Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
How govt officials, security agents, family members, banks stole N17 billion pension cash
ALLEGED STOLEN CASH
*Award of fictitious contracts to cronies – N5.7 b
*Payment to ghost pensioners – N830 million
*Allowances for non-existing trips – N1.365 b
*Purported payment to state pensions boards – N4.1 b
*Purported payment to NUP – N2.29 b
*Purported payment to FG retirees – N253.3 million
Consequent upon the scandal trailing the re-appearance in the federal civil service of the wanted ex-chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, PTFPR, Abdulrasheed Maina, details of his alleged monumental looting of the funds left at his disposal by the federal government have begun to emerge – at a time when he remains in hiding.
Documents at the disposal of Sunday Vanguard, show that Maina, allegedly working in concert with top government officials and close family members allegedly caused the disappearance of a whopping N17 billion out of the N24 billion cash which the federal government set aside for the payment of pension liabilities to its workers nationwide.
The looting was actively perpetrated in conjunction with key officials of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Inspector General of Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and related Offences Commission, ICPC, the Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and key commercial banks in the country, between 2008 and 2013. All these before the coming of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency.
In many cases the presiding Head of Service, the Inspector General of Police, DG Budget and heads of EFCC and ICPC, allegedly benefitted under the guise of embarking on phantom biometric verification exercises.
Documents from where Sunday Vanguard pieced together this web of fraud show that while Maina allegedly used commercial banks and family members and bureaux de change to launder N2.7 billion, he, in the same breath allegedly connived with other top officials of federal government agencies connected to pension management to steal another N14.374 billion between 2008 and 2013, based on allegations.
How Jonathan’s FG boxed itself into the fraud ring
Abdulrasheed Maina, the then an acting director with the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Office, CIPPO, was appointed as the Chairman of the Presidential Pension Reforms Task Team, PPTT, by then Head of Service, Stephen Oronsanye, with a mandate to reform the pension system and clear the arrears of pensions owed government retirees.
As at the time, the sum of N24 billion had already been set aside by the federal government in various banks for the PRTT to use and pay the retirees, most of whom have suffered and died in the process of getting their pensions and gratuities without success.
But after getting into the office and seeing the huge sums of money at his disposal, Maina, working in league with senior officials of government, appeared to have had a change of mind: It was that change of objective that led to the massive looting.
Therefore, the angst against his re-appointment into the civil service and subsequent promotion is against the background of the humongous litany of allegations arising from his actions during the Jonathan administration. That is why Nigerians are asking what went wrong? And since these discoveries were already being pursued via litigation, how did Maina sneak back into service?
Modus operandi of stealing:
A breakdown of the amount established to have been stolen and laundered using the following modus operandi from 2008 to 2013.
*Award of fictitious contracts to cronies – N5,761,150,608.44
*Payment to ghost pensioners – N829, 902,260.40
*Allowances for non-existing trips – N1, 365,821,942.91
*Purported payment to state pensions boards – N4, 192,825,310.99
*Purported payment to NUP – N2,290,593,322.35
* Association Of Federal Public Service Retirees (AFPSR) – N253,390,300
TOTAL N14, 374,236,846.09
Fictitious Pensioners: This method ensures that ‘selected and trusted’ officials in the Office of the Head of Civil Service scout for fictitious pensioners and ask them to open several accounts using different aliases and documents (as pensioners) and the money received from the Pension office (as pension arrears) will be deposited into the fraudulent accounts. The account owner would then withdraw the money and give it to the person who instructed him to open the account and a commission given to the former out of the funds received.
The use of Collective allowance: This fraudulent tactic, which allegedly became very handy under Maina and the OHCSF, saw a situation whereby a Director would approve payment of purported staff of the Office to one single individual. After the payment is made, the person whose account was used will withdraw 90% and hand over cash to the Director or whoever was responsible for the payment.
Fictitious Contracts that were awarded at inflated prices to both registered & non registered companies: Here, key officials of the HoCSF allegedly authorised by the Director, ask their Staff and friends to register companies with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in which payments were made for contracts that were never executed; some contracts partly executed though grossly inflated, and such payments diverted to the suspects.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that it was based on this discovery that the EFCC initially charged the former Hos, Stephen Oronsanye, Abdulrasheed A. Maina, Director of Finance and Account, Dr. Sani Shuaibu Teidi; Mrs. Phina Ukamaka Chidi, Deputy Director; Aliyu Bello, Special Assistant to Director of Administration; Olanipekun Emmanuel, Head of Final Account; Abdul Mohammed, Assistant Cash Pay Officer; Garbo Tahir, Cashier; and M.K. Ahmed, Assistant Director, Variation; all in the OHCSF, to court for fraud.
