Thursday, April 25, 2013

Luhila testifies in Rupiah's oil corruption case
By Namatama Mundia
Wed 24 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

Zambia's former high commissioner to Nigeria Alexis Luhila yesterday explained how Rupiah Banda sent a special envoy incognito to Nigeria for unknown business and how he questioned the secrecy behind travels of the same envoy.

This is in a case where former president Banda is charged with abuse of authority of office contrary to section 99 (1) of the Penal Code Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia.

Banda is alleged to have on dates unknown but between May 1, 2008 and September 24, 2011 abused the authority of his office by procuring a government-to-government oil contract in Nigeria, in the name of the Republic of Zambia, which in fact was meant to benefit himself and his family.

During examination-in-chief led by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito, Luhila, 62, told chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda that he was a businessman of House No. 406 Kudu Road in Kabulonga and a former high commissioner to Nigerian.

Luhila testified that he heard from his staff that there was a special envoy that would come in and out of the High Commission.

He said he got concerned and worried about his status.
Luhila said one day, he received instructions from the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking him to proceed to Lagos.

Luhila said there was a Zambian who had travelled to Lagos to see prophet TB Joshua but that unfortunately, the person became insane and destroyed property.

He said he travelled to Lagos in the company of two other officers.
Luhila said when boarding the aircraft, he met the special envoy.
"This special envoy was telling me he was returning to Abuja from Lagos en route to Zambia. This special envoy happened to be a friend, a colleague, who also happened to be high commissioner to Malawi and he happened to be a friend, whom I knew, Mr Kachingwe MMD national secretary Maj Richard," he said.

Luhila said he was depressed to see Maj Kachingwe and it confirmed reports he was getting from his staff that Maj Kachingwe was going there incognito.

"We travelled together up to Lagos and we parted in Lagos," he said.
Luhila said he was depressed that Maj Kachingwe kept on going to Nigeria when the former was high commissioner in that country.
He said he was in Lagos for four days and thereafter, he, with two other officers, returned to Abuja.

Luhila testified that he later phoned then president Banda.
He said he phoned Banda to register his concern and displeasure that his colleague was being sent from another station and wanted to find out what was happening.

Luhila further said he phoned State House and spoke to senior private secretary, a Mr Mulimba, who told him Banda was in a meeting.
He said Mulimba asked him what the message was but he told him he wanted to speak to the president himself to register his displeasure over Maj Kachingwe's presence at his station.

Luhila said Mulimba advised him that it would not be good to speak to Banda about that matter.

He said Mulimba told him that if he so wished, he (Mulimba) could tell Banda about his concerns, to which he agreed after gathering courage.
Luhila said 10 to 15 minutes later, he received a phone call from Banda, who told him not to question his authority, saying he had the right to appoint a special envoy and that it was in no way threatening his position as high commissioner.

He said Banda told him that he had the authority to appoint a special envoy at any time.

Luhila said three weeks later, Banda phoned him and told him that he should meet a special envoy but did not tell him who it was.
He said he was happy because Banda had reconciled him with Maj Kachingwe.

Luhila testified that Banda told him the same special envoy would call him, and in about 20 minutes, he received a call from Maj Kachingwe, whom he later met at a hotel.

"Then we drove to a place called four towers NNOPC (Nigerian National Oil Petroleum Company)," he said.

Luhila said that they were met by two men and he was directed to wait at the foyer while Maj Kachingwe proceeded to a certain office.

He said after about 10 minutes, Maj Kachingwe emerged from there with a small khaki envelope and told him that they could go.

Luhila narrated that they drove to the hotel and Maj Kachngwe told him not to tell his staff about his presence.

He said Maj Kachingwe refused when he offered him lunch and transport.
Luhila said Maj Kachingwe decided to use a shuttle from the hotel to the airport.

He said the following day, he went to the office and while there, an officer in charge of economic matters, Margaret Kaemba went to his office and told him that there were two guests and that they were friends of Banda's, adding that it was important that he meet them in his office.
Luhila said he did not know the names of the two guests but he asked Kaemba to bring them into his office.

He said the two guests told him that they were friends of Banda's and they knew that there was a special envoy of the president Maj Kachingwe in town.

Luhila said the guests told him they were aware he accompanied the special envoy to NNOPC and that they were not happy that they were being left out of the deal.

He said when he heard what they were saying, he was not happy with their presence and he chased them.

Luhila said Maj Kachingwe had already told him not to share with his staff about his presence.

He said he told the two guests that since they were claiming to be friends of the president, they should call him themselves.

Luhila said that that was what he knew about his interaction with the special envoy.

And Luhila said he was happy when Banda phoned him so that he could accompany Maj Kachingwe.

"When the president called me again, he said 'Kazembe, please don't question my authority. I am entitled to appoint a special envoy. This appointment of a special envoy has nothing to do with your position. This is just a special envoy'," said Luhila.

The matter comes up this morning for cross-examination by Banda's lawyers.

Earlier, Magistrate Banda sustained the defence's objection not to admit the request for 45, 000 barrels per day term crude oil purchase contract and proposal for solid minerals document dated November 25, 2008.

Magistrate Banda ruled that the witness had not satisfied the requirements for admissions of such documents.

The defence had argued that the witness, Derrick Kasonka, could not produce the photocopy because there was no diligent search for the original document.

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