By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has revealed before a Federal High Court in Abuja, how N12 billion was paid to ghost pensioners between 2008 and 2010.
The anti-graft agency, through a proof of evidence it entered before the high court, yesterday, maintained that the alleged scam was masterminded by a former Director of the Pensions Department in Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, OHCSF, Dr Sani Teidi Shuaibu, and four others.
According to the EFCC, the four other persons in the alleged fraud were a former Deputy Director, Pensions Finance and Account at the Office of the Head of Service, who it said was a signatory to pension accounts; Mrs Phina Ukamaka Chidi, an ex-Assistant Director in-charge of variation; Mr Mohammed Katun Ahmed, the cash officer of pensions accounts; Mr Garba Abdullahi Tahir and the Head Final Accounts at the OHCSF, Mr. Emmanuel Aderemi Olanipekun.
Besides identifying multiple bank accounts operated by each of the accused persons, the EFCC equally listed the names of 25 companies it said were used to defraud the Federal Government within three years.
It alleged that the accused persons conspired by false pretence and with intent to defraud, obtained from the pensions department, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation of Nigeria, various sums of money at varying periods, and transferred same to several bank accounts opened with fictitious names.
It stressed that though the names on the said bank accounts were fake, the various accounts were opened with the passport photographs of the accused persons.
Each of them were said to have operated more than 10 bank accounts, with some of them having more than four separate accounts in one bank.
According to a 25-count criminal charge preferred against the accused persons, their offence is contrary to section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.
In his testimony before the trial court, an operative of the EFCC and team leader of pension fraud investigation, Mr Aliyu Habibu Adamu, said the agency was in 2010, invited by the Presidential Task Team on Pension to assist in the verification/biometric enrollment exercise of the OHCSF pensioners.
He said: “As a result of that exercise several ghost pensioners were discovered. In the course of investigation, two payment mandates dated 31/8/2009 for N45,360,103.57 and N49,111,592.20 were discovered to have been paid to only 32 numbers of people which seemed suspicious.
“Based on that, letters were written to relevant banks to furnish us with a certified true copy of the statements of account, account opening mandates and other relevant information of suspicious pensioners. The banks replied on various dates where it revealed that the individuals were not genuine pensioners.
“I raised a sub-investigation team from my team which was briefed on the facts of the case and they were sent to various locations in Nigeria to interview and where necessary arrest the suspects. The fraudulent payments were made from the OHCSF.”
Meanwhile, presiding Justice Adamu Bello, yesterday, fixed June 25 for all the accused persons to appear in court for trial.
Some of the companies allegedly used to perpetuate the fraud were named as Zumba Resources, Lopee Ventures, Gozinda Enterprises, Bashinta Nigeria Ltd, Obista Enterprises, Shallo Well Ventures, Redwing Energy Limited, Figure International Agency, Newgate Projects Limited, among others.