In addition, the EFCC also pressed charges against two other bankers namely: Franklin Nwankwo and Eric D. Omoefe, along with the government officials for their roles in assisting them to launder the fund. Also, one Abdullahi Omeiza, was charged for his role in operating 13 pension accounts in 13 different Banks with 13 different names.
Based on the same discovery, the anti-graft agency also charged Alhaji Ali Abatcha and Elder Actor Zal, former President and Secretary General of the Nigerian Union Pensioners, for conniving with Dr. Shuaibu to steal pension funds.
How Maina allegedly used banks, family members, associates to launder N2.7 b
A major report prepared by the EFCC to the Attorney General’s Office, for the Director of Public Prosecution with a view to prosecuting Maina and his associates indicates a shocking web of alleged fraudulent elements within and outside government, who connived with the suspect to loot at least N2.7 billion out of the pension fund.
According to the report, sighted by Sunday Vanguard, Maina allegedly used no fewer than five of his personal companies to perpetrate the laundering of the huge cash from the public treasury.
The report alleges, “Investigation revealed that Mr. Maina fictitiously owned and operate the following accounts with a bank : Cluster Logistics, Drew Investment & Construction Ltd, Kongolo Dynamics Cleaning Ltd, “Dr” AbduUahi A. Faizal, Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu and Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina,
“That Analysis of the above listed accounts revealed a total turnover of more than N2.7 billion. It is important to note that 95% of deposits into the fraudulent accounts were cash deposits made by bankers in their own names and other fictitious names.
“Investigation revealed that Mr. Maina fraudulently opened and
fictitiously operated all the accounts with the active connivance of the staff of the Private Banking Department of a bank, namely Danjuma Zubairu, Toyin Meseke (Account Officer to some of the accounts investigated), Khalid Ali Biu (Maina’s relation) andAbubakar Gombe (Account officer of one of the accounts investigated) in Kaduna Branch.
“Forensic analysis of Toyin Meseke telephone handsets revealed several text messages and email correspondences regarding specific instructions on running the accounts from Abdulrasheed
“Investigation revealed that Danjuma Zubairu (Group head of Private Banking) mostly approved those transactions via telephone and email instructions from Maina.
The report further alleges: “That Toyin Meseke bought the sum of ($200,000) equivalent of N33,800,000 from one Bashir Mohammed Taura a bureau de Change and instructed him to facilitate the delivery of same money to Abdulrasheed Maina in Dubai, U.A.E on 05/05/2014
“ Toyin Meseke also bought another sum of $250,000) equivalent of N42,500,000) from one Bashir Mohammed Taura a bureau de Change operator and instructed him to facilitate the delivery of same money to Abdulrasheed Maina in Dubai U.A.E on 05/06/2014
“That Toyin Meseke facilitated the transfer of the total sum of N33,105,000 to ALNASRA BDC & JIEK BDC on behalf of Abdulrasheed Maina from Cluster Logistics account for the purpose of buying U.S.
Dollar on 10/03/2014
“That Toyin Meseke also facilitated the part liquidation of Maina’s fix deposit of N100,850,000 and subsequent transfer to Neural wax BDC on 07/07/2015 for buying U.S. Dollars on behalf Abdulrasheed Maina and delivered same to one Mairo Bashir (Maina’s relation) of a bank with branch in Maitama in Abuja.
“That the total sum N26.5 million was paid to Federal Housing Authority from Kongolo Dynamics Ltd and a balance of N4.4 Million was paid to Alhaji Tijjani Yusuf between 20/10/08 & 19/11/08 for the purpose of buying a property located at No.12, 11th Road Kado Estate Abuja owned by Abdulrasheed Maina.
“That four Bank drafts totaling N30 miliion was issued same day (15/03/2010) in favour of one Titus Adeboye from Kongolo Dynamics Ltd account. Mr Adeboye confirmed that the fund traced to him was for the purpose of acquiring a property for Mr. Maina (block of shops) located at C2 Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna.
