Criminal charges levelled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against the 40 people now being prosecuted over the pension scam show details of how the acts were committed
By the time the 40 suspects now on trial for allegedly misappropriating pension funds appear in court later in May, they will be required to explain why their names had to be associated with the findings of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. This is because the commission is confident that it will prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations against the accused persons standing trial over the mismanagement and looting of pension funds running into billions of naira. In the proof of evidence submitted to the federal high court, Abuja, the EFCC detailed the infractions committed by each suspect. Investigation into the pension scheme by the anti-graft agency started in 2010 when EFCC was invited by the Presidential Task Team on Pension to assist in the verification/biometric enrolment exercise of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF, pensioners.
The first breakthrough came when the investigators discovered that two mandates dated August 8, 2009 for N45,360,103.57 and N49,111,592.20 were paid to only 32 pensioners. The transactions appeared suspicious. Further investigation revealed that the individuals were not genuine pensioners. The fraudulent payments were found to have been made from OHCSF account No 210430000545801 with FinBank. It was discovered that several payments were made to several beneficiaries, while funds were transferred to other accounts of OHCSF with different banks. The banks were investigated further and they revealed that millions of naira was purportedly paid out under various sub-heads: pension arrears, collective allowances (payment to one person on behalf of several other beneficiaries), contracts and supplies, reimbursement to states, biometric enrolment and others. Several millions were also said to have been moved to other accounts of the OHSCF. It was found that OHCSF was operating 66 accounts in different banks.
The accountant-general of the federation, AGF, confirmed in a letter dated December 22, 2010 that only eight accounts were approved by his office for the OHCSF. Consequently, on January 4, 2011, Ibrahim Lamorde, EFCC chairman, then director of operations, signed another letter to the OHCSF. This time, they confirmed to EFCC that only 13 accounts were approved by the AGF via a letter dated 11 April, 2011 and signed by one Mohammed Dauda.
Accordingly, the anti-graft agency arrested the suspects from the OHCSF. The main suspects were: Sani Teidi, former director, pensions and accounts and one-time acting permanent secretary, establishment and pension, OHCSF, also one of the signatories to the OHCSF pension accounts; Phina Chidi, former deputy director, pensions and accounts, a signatory to the pension accounts; Aliyu Bello, former special assistant to the director of administration at the OHCSF; Abdul Mohamed, then assistant cash pay officer, pension department, OHCSF; Garba Tahir, cash officer of pension accounts, also a signatory to the pension accounts; Emmanuel Olanipekun, head, final accounts, OHCSF; and Mohammed Ahmed, former assistant director in charge of variation at the OHCSF, also a signatory to the pension accounts.
The EFCC is alleging that Bello defrauded the pension account through several human conduits. One of the alleged conduits is Haruna Maigida. From the document presented before the court, the commission is claiming that Maigida operated three bank accounts: Unity Bank account no. 258116492311010; Intercontinental account no.1008506805; and Zenith account no. 4019308212 in the name of Danjuma Bako Wasa. The commission also says that the three accounts had a total of N42,530,690.99 of pension arrears and gratuity fraudulently lodged in three instalments of N17,452,910.87, N7,783,891.68 and N17,293,888.44. Maigida was arrested in Sokoto. The EFCC says that the man claimed that Bello introduced him to the fraud and that a total of N25,236,802.55 was paid into his account out of which Bello paid him only a commission of five per cent.
That is not the only person the commission suspects might have collaborated with Bello. Another person who was investigated by the commission is Abdullahi Omeiza, a schoolteacher in Sokoto State. The EFCC is telling the court that the latter got paid into his UBA account No. 022-502500-02-6-73 the sum of N23,415,131.42 from the accounts of OHCSF supposedly for pension arrears and gratuity. The same Omeiza was allegedly found to have also operated 12 additional accounts under fictitious names. Bank statements obtained by the EFCC confirmed that he was paid a total of N191,794,312.51 through the 12 accounts. Omeiza was arrested in Sokoto. Like Maigida, he was said to have told the commission that he only received five per cent commission and that he handed over the rest to Bello.
