Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Konga testifies against Rupiah
By Mwala Kalaluka
Thu 15 Aug. 2013, 14:00 CAT

KENNETH Konga yesterday testified against Rupiah Banda in a case where the former president is facing abuse of authority of office charges related to a government-to-government Nigerian crude oil deal.

This is a matter where Banda, 76 of Plot No. 2758, off Leopards Hill Road, Lusaka is facing abuse of authority of office charges in relation to the alleged illegal procurement of oil from Nigeria to the tune of US$2.5 million whose proceeds allegedly went into an offshore account.

Konga, who is former energy minister and MMD member of parliament for Chavuma, testified before a packed courtroom presided over by Lusaka chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda that they were in dire need of the Nigerian oil and as such did everything to ensure that the deal worked out.

"I accompanied RB when he went to Nigeria on a state visit," he said.

Konga said Banda, Zambia's president between 2008 and 2011, during the state visit met with his Nigerian counterpart where they discussed issues of Zambia getting crude oil from Nigeria.

"After this meeting, I was authorised by RB that I should follow up the issue," Konga said. "I was instructed to follow up formally with a letter to the Minister of Petroleum."

Konga said he took the request letter to the Nigerian petroleum minister as Banda had directed.

He said the Nigerian petroleum minister pledged that he would respond to the letter but that he waited for three days in that country without any response reaching him.

"I wrote another letter. I requested to leave Nigeria…and so I suggested that Maj Kachingwe follows up the oil deal," he said.

Konga said further that at the time he was in Nigeria, he did not have his office stationery with him and he asked for a soft copy of the ministerial letter-head to be sent to him via email from Lusaka.

He said the officers he was with used the emailed letter-head to write the letters in question.

"This is the letter I wrote because my signature is there. I think this is the letter I wrote requesting for oil," Konga said after Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito asked him to identify a document.

"Yes, also this is the letter I did write to the Minister of Petroleum, that Maj Kachingwe be the person they should deal with after I have left."

Konga said nothing happened around the oil deal for sometime but that the following year when he was intent on travelling to Nigeria on a private visit, Banda asked him to follow up on the issue when he went to seek permission from him.

He said it became apparent that getting through to the Nigerian decision-makers would be difficult and that Maj Kachingwe informed him that there were some Nigerian gentlemen who could facilitate the resolution of the oil for Zambia.

"Maj Kachingwe introduced them to me as Mr Akpan," Konga said. "I recall Mr Akpan who was introduced by Maj Kachingwe said that they could help our country to fast-track the request which Zambia had made."

Konga said he first met Akpan Ekpene during Banda's state visit to Nigeria.

"Maj Kachingwe indicated that although I had designated him to be the person to follow up on Zambia's request for oil, Mr Akpan would help fast-track the resolution of the request," he said.

Konga said he came back to Zambia but that he had to go back to Nigeria on a private visit and that as usual he went to seek authority from Banda.

"During the seeking of authority, he requested that I should find out the progress of Zambia's request for oil from Nigeria," Konga said.

"When I got to Nigeria, I contacted Mr Akpan again because, you recall, I said he was the person who could fast-track for Zambia. I contacted him to find out what the progress was."

Konga said there was no positive response that he could bring to Banda.

"If I recall, it was during the MMD Convention that was in Kabwe when again Maj Kachingwe came to tell me that he had heard that Zambia's request for fuel from Nigeria was granted," he said. "I was actually thrilled. I felt thrilled."

Konga said he was thrilled because Maj Kachingwe was somebody reliable.
"I informed His Excellency about it," he said.

Konga said he gave Ekpene the authority to act as an agent on behalf of Zambia over the Nigerian oil deal after he sought authority from Banda.

"Genuinely we wanted to get fuel that could help the country.
Therefore, when we made this request from the Nigerian authorities, there was need to follow up," Konga said.

"I had to seek His Excellency's authority because this man Akpan…he needed to have an authority with the Zambian government, which is what I discussed with His Excellency to see that he is given."

Konga said a document was raised and signed for Ekpene but that he has since forgotten what it was called.

"We were in dire need of fuel, so we had to do everything to make sure that this oil deal with Nigeria works so that the country benefits. So I consulted the president and said, 'Akpan wants authority…the president told me that 'okay, you can go ahead and give him the authority.'"

Konga also identified a letter that Banda wrote to his Nigerian counterpart requesting 45,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which he said could have been one of the documents that were seized from his residence by law enforcement officers.

"I am here because of the search by the government agencies in December 2011," he said. "Very few people have experienced a search. It is very traumatising, to say the least."

Nchito then concluded leading Konga in evidence-in-chief and the matter was adjourned to October 21 for continuation of trial after Banda's lawyers indicated that they needed some time before they could cross-examine Konga.

After Konga finished his testimony, he followed Banda as he left the accused dock, greeted him and they walked out of the courtroom together.

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