A defence witness, Maichivi Vwarji, a former Plateau State deputy chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Thursday, October 13, 2016, told Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court sitting in Gudu, Abuja how a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, donated the sum of N66million to the party in the State.
During examination by the defence counsel, G. S. Pwul, SAN, Vwarji, who is the sixth defence witness, DW6, told the court that they used to organise a fund-raiser before the formation of the party in the state in 2001.
Vwarji, who decamped to the All Progressives Party, APC, about a year ago, added that dues were paid by members after they were elected into offices.
The DW6 also told the court that the state party received the sum of N66million for disbursement to 274 wards in the State.
Recalling how the party received the N66million donation from the defendant, Vwarji said, ‘‘before we were given this money, the chairman, Abu Shindai, attended a National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja. When he came back to Plateau State, he called for an executive meeting and announced that the national chairman of the Party had told him that the governor (Dariye) was going to give the party some money.
‘‘Then, the governor, an executive member of the Party, came to the Party Secretariat and gave us the sum of N66million. He said we should share it among all the wards in the local government councils. It was given to the local government chairmen to distribute to the various wards.’’
Though, he told the court that he did not know the source of the money, he said it was shared according to the number of wards in respective local governments.
‘‘We have 17 local governments; we have both federal and state wards. It was given to about 300 wards,’’ Vwarji added.
Under cross-examination by the counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, Vwarji said the N66million was received by the financial secretary of the Party, who handed it over to the treasurer.
However, Jacobs faulted Vwarji’s claim that the Party’s Chairman, Shindai, had attended the NEC meeting in Abuja, where it was decided that the governor should give the money to the Party in the state.
According to Jacobs, ‘‘you told my Lord that the chairman whom you deputised has been sick for 20 years. You said he can’t stand up or perform his functions as a politician. You also said that he can’t hold the meetings of the party in the last 20 years. I, therefore, put it to you that you are not correct to say that the chairman attended a meeting in 2001 in Abuja, where the decision was taken regarding the money. If you calculate 20 years from now, it then means he must have been sick since 1996.’’
When asked if he knew that there is a law regulating the kind of donation that can be received by a political party, Vwarji, who claimed to have been a politician for 40 years, told the court that, “as far as I am concerned, if a Party member donates to the Party, it will be accepted from him or her.’’
He further told the court that though he did not personally receive the money from the defendant, he was present when the defendant made the announcement.
He stated that, ‘‘it was counted in my presence. Some were in N500 denomination, while some were in N1000 denomination. The money was received by the financial secretary.’’
Consequently, Jacobs told the court that the DW6 had lied, adding that ‘‘both denominations were introduced by the government after 2001. So, I put it to you that, you lied when you said the money was counted in your presence.’’
While still answering further questions from Jacobs, Vwarji claimed that he did not know that the money belonged to the Plateau State government, saying, ‘‘the origin of the money was not disclosed to us.’’
However, Jacobs drew the attention of the court to page 10 of Exhibit P 13(a), where the defendant had claimed that he collected the sum of N1.16billion as State’s ecological fund and gave the Party N66million.
Jacobs, therefore, asked Vwarji if it was right for a State governor to donate government money to a political party in the State.
In response, Vwarji said, ‘‘other Parties in the State could not get such money because they were not in power. So, if the governor of a ruling Party in a State decides to donate money to the party, it is in order. The Party was in power, and it benefited from the State governor, who was a member of the Party.’’
Justice Banjoko, thereafter, adjourned to Monday, October 17, 2016 for further hearing.
Dariye is being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly siphoning the state’s ecological fund to the tune of N1.16 billion.