By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has docked three officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, for allegedly diverting $9.5million and N1.3million meant for the development of football in the country.
The anti-graft agency disclosed that the pilfered fund was part of grants that Nigeria receieved from the Federation of International Football Association, FIFA.
Those accused of complicity in the alleged financial crime were the Director of Finance at the NFF, Mr. Christopher Andekin, the Head of Finance and Accounts Department at the Glass House, Jafaru Mamza and a Cashier, Rajan Zaka.
According to the EFCC, the trio, conspired among themselves and sequential diverted the FIFA grant into a domiciliary account No. 5070407456, which they opened with Zenith Bank.
Investigations further revealed that they had since been sharing and using the looted funds for their personal use.
The agency said it found out that the defendants allegedly commenced the illicit deal since January 2015.
However, the three defendants who were eventually arraigned on Thursday after an earlier failed attempt, pleaded innocence to a five-count criminal charge the EFCC preferred against them.
Charges against them bordered on criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds contrary to Sections 97 and 311 of the Penal Code.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. Steve Odiase, told the court that whereas the 1st defendant, Andekin, fraudulently diverted N1.3m from the NFF domiciliary account, the Cashier, Zaka, siphoned $7.2 million from the FIFA grant, while Mamza diverted $2.3m.
Shortly after the defendants took their plea, they begged the court to allow them on bail pending their trial.
Counsel to the defendants, Mr. Arinze Egbo, drew attention of the court to the fact that his clients were previously on administrative bail from the EFCC.
He said they would be available to face their trial if granted bail by the court.
Following a no objection from the EFCC, trial Justice Peter Affen sustained the administrative bail earlier granted to the defendants by the prosecuting agency.
Besides, the court ordered that the defendants must each produce a surety who must sign a bond with the registrar of the court to the tune of N5m.
The court further seized their international passports and warned them not to travel out of jurisdiction without permission.
The case was subsequently adjourned till November 27 for trial.
Some of the charges against the defendants, read: “That you, Christopher Andekin, being the Director of Admin and Finance of the Nigeria Football Federation on or about 8th day of January to 26th day of January 2015 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja while being entrusted with dominion over money meant for the development of football in Nigeria, a grant from the Federation of International Football Association to NFF fraudulently, diverted the sum of N1,353,407.22 from the NFF domiciliary account No. 5070407456 with the Zenith Bank into your personal use and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 311 of the Penal Code Cap 532 LFN 1990 and punishable under Section 312 of the same Code.”
“That you, Rajan Zaka, being a cashier with the Nigeria Football Federation in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja while being entrusted with dominion over money meant for the development of football in Nigeria, a grant from the Federation of International Football Association to NFF fraudulently, diverted the sum of $6,490,900.48 from the NFF domiciliary account No. 5070407456 with the Zenith Bank into your personal use and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 311 of the Penal Code Cap 532 LFN 1990 and punishable under Section 312 of the same Code.”