pressure for him to send more money.He said he was conscious about risking his business in case government changed hands.
Mr Ekepene said a few days before elections he sent $50, 000 though the money was sent back to him since by the time it was arriving two days after the elections, the bank account in Singapore had been closed.
He said he did not hear from Henry after the elections although Banda called him when he was in Boston and Chad telling him that the man he was sending to Nigeria (Maj Kachingwe) had turned against him and that he should never communicate with him.
[Times of Zambia]