N3bn fraud: Court begins trial of ex-Customs chief, Bridget Okafor

N3bn fraud: Court begins trial of ex-Customs chief, Bridget Okafor
Bridget Okafor. PHOTO CREDIT: PMNews

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned a former Assistant Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Bridget Okafor, before a Federal high court sitting in Abuja for alleged N3 billion fraud and mismanagement of office.

In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Tony Orilade, on Tuesday, EFCC said Mrs Okafor was charged before Justice Venchak Gaba of the FCT High Court, Kwali, on 13 counts bordering on abuse of office.

According to one of the charges, Okafor, who was in charge of the Customs Finance and Revenue Department, sometimes in 2015 at its Abuja headquarters, allegedly awarded a N90 million contract to a company, Erman Global Energy Engineering Nigeria Limited, a company in which her children are directors.

The EFCC said her action was an offence punishable under section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.

According to the EFCC statement, the defendant pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

It said the counsel for the EFCC, Francis Jirbo, thereafter, asked the court for a date for the commencement of trial, in order to enable the prosecution to present its witnesses.

The defence counsel, Efut Okoi, however, informed the court of a pending application before the court seeking bail for the defendant.

Arguing the application for bail, Okoi, said, “The defendant has never been arraigned before any court for any alleged offence throughout her 35 years of service and she was also granted bail by the prosecution. She is a mother and a wife, hence she cannot jump bail.”

Okoi prayed the court to grant the defendant bail on liberal terms.

Responding, Jirbo, said he had no case to challenge the affidavit, as “she has been on bail by the commission and she always honours the Commission’s invitation”. 

Justice Gaba, thereafter, admitted her to bail in the sum of N5 million, with two sureties in like sum, who must be within the jurisdiction of the court, and who must be civil servants not below the Grade Level 14. 

She was also ordered to submit her international passport to the court registrar.