Monday, April 29, 2013

Sichinga testifies in Rupiah's case
By Ernest Chanda and Namatama Mundia
Thu 25 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

FORMER chief of staff at State House, Dr Austin Sichinga, says he edited Rupiah Banda's letter to the Nigerian government, that was requesting for 45,000 barrels per day term crude oil purchase contract and proposal for solid minerals trade.

Banda is charged with abuse of authority of office, contrary to the law.

Banda has since pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Testifying in the matter yesterday, Dr Sichinga said it was part of his duties to edit presidential letters.

Dr Sichinga, 59 of House No. 6 Ingwe Road, Woodlands, and Makeni respectively, said as chief of staff at State House, he was Banda's administrative officer who was also managing the latter's daily diary.

Asked by Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito what dealings he had with Banda in terms of correspondence, Dr Sichinga said he was first principal private secretary before he became chief of staff.

He said by virtue of his position, it meant that all correspondence to Banda passed through him.

Dr Sichinga said it was his responsibility to ensure that the president's letters were according to State House standard.

He said with regard to the Nigerian oil, he was given a letter by Banda to edit.

Dr Sichinga said he got the letter from Banda in the interview room at State House, where the former president was with three other men, among whom was a Zambian while the other two were Nigerians.

He said one of the Nigerians had a draft letter that Banda later asked Dr Sichinga to look at and see if it was suitable for State House standard.

Dr Sichinga said he later in his office edited Banda's letter which was addressed to then Nigerian president Umaru Musa Yar' Adua and gave Banda's personal secretary, a Ms Mutinta to type.

Dr Sichinga said after Mutinta typed the letter, he personally took it to Banda, a process that took about one and half hours.

He said the letter was supposed to be signed by Banda.
Dr Sichinga said the letter had two thrusts; the request for sweet crude oil and mineral trade.

He identified Banda's letter to Yar' Adua t
hrough features such as the date, tone of language and the Coat of arms.

"The president did not sign this letter in my presence, but the copy I was shown by the investigators showed the signature of the president," Dr Sichinga testified.

Dr Sichinga told the court that the letter he described in court was in fact a copy of what he had edited at State House.

He said it was not the only letter from Banda that he came across regarding the oil deal.

Dr Sichinga said in May 2009, he came across a letter authored by Banda and addressed to Yar' Adua, which was a reminder that the former had not received response to his first request.

He said according to Banda's second letter, it showed that the request for crude oil and mineral trade had been delivered to Yar' Adua.

Dr Sichinga said he did not author the second letter but added that if it was an original, it could have been in yellow or dark yellow.

He explained that he saw the second letter in the plotter, adding that it could have been in there a week before he saw it or two weeks after he saw it.

According to the second letter dated May 22, 2009, Banda had written to his Nigerian counterpart reminding him to issue the necessary approval for the commencement of the 45,000 barrels per day term crude oil purchase contract for Indeni Refinery.

Dr Sichinga however told the court that he had not specifically discussed with Banda the Nigerian oil deal but that he discussed issues of securing cheaper oil.
He advised Banda that he was aware it was done in some countries.

Asked by Nchito if he had ever heard of the name Osigwe, Dr Sichinga said he had travelled to the UN summit in New York, and Banda introduced him to two Osigwe brothers.

He said he exchanged cards with the Osigwe brothers, adding that Banda told him the two Nigerians were businessmen who were interested in investing in Zambia though the former president was not specific on the investment they were going to bring in the country but added that there was a mention of oil and trade, among others.

The matter comes up this morning for cross-examination by the defence.
Earlier, Zambia's former High Commissioner to Nigeria Alexis Luhila told the court during cross examination that he was not privy to the discussions Maj Richard Kachingwe, who was sent as special envoy, had when he escorted him to the Nigerian National Oil Petroleum Company.

He agreed with the defence that he was not briefed by Maj Kachingwe on what he discussed when he entered an office at the NNOPC.

Luhila admitted that he would only know what was contained in a khaki envelope if he was told or shown the contents.
He had in his evidence in chief testified that Maj Kachingwe came out from an office at the NNOPC with a khaki envelope.

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