25 April 2013

Zambia: Former State House Chief of Staff Testifies on Banda Case

FORMER Chief of Staff at State House Austin Sichinga has told a magistrate's court that former President Rupiah Banda delivered a letter in which he was requesting for 45,000 barrels of crude oil to his Nigerian counterpart at the time, Umaru Musa Yar'adua.

Mr Sichinga said at one time Banda called him to his office and asked him to edit the letter which the accused delivered himself.

In the office, Mr Sichinga found one Zambian and two Nigerians.

He was testifying yesterday in a matter in which Banda is facing one count of abuse of authority of office regarding the procurement of oil from a Nigerian company involving US$2.5 million.

The former Head of State is appearing before chief resident magistrate Joshua Banda.

He said the request letter was in two parts; one part regarding the request of 45,000 barrels sweet crude oil, while the other was inviting that country to start trading in Zambia in minerals including copper.

He said he confirmed that Banda delivered the letter dated November 28, 2008 himself because there was a follow up letter which was written by a different person in which the then President was asking for a response.

"The letter I drafted was for public transaction. I saw another letter in the blotters and when I opened it, I discovered that it was dated May 22, 2009 and was a follow up to the earlier one, this simply confirmed that Mr Banda delivered it himself," Mr Sichinga said.

He said he had never discussed anything with Banda over the Nigerian oil deal but on several occasions he and others discussed how the country could source cheaper oil from other countries.

Mr Sichinga was asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mutembo Nchito if he had heard of a Nigerian man, Mr Osigwe, to which he responded in the affirmative.

He said the man was introduced to him by Banda.

"I had travelled with the President to one of the United Nations conferences. He called me and asked me to meet four people, one Zambian and three Nigerians.

"He asked me to exchange contacts and I came to know that the three were Osigwe brothers who were invited to invest in Zambia without specifying what investment," he said.

Earlier, former Zambian High Commissioner to Nigeria Alexis Luhila in cross-examination said he did not know what Major Richard Kachingwe was carrying after meeting the two Nigerians at Nigerian National Oil Petroleum Company.

Mr Luhila said Maj Kachingwe was at some point Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria but never worked with him.

Trial continues today.

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