Five former senior civil servants of the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs have been arraigned by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission over an allegation that they stole over N670m belonging to the Federal Government.
They were arraigned before Justice Huseini Baba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday.
They included a former Director in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and Nasarawa State Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the 2015 governorship election, Mohammed Agabi; ex-Deputy Director in the ministry, Akpore Okeroghene; a former Director and Agabi’s successor, Abibu Ayinla; ex-Deputy Director, Idowu Adewale, and a former Deputy Director, Ntu Ngozi.
The accused were arraigned on 47 counts which included stealing and fraudulently receiving money stolen from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and converting such to their own use.
Agabi, Okereoghene, Ayinla, Adewale and Ngozi were listed as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th accused persons respectively.
The offences which contravened Section 13 are punishable under Section 68 of the Corrupt Practices Act 2000.
While charges one to 22 were read to Agabi, counts 23-27 applied to the 2nd accused person only.
Similarly, counts 28-38 were read to the 3rd accused person only while counts 39 and 40 were for the 4th accused person.
But counts 41, 42a, 42b, 43 and 44 were read to the 5th accused person only.
While count 45 is for four of the accused persons: 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th, count 46 was for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5rh accused persons.
When the charges were read to them, they all pleaded not guilty.
The counsel for the accused persons, including Rotimi Ojo and Anthony Ekuma, filed separate applications for their bails.
The ICPC prosecuting counsel and the commission’s Chief Legal Officer, Mr. Paul Bassi, did not oppose their bail applications.
Justice Baba granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N10m each with one surety each who must be at least a Deputy Director in any Federal Ministry in Abuja.
They must also submit their international passport.
He adjourned the case till October 7 for the commencement of trial.
The ICP had, a few weeks ago, started a clampdown on very wealthy civil servants suspected to own properties that their incomes cannot justify.
The commission had seized landed properties that belonged to three officers of the Niger Delta Ministry because they were “excessive of their” emoluments.
The commission had also explained that the properties were seized in pursuant to Section 45 (4) a – b of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000.
The ICPC had, among others, said, “Whereas the commission is investigating a matter involving some officials of the Niger Delta ministry, wherein certain movable and immovable properties owned by the said staff are in issue. And whereas the commission is of the opinion based on the aforementioned investigation that these movable and immovable properties owned by these people who are staff of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs are excessive, having regard to their present emoluments and all other relevant circumstances.
“The commission, hereby, notifies the entire public that all movable and immovable properties owned by these officials and listed hereunder are seized.”