By Dayo Johnson
AKURE — LUCK ran out on five senior civil servants in Ondo State as they were nabbed for allegedly defrauding the Ondo State Government to the tune of over N200m tax fund.
The officials allegedly diverted funds meant for the coffers of the state into their private pockets.
In fact, one of the suspects was said to have worked in one of the state government revenue offices for over 22 years and has been involved in a similar crime.
Upon investigation, the culprit was transferred to another office as punishment only to press buttons and was returned to allegedly continue the illicit business of defrauding government.
Vanguard was informed that the suspects, who included Mrs Abiodun Oluwatoyin, Ojo Ayodeji, Omoyajowo David, Solomon Issac, Tuki Femi and Ayede John Orimisan, were suspended by the state government before they were handed over to police.
Findings showed that the suspects worked in the Ministry of Finance, Internal Revenue and State Information Technology Agency, SITA.
The cartel, according to police findings, always issue fake income tax clearance, drivers’ licence certificate, and fake road worthiness certificate to innocent members of the public.
They usually diverted the proceeds to a private bank account and shared amongst themselves.
A top civil servant, who confided in Vanguard, said that the fraud in the government civil service was alarming, adding that those behind it are in the top echelon using the junior ones as foot soldiers.
The source said: “Hardly will you get to any ministry that you would not find civil servants with itching fingers fiddling with government funds. They see it as a national cake to be shared.
“The most affected are the revenue departments and parastaltals where people in lower cadres feed fat and live big by defrauding government. They have a cartel there that cannot be broken.
“Those recently caught and suspended might have stepped on toes of the godfathers or may have played a fast one on the proceeds that ought to have gone into the general pool to be shared by all.”
How suspects were arrested—Police
Speaking with Vanguard, spokesperson of the Ondo State Police Command, Mr. Femi Joseph said: “One of the suspects is not staff of Ondo State Government, but was recruited to be an accomplice in the criminal act. His bank account is used to receive victims’ payments for the issuance of fake tax income clearance and other fake documents in the name of Ondo State Government.
“One of the suspects specialises in forging the exact signature of the Chairman of Board of Internal Revenue and issuance of fake documents to defraud unsuspecting innocent people of the state.
“The success recorded in this case was made possible because of collaborative efforts of the police and the state government and I can assure you that the suspects would soon be charged to court.
“We are using this medium to warn those who are in the habit of defrauding innocent people, to desist from such act or be ready to face the full weight of the law.”
Joseph said the suspects were arrested by the combined effort of the Police Scorpion Detectives and State Government Task Force led by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale.
Another of the suspects was also discovered not to be a genuine staff of Board of Internal Revenue, but was fraudulently recruited.
It was later discovered that the other suspects used his bank account to lodge huge sums of money they allegedly defrauded from their victims in the state.
An aide to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Dr Odebowale said: “The fraud was detected through intelligence sharing between the state government task force in conjunction with the Police Scorpion Special Squad. One of the victims was learned to have worked for 22 years in one particular office and had been involved in a similar crime for which she was investigated.
“The same person was understood to have returned to that same office after she had been arrested, investigated and released in the past; she must be using some connections to cover up her alleged criminality just as he said the state government is running a transparent government devoid of any sharp practices.”
Upon interrogation, one of the suspects, Mrs Abiodun Oluwatoyin denied any complicity in the alleged fraud.
Oluwatoyin while exonerating herself, said: “I issue tax income clearance collected from Board of Internal Revenue and could not identify which certificates or receipts are fake.”
Oluwatoyin said the state government lied against them noting that “all the money made in their different agencies and ministry passed through the state coffers.”
“It is unfortunate that after being suspended and investigated by the state government, in line with civil service rule, we were still brought to the Police Command for parade”, she lamented.
Another suspect, Omoyajowo David, who works in the Department of Information Technology denied issuing any fake document to anybody as being alleged when he was in the internal revenue office.
However, their accomplice, Ayadi Orimisan, opened the can of worms when he confessed that he was “contracted by the civil servants to help them divert the fund meant for the State Government to his personal account.”
Orimisan said he helped the suspects in issuing tax documents which included fake receipts, road worthiness for vehicles and licences to unsuspecting people.
There’s zero tolerance to corruption—Ondo govt
Reacting on behalf of the governor, his Chief Press Secretary Segun Ajiboye said the governor has zero tolerance for corrupt practices and was out to install financial discipline in the state civil service.
Ajiboye added that the present administration was out to block all revenue leakages.