A multi-million naira fraud is currently rocking the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Staff Cooperative Multipurpose Society Limited, Lagos.
The money was alleged to have been siphoned during the tenure of the immediate past president of the society, Mr Joseph Adeleke Ojeyemi, who handed over the leadership on November 4, 2015, after the completion of his two terms in office.
The matter, which is being investigated by the Lagos State office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), witnessed the arrest of Ojeyemi.
His arrest followed a petition by concerned members of the society which led to a serious audit of the cooperative society’s accounts.
The petition reads: “As President of the Society, Ojeyemi engaged in series of activities that were tantamount to share embezzlement of the Society’s fund and investment.”
The petition alleged diversion of funds and society’s assets by Ojeyemi.
He was also alleged to have collected N90 million loans from the society.
On December 20, 2016, the Society had its annual general meeting, which held at Regency Hall, Ikeja, during which it was revealed that the society recorded a loss of N720m in 2015.
The president, Mr. Akin Akinrera, during his speech, presented the loss, while it was revealed that the Society owed members over N800m.
At the AGM, some members alleged that the president had been shielding Ojeyemi because they are close friends.
It was also alleged that Ojeyemi was instrumental to the emergence of the new President, thus the lackadaisical attitude to the idea of prosecuting Ojeyemi.
A member ,who asked not to be identified, said: “Ojeyemi has crippled the Society so much that there are no funds to pay members. We heard that some staff members may be sacked due to lack of funds, can you imagine? He should refund our money!”
According to the external auditors, Abdullahi Bin Suleiman and Co, Chartered Accounts, (ABS), total amounts estimated to have been embezzled under Ojeyemi’s watch is N508, 909, 388.80.
The ABS, which carried out a forensic audit of the society’s books, stated in its report that “these figures may change as more revelations and investigations are made. We have seen funds transferred between the Society and some related companies, individuals receiving funds and the Society making payments to organisations and inflated prices of goods and services and made payments to companies with limited or no trading history and very large cash withdrawals from the Society’s bank account by Mr. Ojeyemi and some other individuals.”
The report also stated that there are several investments and assets of the society worth million of naira, which were not handed over by Ojeyemi.
ABS argued that further specific detailed work was needed to support the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies in investigating these matters, even, where required, across international jurisdiction.
The reports added: “In this regard, we encourage the society to continue to support and sustain the oversight and thus to support ongoing investigations in order to ensure convictions and, if possible, reparations or recoveries. The absence of effective internal audit and control mechanisms in the Society had also facilitated the impunity that took place during the years 2011-2015. For example, there were no complete monthly bank reconciliations to expose errors or irregularities in the bank accounts.”
ABS, after its forensic auditing, suggested that the society should petition the EFCC to invite Ojeyemi and others for interrogation and prosecution.
It was gathered that during ABS investigations, Ojeyemi kicked against invitation of external auditors to audit the Society’s account. He also argued that whenever he did, was in accordance with the bye-laws of the Society.
When asked about his over N90m loan profile, he responded that the loan profile was wrong. He noted that whatever was happening to him presently was politically generated.
When Ojeyemi was arrested by the EFCC on December 17, there was wild jubilation among some members.
But some of those members are now grumbling that since the arrest of Ojeyemi, there has been a silence of graveyard from EFCC. They alleged that EFCC might be shielding Ojeyemi, with the idea of sweeping the matter under the carpet.
One of them said: “Since his arrest, everything had been quite. We don’t even know what is happening. We thought that by now, Ojeyemi would be making a plea bargaining deal to return some of our money. We don’t understand what is going on in the EFCC.”
The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the case. He said Ojeyemi had been arrested and was still in the EFCC custody.
He added: “Ojeyemi is currently in our custody. We’re not shielding him. We’re on the matter. Hundreds of cases are brought to the EFCC and the cases had to be checked, to know those the EFCC will accept or reject. After accepting the case, it had to be assigned to a team. It should be noted that the team also had other cases they are investigating. People expect that immediately they report a matter to the EFCC, other cases would be dropped to focus on theirs. It’s not like that! People want everything to be quick and over with; but it takes time to do these things. We’ve arrested the prime suspect and he’s in our custody. The society had confidence in the EFCC, which was why the matter was reported to the Commission. The Society should allow the Commission to do its work. They shouldn’t make insinuations.”