The investigators established definite connection between Bello and Omeiza. For instance, on March 25, 2008, the sum of N500,000 was allegedly paid into Bello’s UBA personal account no. 01273942101152 from Omeiza’s UBA account no. 022-502500-02-6-73. On February 18, 2009, N1.6 million was again transferred to Bello’s account by Omeiza. He is said to have made another cash deposit of N500,000 into Bello’s Zenith account No.6223500219.
EFCC investigators also allege that Bello used Kabiru Labbo, yet another associate, to launder more of the pension money. On investigation, EFCC found that Labbo, suspected to be a ghost pensioner, was paid N9,757,801.86 through his UBA account no. 022-500200-08-9-24 and another N2,950,000 through Fidelity Bank supposedly “for pension arrears and gratuities.”
He was also arrested in Sokoto by EFCC. The commission is acting on the belief that the payments from the pension account remitted to Bello by his alleged allies were deposited into the Fafama Estate Developers’ Zenith Bank account no. 6213502032 and Fafama Oil and Gas Zenith Bank account no. 6213502576. The deposits were sometimes made in fictitious corporate names and individuals. The EFCC believes that the two companies are owned by Bello.
Similarly, investigations revealed that Sani Salihu, another associate of Bello, a businessman and contractor who had never worked for any government agency all his life, was allegedly paid N9,380,552.91 through his Zenith account no. 4016107132, fictitious pension and gratuity from OHCSF. It was also found that Salihu operated another account with Unity Bank account no. 4131159440/11010 under the name Mohammed Sani and got paid N12,508,495.48 as “pension and gratuity” from OHCSF. Five million naira out of that money was remitted to Fafama Estate Developers’ account with Zenith Bank.
In his statement to the commission on February 16, 2011, Salihu allegedly admitted that the funds were paid in by Bello and that most of the money was remitted back to Bello while in some cases the balance was used for the construction of an estate located at Bypass Road, Tamaje Area, Sokoto, for Bello. The investigators found that a sum of N46,820,000 was transferred from Fafama Estate Developers’ account to Salihu either through his personal account or that of the company called AMS Marketing & Sons Limited. Further investigation revealed that the sums of N10 million, N43.3 million and N5.1 million were transferred to Fafama Estate Developers’ account from Salimpa Ventures AfriBank account no. 2086303730612, Omaumali Ventures Zenith account no. 6213502098 and Sa’azab Global Nigeria Limited Union Bank account no.1731030000749 respectively. The EFCC confirmed that these companies belong to Abdul Mohammed who is also an accused in the case, and that N100.82 million was transferred from Fafama Estate Developers to Riba-ile Petroleum Limited’s account with Zenith Bank, a company belonging to Shaibu Sani Teidi, also an accused in the case. The investigators found that Fafama Estate Developers’ account had a turnover of N297.8 million and had a balance of N60 million in the account.
Other people suspected to have been used by Bello to launder the pension fund include Grace Francis who was paid N12.18 million in Oceanic Bank, N6.445 million in Diamond Bank and N4.557 million in Unity Bank as “collective allowances.” She was said to have confessed under interrogation that she remitted the fraudulent payments back to Bello. Luke Eloanyi was paid N7.025 million in Keystone Bank and N13.544 million in Zenith Bank for the same “collective allowances.” In his statement, Eloanyi confessed to have collected the money and handed it over to Bello.
Against this background, the EFCC moved in against Bello and ransacked all his accounts in different banks. It was found that at various times he was paid N6.8 million (Afribank); N9.277 million (Zenith); N13.5 million (Unity Bank); N3.55 million (PHB); N7.93 million (UBA); and N24.65 million (Intercontinental Bank) as collective allowances from OHCSF.
Bello was arrested by EFCC. He confessed to have committed the various offences as alleged. However, he revealed that he did it on the directives of Teidi, and that he in turn remitted the money to Teidi, either directly or through Riba-ile Petroleum Limited account. He also reportedly confessed to using various fictitious names to launder the money. According to the claim submitted to the court, Bello further admitted that he paid Ahmed Katun, another accused, a sum of N2 million as directed by Teidi. Ahmed is said to have confirmed the transactions. The anti-graft agency discovered that some of the mandates/payment instructions used in making the fraudulent payments were signed by Teidi, Ahmed, Hassan Aboh and Etu A. D.
