Many Nigerians feel the nation’s foremost anti-corruption agency is, after all these years, not doing enough. What’s been cooking behind the curtains at the EFCC?
Arguably at the top of the list of corruption cases being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are those in the pension administration of retired civil servants in the country, checks by Daily Trust revealed. With several ongoing corruption cases in different courts across the country, sources in the anti-graft commission revealed that the top cases include the aforementioned pension scam fraud in the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the now-infamous oil subsidy scam and the Central Bank of Nigeria currency scam. Others are scams involving biometric data and a former Head of the Federal Civil Service, Steve Oronsanya and corruption charges level against former governor of Jigawa State Sule Lamido, as well as Adamawa State’s ex-governor Murtala Nyako.
Also listed is the ongoing corruption case against former governor and gubernatorial aspirant in Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, and ongoing investigation of alleged fleecing of public funds by former Governor of Kebbi State Saidu Dakingari and Martins Elechi of Ebonyi State. Another on-going probe that is considered top priority by insiders is the ongoing one involving stolen funds at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
EFCC is currently prosecuting two separate cases of pension scam in Federal High Courts in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); the Police Pension Scam and the Head of Service of the Federation Biometric Data exercise scam. In March 2011, ten suspects from the office of the civil service of the federation were arraigned alongside 30 companies on 134-count charges for allegedly defrauding the Pensions Account, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, over N30 billion.
The cases against the accused persons has gone through several court process over the years with amended charges and delays in the justice system, hence most of the charges filed in courts has not been concluded,Our reporter learnt.
At the last hearing of a related matter, EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said the EFCC, on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 arraigned four persons before Justice Abubakar Talba of the Federal High Court, Gudu, Abuja, on a 29-count charge bordering on conspiracy, and collecting by false pretence. The four accused persons Ibrahim Ahmed Mazangari, Muhammed Sani Sulaiman, Hajia Fatima Mazangari and Saleh Yerima Tsojon, are alleged to have obtained N1.2 billion from the Federal Government by false pretence and with intent to defraud.
They are accused of purporting same to be monthly pension payable to M. S. Suleiman, Saleh Yerima Tsojon, Isah U. Adamu, Daniel Mikano, and Abdulahi Garba Musa who were falsely held out as pensioners of the Federal Government, by inserting their names in the pensioners’ payroll.
The accused persons, who were offered a biometric contract by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, to regularize names of pensioners on the pensions’ payroll, allegedly smuggled in names of fake pensioners, and collected unearned pension.
While fixing November 2 and 3, 2015 for trial to begin, Justice Talba ordered that the accused persons be remanded in prison custody, pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions.
In another pension fraud case, N20.8 billion fraud allegation filed by the EFCC against Esai Dangabar, former Director of the Police Pension Board, who is standing trial alongside Atiku Kigo, Inuwa Wada, Mrs Uzoma Attang, Mrs Veronica Onyegbula and Sani Zira is still pending. The accused persons are standing trial on a 20-count charge bordering on stealing and criminal breach of trust, these cases are still ongoing, Uwujaren said.
Meanwhile In December 2013, the EFCC said it discovered that Steve Oronsaye, a former Head of Service, and other top directors of the civil service allegedly conspired to defraud the country of N6.2 billion pension fund.
The Money was alleged to have been stolen through complex contracts for biometric enrolment and payment for computer accessories that were never supplied.
According to sources, Oronsanya, while Head of Service between 2009 and 2010, entered into the fake contracts that awarded N6 billion in bogus services.
According to Uwujaren, Oronsanye was arraigned on 15 July 2015 at the Federal High Court Abuja, while the case was adjourned for hearing to the 21st October 2015, the case has been sent to the Chief Judge for reassessment base on the allegation of bias.
Oil subsidy fraud
Outrage over the alleged oil subsidy fraud perpetrated by oil marketers pushed the EFCC to commence several probes which led to recent arraignments of individuals and entities in courts across the country, an EFCC disclosed to Our reporter
The EFCC, on Thursday July 26th, 2012 docked some of the 20 suspects billed for trial over the fuel subsidy scam before Justices Habeeb Abiru and Adeniyi Onibganjo of the Lagos High Court.
While Mr. Abdulahi Alao and Axenergy Limited were docked before Justice Abiru over a N2.6billion scam, seven others were separately arraigned before Justice Onigbanjo.
Alao, the managing director of Axenergy Limited was docked on a seven-count charge bordering on conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences contrary to Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
The accused, with his company Axenergy Limited, allegedly obtained the sum of N2,640,141,707.75 (Two billion, six hundred and forty million; one hundred and forty one thousand; seven hundred and seven Naira, seventy five Kobo only) being payments obtained from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 33.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
The these cases which are still pending in court are part of cases being prosecuted in what is described as an ongoing investigation into the oil subsidy regime, Uwujaren noted that the investigation would be extensive and several more subsidy scammers will be arraigned in court soon.
