The trial of the former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Dikki, continued on Tuesday at an FCT High Court, where he narrated how he was coerced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to make a commitment to refund N1 billion.
Dikki and his company, Kebna Studio and Communications Limited, are facing a four-count charge of receiving a bribe and abusing his office.
They are accused of collecting N1 billion from Bestworth Insurance Brokers, for facilitating the payment of outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The EFCC alleged that the offence was contrary to Section 17(1)(a) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, and punishable under the same act.
The offence was said to have been committed between January and February 2015, when Dikki was serving as BPE DG.
Dikki told the court, presided over by Justice Yusuf Halilu, that he was contacted by an EFCC operative from Zuru on Aug. 29, 2016, who told him that the commission had been looking for him and had gone to arrest his wife and son. He said he was surprised by this because he did not receive any invitations from the anti-graft agency.
He said he agreed to appear at the EFCC office on Sept. 1, 2016, where he met the team leader, one Bashir. He said Bashir told him that the commission had concluded its investigation and that he only needed to write a statement that he would refund the N1 billion paid into the account of Kebna Studio.
He said he refused to make such a commitment and he was taken to the commission’s cell, where he was detained from 6 pm to 7:40 pm. He said he was not with his lawyer, Ali Suberu, when he wrote his statements, nor was he advised to get any lawyer before writing the statements.
He further told the court that on Sept. 4, 2016, Bashir came into the cell and told him that he was the one detaining himself because he was “blowing long grammar” and that once he committed to refund, he would be released.
He said he arranged for a N50 million payment to be made to EFCC, for the sake of his freedom. He said the money came late on Sept. 5, 2016, and he was released the following day.
During cross-examination by EFCC counsel Chris Mshellia, Dikki denied that he was arrested by the EFCC. He said he wrote statements after being warned that anything he wrote would be used against him in court.
“I had no option but to write the statements. The operatives tried to dictate what I should write in my statement. I was harassed and tortured, psychologically by the operatives,” he said.
The trial-within-trial was adjourned until Jan. 16, 2024, for adoption of processes.