Mohammed, the then assistant cash officer, pension department, on investigation was found to be the owner of Salimpa Ventures, Omaumali Ventures and Sa’azab Global Limited. He was arrested by EFCC. When his Abuja home was searched, investigators found items including four separate lists of 53 fictitious pensioners with their bank account details and a flash drive containing payment mandates/instructions that were used to make the alleged fraudulent payments, including payments to his companies, Salimpa Ventures and Sa’azab Global Limited.
Further investigation showed that N28.82 million was paid to Mohammed through his Guaranty Trust Bank account no. 381364075110 as collective allowance. Similarly, Salimpa Ventures and Sa’azab Global Limited were paid N31.34 million and N27.5 million respectively for fictitious “contracts and supplies” from OHCSF. Even more daring, Mohammed, still a serving civil servant, was paid another N9.865 million for “pension arrears” from OHCSF. The EFCC reports before the court also states that when Mohammed’s Zenith Bank domiciliary account no. 9213500312 was investigated, the sum of $26,000 was found in the account, which could not be accounted for.
In addition, Salimpa Ventures was discovered to have had a turnover of over N422 million, which Mohammed confessed was generated through payment made by fictitious pensioners. Mohammed is quoted in the report to have confirmed that the funds collected from all the ghost pensioners were remitted to Bello either personally or through Fafama Estate Developers for onward transmission to Teidi. Mohammed revealed that the cash remittances were made to Teidi through Lawal Abdullahi, Teidi’s driver.
Mohammed told investigators that he remitted N19 million to Riba-ile Petroleum account with Zenith from Omaumali Ventures on January 25, 2010, another N19 million was remitted on April 2, 2010 and two days later, another N19 million was paid into Smart Investment UBA account number no. 10116770857. United Bank for Africa reportedly confirmed to the commission the N38 million lodgement in Smart Investment’s account. Declan Okpala, whose picture and details appeared in the company’s mandate, told EFCC that all the payments made in and out of the account were controlled by Teidi who is the signatory to the account. According to him, his only involvement was to provide his details for the account-opening process.
During the execution of a search warrant in Mohammed’s house, one of the documents recovered showed analysis of stocks, which he confessed belonged to him and were purchased with the proceeds of the crime. Payments were traced from Salima Ventures accounts to Dominion Trust Limited, Mohammed’s stockbrokers, for the purchase of shares. Central Security Clearing System, CSCS, has a portfolio of shares worth N30 million. It was further discovered that some of the mandates used for these transactions were signed by Teidi, Ahmed, Chidi, Hassan Aboh and Garba Tahir, a lawyer.
Chidi, former deputy director, pensions finance account at the OHCSF and a signatory to pension accounts, is also standing trial for allegedly taking advantage of her office to enrich herself. She allegedly falsified documents at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, to register Ijez Global Resources Limited in the name of Ify Chidi. With this, she allegedly opened two accounts with Oceanic Bank in the name of Ijez Global Resources Limited with account nos. 0621101007221 and 3991101004712. She is said to have used a forged driving licence and picture on the mandate card in the name of Ify Chidi. The bank officer in charge of the accounts, Jibrin Idrisu, is reported to have confirmed to investigators that Phina Chidi was the operator of the accounts.
Further investigation revealed even deeper subterfuge. Chidi was found to have falsified more documents at the CAC with which she registered three additional companies in the name of Cecilia Maduagwuna Phina. Next, she opened another three company accounts and one individual account with Wema Bank in the name of Maduagwuna Cecilia using another forged driving licence with her photograph on the mandate cards. The Federal Road Safety Commission is said to have confirmed to the EFCC that the driving licences were forged.
Statements of bank accounts traced to Chidi showed that N32.6 million, N88.338 million, N80.233 million and N81.9 million were paid to Ijez Global Resources, Figure International Agency, Obiz Ventures and Cenco Enterprises respectively from the OHCSF for “contracts and supplies.”
Similarly, the sums of N777.785 million, N25.5 million and N27.546 million were allegedly invested in fixed deposits in the accounts of Figure International Agency, Obiz Ventures and Cenco Enterprises respectively. Three large transfers of N6.4 million, N47.2 million and N54.2 million were made from the account of Figure International Agency, Obiz Ventures and Cenco Enterprises account respectively to accounts believed to have belonged to Cecilia Maduagwuna. Other various sums totalling N80.551 million were also discovered in fixed deposit account of the same name.