“That Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina bought another property located at No.l0 Amisi Musa Street, Jabi Abuja FCT from one Alhaji Adamu Modibbo and paid the sum of $2 m cash, equivalent of Three N 340 million in June 2012.
“Finally investigation has established that all the accounts are linked to Mr. Maina either through his phone number, email address or transactions between the accounts and testimonies of the account officers/ bankers involved in this complex money laundering scheme. A total number of eight GSM lines have been traced by the EFCC as the ones used by Maina to give instructions to banks, cronies and associates to launder the huge amount under investigation.
The numbers were listed by the anti-graft agency as 08098887733, 08037872471, 08142277550, 07037900714, 08106842813, 08091501002, +971552717234 and +971526294678.
“Furthermore investigation also confirmed that the source of funds into the accounts could only be from those fictitious contracts and other bogus payments from government, particularly OHCSF Pension department and CIPPO where Maina superintended at various times between 2008 and 2013, as no known existing and viable business was identified as source of funds into the account and the account officers confirmed same.
“It is also pertinent to note that the Special Audit conducted by the Auditor General of the federation also confirmed those violations investigated by the commission,” the agency concluded.
Other entities, individuals and proxies allegedly used by Maina to loot the treasury
Before his elevation by the then Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Stephen Oronsanye, to the post of the chairman of the PRTT, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina was the Acting Director Customs immigration and prison pension board (CIPPO) since 2008.
Once on the saddle, Mr. Maina came up with a novel idea of carrying out a nationwide and global Biometric enrollment exercise for pensioners on federal government payroll. This, the report alleges, was no more than a grand scheme to defraud.
Some other persons, companies and officers were, thereafter, engaged by the office of the HoS to work with Maina, having bought his idea of biometric verification of pensioners within and outside Nigeria, a scheme that was effectively used to deplete the N24 billion cash set aside by the federal government to settle outstanding pensions of its retirees.
The EFCC report alleges: “Mr. Oronsanye and Maina engaged the
services of the following individuals to assist them in looting pension funds.
Osarenkhoe Afe: (charged to court together with Mr. Maina & Oronsaye):
He is an IT consultant who introduced Innovative Solutions to the OHCSF for biometric enrolment project. He stated that, Mr. Steven Oronsanye [former Head of Service) asked him to join the Pension Reform Committee headed by Mr. Abudulrasheed Maina.
Robert Ikaziboh:(Prosecution witness) He is the CEO of Innovative Solutions & Projects Ltd. a company invited by OHCSF to offer services regarding biometric enrolment exercise. He stated that he was brought into the project by Osa Afe. He also stated that Mr. Afe verbally instructed him to work with 2 other companies namely Uptrach and Frederick Hamilton.
Ahmed Mazangari: (Already charged to court)
He is the owner of Xangees Technologies Ltd, an Information Technology consultancy firm and a friend of Maina’s brother, Khalid Biu. He was ‘engaged’ by the OHCSF through Maina based on ‘word of mouth’. He was tasked with the job of computerizing the pension payroll but in the process ironically ended up inserting his own 11 fake pensioners and was used by Maina to receive N153 million for non-existing biometric contract which was withdrawn and handed over to Maina in cash after converting same to Dollars through his brother, Khalid. Ahmed, his mother and company are presently standing trial. He stole N230 million as ghost pensioners’ payment from the OHCSF (including the biometric contract).
During the course of EFCC investigation, the following emerged, as alleged:
“That Mr. Osarenkhoe Afe (Osa Afe), the owner of Fredrick Hamilton Global Ltd introduced Innovative Solutions to the OHCSF where they were awarded the contract of biometric data capture.
“That the initial contract sum was N63 million as indicated in the award letter which was paid to Innovative Solution. However, Innovative Solution requested for a contract extension of the sum of N136 million which brings the total contract sum to N199 million (both initial and additional amount).
“That from the analysis of Innovative Solution’s bank statement, it was discovered that the total sum of N224.85million was fraudulently paid to them showing an excess payment of 25million against N199 million. Mr.
Osa Afe confessed that, the contract sum was inflated at the instance of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina and the inflated amount delivered to him.
“That Robert Ikaziboh was discovered to have transferred the total sum of N166.5million from his company Innovative Solution’s account to Frederick Hamilton Ltd, a company owned by Osarenkhoe Afe.
“ A transfer of N35million was discovered from Innovative Solution to Uptrach Communication Ltd after which Robert Ikazobo confirmed the payment as amount paid to the company that actually executed the contract of the bio metric exercise.