The EFCC also said Justice Nathaniel Ayo Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, sitting in Ibadan, on 15th June, 2015 dismissed the bail application brought by six former staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The accused persons: Patience Okoro Eye, Afolabi Olufemi Johnson, Ilori Adekunle Sunday Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Muniru Adeola and Fatai Adedokun Yusuf, are being prosecuted by the EFCC for over N8billion mutilated currency “recycling” fraud.
Justice Emmanuel in dismissing their application for bail said the interest of the accused must not only be considered while looking at their application but that of the common man and the society. He said the court was refusing the accused persons bail because of the gravity of the offence which borders on the economy and well being of the people of the country.
Justice Emmanuel dismissed their application and ordered for accelerated hearing. He also warned counsel that he would not entertain frivolous applications.
The accused persons were arraigned June 2, 2015 on 28-count charge bordering on fraud and stealing. Specifically, the former apex bank employees are alleged to have compromised the CBN’s Briquetting exercise, meant to combat the inflationary spiral in the economy, occasioned by excess dirty notes. Justice Emmanuel adjourned the matter till July 6 and 7 for trial.
In a similar development, Justice Emmanuel also dismissed the bail application brought by three former staff of CBN and two staff of Sterling Bank.
Former governors on trial
Many former governors are also being prosecuted for financial crime offenses committed while they held sway as chief executives of their respective states, although many of these cases are still pending in courts.
The EFCC recently commenced fresh trials of some former governors. According to Uwujaren, on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 the EFCC arraigned former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, his two sons Aminu Sule Lamido and Mustapha Sule Lamido, Aminu Wada Abubakar and Batholomew Darlington Agoha. He said they were docked before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 27-count amended charge bordering on corruption and money laundering.
One of the charges read: “That you Alhaji Sule Lamido (while being Governor of Jigawa State, Nigeria), Aminu Sule Lamido, Mustapha Sule Lamido, Bamaina Holdings Limited, Bamaina Company Nigeria Limited, and Speeds International Limited between 15th October and 18th December, 2008 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did convert an aggregate sum of N124,649,915 paid by Dantata and Sawoe Construction Company Nigeria Limited into the account of Speeds International Limited. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges. Justice Adeniyi Ademola, thereafter, adjourned till October 21 and 22 for trial.
Also on Wednesday July 9, EFCC made a string of simultaneous arraignment of four governors, their sons and other accomplices on charges of diversion of public fund.
The EFCC arraigned a former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako, his son Abdulaziz and two aides: Zulkifkk Abba and Abubakar Aliyu before a Federal High Court in Abuja on charges of embezzlement of state funds.
The EFCC also arraigned a former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, on a three-count charge in a different court on conspiracy and money laundering; the next adjourned date for trail is the 28th of September at the Federal High court in Abuja.
Another former governor recently arraigned is Timipre Silver of Bayelsa State who is being prosecuted for alleged conspiracy, Abuse of Office and Money Laundering. He was arraigned on 25th June 2015 at a Federal High Court in Abuja; no definite date has been set for resumption of trial. Also being investigated is former governor of Kebbi State Saidu Dakingari.
According to sources in the commission Dakingari was supposed to report at the Abuja head office of the commission earlier this week but sent his lawyer with the excuse of visiting his wife who is sick and being treated abroad.
The EFCC had on Monday March 18, 2013 arraigned the former governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu alongside a former Director General of the Directorate of Rural Development in his administration, Alfa Ibn Mustapha before Justice A.O. Adeniyi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
They were arraigned on a 36-count charges bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N10,965,837,040 (ten billion, nine hundred and sixty-five thousand, eighty hundred and thirty seven naira, forty kobo).
A top official at the EFCC decried the slow pace of the case, noting that the commission has already called three of four witnesses and is close to its final addresses on the matter. He pointed out that if the matter is not concluded before elections in Kogi State, Abubakar Audu may escape justice and hide under the immunity clause if he wins the election.
Ineffective EFCC probes
However, a source with a divergent view noted that EFCC probes were defective in the selective constitution of its probe committee’s setup and the processes used. It noted that: “the probes are ineffective and never result in anything advantageous and that’s me being honest, because I have never seen or heard any reasonable outcome to be celebrated as a result of an EFCC probe.”
The source continued: “I would say Tafa Balogun’s and Bode George’s were good cases that were conclusive but not extensive in my opinion because if they were, more heads should have rolled. The pension thieves and subsidy cases should top the list, but they seem to have become secret cases of sorts, which no-one is following up on anymore.”