These acts are said to have been committed through a number of people. One of them is said to be Boniface Jirbo, a branch manager of UBA, Maitama branch, Abuja, and the sole owner of Newgate Energy Limited, Redwings Energy Limited and Redwings Procurement Services Limited. Responses from various banks revealed that Newgate Energy Limited, Redwings Energy Limited and Redwings Procurement Services Limited were paid total sums of N81.024 million, N26.73 million and N39.016 million respectively from OHCSF for fictitious “contracts and supplies.”
Jirbo was arrested while several documents confirming his involvement were recovered in his premises by the EFCC. He was said to have confessed to remitting a sum of N146.771 million to Chidi through Pam Investment Properties account with UBA from the money paid into his companies. According to him, he received a commission of five per cent of the total sum, which amounted to N7,338,562.60.
Jirbo also allegedly confessed that he used two customers’ companies’ bank accounts to collect N115.525 million and N105.1 million respectively for fictitious contracts from OHCSF. Subsequently, the money was withdrawn and deposited in the account of Pam Investments and Properties. He confessed to have been Chidi’s agent in UBA and he was the one who sold her the idea of opening a dollar denominated domiciliary account for Pam Investments Limited to launder the stolen pension money.
The UBA confirmed officially to the investigators that Pam Investments has two accounts – current and domiciliary accounts. The current account had a turnover of N560 million while the domiciliary account had $2.15 million. In addition, N500 million and $2 million were found in fixed deposit in the two accounts.
Jirbo is said to have told investigators that Pam Investment Properties accounts were opened by Chidi, using an elderly lady’s passport photograph and that Chidi is the sole signatory to the accounts. Jirbo may have admitted making the lodgements into the various accounts by him and through fictitious names.
Further analysis of the account of Pam Investment revealed that N70.71 million was laundered through Cecilia Maduagwuna’s UBA account no. 032605201200047. Another N40 million was laundered through Iloabachile Thompson & Uche accounts with Zenith Bank.
Chidi who reportedly confessed to the allegations under interrogation allegedly admitted that she opened the Pam Investment Properties UBA accounts with the picture of her mother. The address of the company at Suite D104, Carter Plaza, Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja, was found to be false. Not only that, most of the payment instructions used in the transactions were signed from the OHCSF by Teidi, Chidi and Etu A. D.
Other persons who allegedly aided Chidi’s transactions were Ikenna Anoruo, manager of Zenith Bank, Durumi branch who mobilised several accounts belonging to his friends, wife and mother-in-law to collect millions from OHCSF as pension arrears and gratuity; Franklyn Okey Nwankwo, a former UBA/Unity Bank manager who was paid a total of N49.4 million using two accounts as “pension arrears and gratuity”; and Udusegbe Omoefe Eric, a former manager with Oceanic Bank who allegedly helped Teidi and Chidi launder a total of N1.988 billion through fictitious companies and ghost pensioners.
One of the signatories of the pension accounts, with Teidi, was the only person that endorsed payment instructions sent to banks for payment and who the banks confirmed payments from. All the suspected transactions revolved around him. Zenith Bank confirmed to the investigators that cash deposits and transfers totalling N100.820 million were traced to Riba-ile Petroleum’s account from Fafama Estate Developers’ account, Bello’s account, while N19 million was traced to Riba-ile Petroleum’s account from Omaumali Ventures, Mohammed’s company.
In addition, Riba-ile Petroleum was found to have a turnover of N1.540 billion in the account with several cash deposits, while the Riba-ile Petroleum filling station was not operational. So where was the money coming from? The passport photograph which appeared on the account-opening package of Riba-ile Petroleum bears the name Egbuna Attah but the photograph was found to be that of one Danjuma Yusuf. On interrogation, Yusuf denied ownership of the account, saying instead that Teidi used his passport to open the account. Ibrahim Sadeeq, the accounts officer of Riba-ile Petroleum, told investigators that the account was being managed by Teidi, who is said to have confirmed all the payments made in and out of the account.
