Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rupiah benefitted from oil deal - Ekpene
By Mwala Kalaluka
Wed 14 Aug. 2013, 14:01 CAT

NIGERIA'S SARB Energy managing director Akpan Ekpene says he hopes Rupiah Banda's son, Henry, will also speak the truth over the government-to-government crude oil deal over which his father is facing abuse of office charges.

And Lusaka chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda yesterday warned the Daily Nation newspaper over its unprofessional and sensational coverage of Rupiah Banda's Nigerian oil contract-related court proceedings.

Meanwhile, magistrate Banda yesterday guided Banda's defence team to confine themselves to the specific charge of abuse of authority of office that is before him as they cross-examined prosecution witnesses.

This is a matter where Banda, 76, of plot number 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.

During continued cross-examination by one of Banda's lawyers, Prof Patrick Mvunga, yesterday morning, Ekpene said his first impression of Henry after his father beckoned him to join them in a meeting they had at State House in 2011, was that of an intelligent person.

This was after he was asked whether he knew Henry properly.

"I felt he was somebody of my generation," Ekpene said. "Somebody intelligent who went to good schools…He looked like somebody to have as a brother."
He said his testimony over the Nigerian oil deal and the State House meeting could be described as his word against Henry's.
"I will just state what happened and even His Excellency knows what happened and I will hope Henry will state what happened," Ekpene said.

"I will hope he will tell the truth like I am doing."

Ekpene said the crude oil was only lifted after Rupiah Banda left office.

During an earlier cross-examination by defence lawyer, Sakwiba Sikota, Ekpene said he did not know the Osigwe brothers and their purported links to the Nigerian government-to-government Zambian crude oil contract.

Ekpene said the meeting with Henry where they worked out how they were going to ensure the transfer of the campaign funds that Rupiah Banda had requested for took place at State House.

When asked in re-examination by Director of Public Prosecutions DPP Mutembo Nchito whether he gave Rupiah Banda monies he had requested for as a staunch supporter of the MMD, Ekpene said Banda had asked for an advance payment out of the proceedings from the Nigerian crude oil deal.

"It was a down payment based on the anticipated proceedings," Ekpene said. "I had just explained to His Excellency what the proceeds would be after we started lifting the oil."

Ekpene said some benefit accrued to Banda from the oil transaction.

"His Excellency requested an advance payment. So he benefitted," he said.

On the US$260,000 that he gave Banda during the 2008 presidential election campaign, Ekpene said Maj Richard Kachingwe had insisted that he should support the then acting president as he would give them the oil contract to manage.

Further asked if he was testifying against Banda on the basis of malice or hate, Ekpene said he had nothing against Banda.

"I sincerely wish he had won the election," said Ekpene before he broke down, and the hearing briefly adjourned. "I was saying that I had no hatred against His Excellency. I sincerely wish he had won the election because if he had won the election, I would not be standing here and he would not be sitting there. I hold him in the highest esteem. He believed in me."

Ekpene said the US$2.5 million deposit was SARB Energy's money, which it paid on behalf of the Republic of Zambia.

Nchito, who disclosed that there were not more than four prosecution witnesses remaining, then concluded his re-examination and magistrate Banda told Ekpene that he could leave.

And earlier, Nchito raised concern over the manner in which the Daily Nation covered Monday's proceedings on the Nigerian oil deal court case, especially that they drew conclusions and further took a picture of a witness from inside the courtroom.

"This newspaper has a problem respecting the law and the sanctity of court proceedings. I will consider bringing formal charges and I apply that this paper be barred from covering court proceeding," said Nchito.

Magistrate Banda in his ruling agreed that the taking of a picture of a witness in court contravened section 117 of the Penal Code.

Magistrate Banda said even though it was clear that the Daily Nation had acted unprofessionally and irresponsibly, he would not bar the newspaper from the proceedings as that would be appear to be stifling the media.

"Journalists must be responsible enough not to draw conclusions as that is the duty of the court," said magistrate Banda. "I will warn, in particular the Daily Nation, to report responsibly."

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