Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nigerian oil dealer testifies in Rupiah's case
By Namatama Mundia and Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 13 July 2013, 14:01 CAT

SARB Energy managing director Akpan Ekpene yesterday testified how Rupiah Banda expressed interest in his proposal to supply crude oil to Zambia through the Nigerian government-to-government facility when they met at Lusaka's Government House in Lusaka in 2008.

And Maj Richard Kachingwe yesterday wondered why Banda's lawyers are today questioning his integrity following his testimony in the Nigerian oil case when they did not question it at the time it suited them.

Giving evidence-in-chief, Ekpene, a 46 year-old engineer of Plot 1099 First Avenue, Abuja, said his company deals in oil trading and that it was established in September 2008.

He said in 2008, he introduced the idea of the Republic of Zambia entering into a government-to-government contract with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

"That has been my main and only dealing with the Republic of Zambia to date," he said.

Ekpene said through meetings with then Zambian deputy high commissioner Maj Kachingwe, he was able to come to Zambia to make a presentation to then acting president Banda at Government House.

"The acting president appeared. He greeted me warmly," Ekpene said. "He said 'welcome'. He asked me how things were in Nigeria and then he asked 'what do you have?'"

He said he gave Banda a briefing similar to that he had earlier given to then energy minister Kenneth Konga.
"Just as I was finishing, he took out his phone and called someone. When the person answered he said 'Kenneth'. He identified himself then he said 'I have a friend from Nigeria with an interesting proposal.' Then the acting president told me to wait, that other people were coming."

Ekpene was explaining to the court how the oil issue started.
He is expected to continue his evidence on Monday.

And wrapping up his testimony, Maj Kachingwe said what he had testified was the truth as he knew it because he actively worked with Banda on the oil contract and that the same defence lawyers like Sakwiba Sikota and Prof Patrick Mvunga that are today trying to question his integrity represented him in other matters when it suited them.

He said anyone would be bitter with Banda because he found the MMD in power and he saw it out of power because of his failure to listen.
Prof Mvunga said he did not represent Maj Kachingwe but the MMD.

Maj Kachingwe earlier told the court that he was interviewed by a Nigerian law enforcement agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to explain what he knew about the oil deal.

This is in a case where Rupiah Banda is charged with abuse of authority of office relating to the illegal procurement of oil from Nigeria to the tune of US$2.5 million, a transaction which allegedly benefited the former president and his family but he pleaded not guilty.

During continued cross-examination by Banda's lawyer Prof Mvunga, Maj Kachingwe told magistrate Banda that he was competent on the oil deal and Banda congratulated him.

This was after Prof Mvunga wondered why Maj Kachingwe did not ask Ekpene and a General Silva the destination of the proceeds from the oil contract.

He added that it would have been wrong for him to query Ekpene and General Silva what they had discussed with Banda's son, Henry, at a meeting at State House.

Maj Kachingwe said he was not blank when he signed the oil contract on behalf of government.

He also told the court that he was not the apportioning authority to ask why only 20,000 barrels of crude oil was offered when the government had requested for 45,000 barrels.

Earlier when he was cross-examined by Sakwiba Sikota, Maj Kachingwe told the court that he was last in Nigeria from May 25 to 31 after the EFCC requested for him.

He said he was required by the EFCC to go and be interviewed in connection with the oil deal they were investigating in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Maj Kachingwe said the invitation to the EFCC was verbal and he was informed by investigation officer, Friday Tembo, that he was required there.

He said Tembo communicated to him a week before they travelled to Nigeria.

Maj Kachingwe said the application for a visa was done by the investigations officers.

Asked if it was Tembo who applied for his visa, Maj Kachingwe said he would not know but that his passport was picked by Tembo.

He said the air ticket was bought for him by the Zambian government and they also paid for his upkeep.

Maj Kachingwe told the court that he had already taken oath and was in the witness box when he travelled to Nigeria in the company of Tembo.

He said he used Ethiopian Airlines and was in business class while Tembo was in economy.

Maj Kachingwe said Tembo told him that the EFCC wanted him to interview him over the oil deal in order to get a version of his story.

Asked if this was the same period Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito went to Nigeria, Maj Kachingwe said he did not know.

"But he passed through our hotel, we just greeted, he came to see Mr Friday Tembo," he said.

Maj Kachingwe said at the EFCC, he was questioned about the oil deal and he explained it the way he testified in court.
He said the interview was for about two hours and he did not sign any statement.

Maj Kachingwe said he did not tell EFCC that the matter was in court.

He said the commission did not tell him who they were investigating in that country.

"They didn't tell me who was being investigated; they had their own reasons of questioning me. They said they were carrying out an investigation on the oil deal in the NNPC," said Maj Kachingwe.

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