“That Osarenkhoe Afe was also discovered to have been paid the sum of N l19.4 million as biometric enrollment exercise through his company Fredrick. Hamilton. Investigation revealed that the company has no contract award letter from OHCSF nor did it carry out any contract.
“That including the amount remitted to Fredrick Hamilton from Innovative solution, Fredrick Hamilton Ltd was discovered to have been fraudulently credited with the total sum of N 289.05 million out of which Mr. Osarehkhoe Afe confessed to have remitted over N250 million to Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina. Mr. OSA AFE admitted to have benefited N35million only and promised to refund same.
“Mr. Osa Afe confessed that, he issued blank cheques from his Skye Bank
Account no. 1341770007353 to Mr. Maina which he used for making the withdrawals and sometimes he goes with Maina to Oceanic Bank to make the withdrawals and hand them over to him instantly. This has been confirmed by Oceanic Bank Fredrick Hamilton Ltd account Officer.
“That one Salami Kareem Adesokan a storekeeper attached to the PRTT confessed that the total sum of N147,765,400.00 fraudulently paid through various banks from OHCSF to three different companies namely Fatidek ventures, Jolance and Oblando Nigeria Ltd for fictitious Biometric contract were collected cash by him and delivered same to Mr. Maino through one Ann Igwe (Maina’s confidential secretary).
“ That the total sum of N153,146,719 fraudulently paid to XangeTechnologies Limitd from OHCSF for fictitious Biometric contract was transferred to a Bureau de change, converted to U.S. Dollars and then delivered to Mr. Maina through his relative, one Khalid Ali Biu.
How Maina shared pension funds to top FG officials for non-existing biometic verification trips
*Who got what and why
In the report marked CR: 3000/EFCC/ABJ/FAFI/VOL.1/238 and dated August 1, 2016, and signed by the EFCC, which was signed by the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, the commission alleged how top government officials fell over one another to benefit from fraudulent baits allegedly offered them by Maina under the guise of travelling abroad to conduct biometric verification of Nigerian pensioners.
In one of the most shameful cases, Maina approved the sum of N36 million for the purpose of the PRTT to travel to New York for the purpose of carrying out biometric verification of pensioners in the United States.
But curiously, some top government officials received N3, 286,000 each for the trip which was never undertaken. Similarly, on the same list were the names of a Director, who got N2, 838,000 for the phantom trip, another Director General, who was paid N4,854,000, followed by a Director and Assistant Director under him, who also got N2,895,000 and N2,045,000 respectively for the fake trip.
Shortly after that, the same PRTT approved the sharing of another sum of N23 million this time to top government officials for the purpose of travelling to the United Kingdom for the purpose of undertaking biometric verification of pensioners.
Following on the heels of that, Maina also approved the sharing of another sum of N40.6 million to ‘lucky’ top officials to ‘travel to Atlanta in the United States and conduct their own phase of verification of Nigerian pensioners.
For that purpose, a former HoS got N4,854,000, a former top official of the EFCC got N4,854,000, a former Permanent Secretary, State House received N4,086,000, another N2,738,000 was paid to another top official of the EFCC, while three operatives of the commission got N1,482,960 and N2,638,000 respectively. A staff of the NIA received N 2,638,000 for the trip.
The same tactic was used by Maina and his cronies to send teams to ‘South Africa, ‘Ghana’, ‘36 states’ of the federation, ‘zonal levels’ and others to siphon different sums of public funds into their banks accounts in the name of biometric verification.
On the purported trip for verification of pensioners in South Africa, the sum of N18.4million was released by Maina and paid to top government officials, among whom was the Director General of budget, who got N3,056,000 .
The sum of N9.1 million was expended as estacode for those who ‘went for verification in Ghana’ out of which a Director of Intelligence was paid the sum of N1,388,000 through his First Bank account while two female staff of EFCC got N1,275,000 each as part of the national cake.
And to capture police pensioners across the states, the sum of N160,471,200 was released and shared to the lucky beneficiaries by Maina.
Similarly, for the capturing of biometric data of retirees, Maina shared the sum of N15,477,900 to those who were lucky enough to be selected to go round the six geo-political zones of the country after such data had been captured on state by state basis.
The above were all alleged in the report presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions and would be used to prosecute government’s case when, eventually, Maina appears in court.