How FIRS topshot diverted public funds to Surestart private school – Witness

A prosecution witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ijeoma Maltida, has revealed how the Head of the Stakeholders Unit, Federal Inland Revenue Services, Emmanuella-Eteta Ita, siphoned and diverted large sums of money meant for stakeholders’ assignments to the account of her private school, Surestart School Limited.

The spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, revealed the development of the court proceeding in a statement on Monday.

Oyewale said, “A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the Head of Stakeholders Unit of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, Emmanuella Eteta Ita, on Monday, March 18, 2024, told Justice Giwa Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, how Ita siphoned and diverted large sums of money meant for stakeholders’ assignments to her private school, Surestart School Limited..

“Ita ran Surestart School Limited while serving as the Head of the Stakeholders Unit of the FIRS.

“The witness, Ijeoma Maltida, while giving her testimony during a cross-examination by defence counsel, Paul Erokoro, revealed that the first defendant, Ita, undertook some stakeholders’ assignments and the funds meant for the projects were traced into her account with the payment narration.

“Investigations showed that the same funds were sent directly into the account of the second defendant, Surestart School Limited.”

Quoting the witness, Oyewale noted, “When she came to our office, we took her statement, we were cordial with her, and she was treated very well with utmost respect. While she was with us for reconciliation, she started bringing documents, and she also opted to pay back for some reconciliation she could not account for.

“She said in her statement that she would pay back the money, I don’t know where she got the money from, and so far, she has refunded about N17 million, though she told us that she benefited about N5 million from the programme,.

“I don’t know the standard practice of sourcing for funds before asking for reimbursement, and it is not within the scope of our investigation. All I know is that she undertook some of the stakeholders’ events, and we saw that those monies that came from FIRS went directly into the account of the second defendant, and the description was that the assignment was not done.”

Matilda continued, “She said the vendors that were supposed to do the events had given their evidence in court and testified that the receipts didn’t come from them. She further claimed that those receipts were given to her by one Daniel, who was a staff of FIRS.

“We were told he was late, and we demanded the death certificate which was given to us. We requested his account details, and we discovered he was also a beneficiary. We wrote to FIRS, UBA, System Spec, and invited everyone involved in this matter, and everything we have here is a result of our investigations.”

Oyewale noted that after the cross-examination, Justice Ogunbanjo adjourned the matter till March 20 and 21, 2024, for continuation of cross-examination.

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