When the account officer’s residence and office were searched, a register of accounts being managed by him and a letter written on Teidi’s personal letterhead requesting the bank to overdraw his account were recovered. The letter bears Egbuna Attah’s purported signature but carries Teidi’s name. The accounts officer told investigators that Teidi signed the letter in his presence. The chequebook of Riba-ile Petroleum was found in Teidi’s car and his driver is said to have confirmed it belonged to his boss.
It was further found that the sum of N117.430 million was collected from Riba-ile Petroleum account by Isah Abuh. Abuh was arrested and he confessed that the cheques were signed in his presence by Teidi. Another N35 million was paid to Muha Motors through AfriBank on April 3, 2009 from Riba-ile Petroleum Limited’s account. Mohammed Muhamud, owner of Muha Motors, on interrogation stated that the N35 million was paid to him by Teidi as part of payments he was to make to Anthony Azewaputa for the purpose of purchasing Brifina Hotel, located at Durumi, Abuja. He further revealed that Teidi paid him another N50 million on the same day through Muha Motors account with UBA, which he paid to Azewaputa. The anti-graft agency established the value of Brifina Hotel to be N399 million, the amount it was sold to Teidi. So far they have traced the sum of N359.25 million as payments from Teidi to Azewaputa through Mohammed. Teidi allegedly spent another N40 million on the renovation of the hotel.
Similarly, Teidi bought a house at Plot B59 Dawaki Extension Layout, Bwari Area Council, Abuja, at the cost of N26 million from Stanley Iwu. However, Teidi denied any knowledge of the accounts of Riba-ile Petroleum, Brifina Hotel, Suntrust Properties, or any of the companies traced to him. Teidi was also found to have bought M.R.S. Filling Station located at Idah, Kogi State.
Tahir is the cash officer of pension accounts at OHCSF, a chief accountant and one of the signatories to the accounts of OHCSF pension accounts. He too is alleged to have dipped his hand into pensioners’ lifeline. Investigation revealed that Tahir was paid N4.096 million, N4.096 million, N4.096 million and N962,500, totalling N13.250 million variously from the OHCSF purportedly for collective allowances. He is said to have confessed how he spent the largesse: N4.2 million was used to purchase a Toyota Land Cruiser and N5.3 million to purchase a Mercedes Benz 230c for Teidi. Abdullahi, Teidi’s driver, is said to have confirmed receiving the cars for his boss.
Katun, currently the zonal coordinator, North East Zonal office of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, was an assistant director in charge of variation in OHCSF and one of the signatories to the pension accounts. He allegedly collected N62.294 million for fictitious allowances from OHCSF, which he could not account for. The loot was distributed among several accounts in different banks. A total of N9.7 million was found in FCMB, N2.749 million in UBA and N30.350 million in Oceanic Bank.
Stanley Iwuoha, aka Uche, is a businessman and a contractor. He is believed to have been a front for Chidi and Teidi. His companies are said to have been used as conduit pipes, ferrying pensioners’ money into private pockets. Five of his companies were paid a total of N376.581 million from the pension fund. He allegedly salted away another N583.519 million to 10 other companies’ accounts belonging to his friends and associates. According to the charges, Iwuoha confessed to have submitted seven names and their account details to Chidi for “pension and gratuity” payment.
Olanipekun was the head, final accounts, OHCSF and also one of the signatories to the pension accounts. It was found that he was paid a total of N131.878 million as collective and other allowances. He allegedly laundered this in five different accounts in three banks – three in Intercontinental, one in GTB and one in First Bank. He was arrested, his house searched and several mandates worth N2.5 billion were recovered. Under interrogation, Olanipekun who allegedly confessed that he used proxies to collect N1.070 billion of the N2.5 billion, which he remitted to Chidi. He is also said to have claimed that he collected 10 per cent commission for services rendered.
The AGF confirmed that the OHCSF was not exempt from the extant financial regulations with respect to compliance with e-payment directives. This confirmed that all the payments made in respect to collective allowances to the individual staff of OHCSF were illegal, as all payments should have been made through the individual accounts of beneficiaries. The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges when they appeared in court in March, but lawyers on both sides will lead their clients to commence trial on the matter on May 28, 2012.