A Federal High Court in Abuja heard Tuesday how huge sums belonging to pensioners were allegedly diverted by former Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF), Stephen Oronsaye and former Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina through phoney contracts.
An operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rouqayya Ibrahim said pension funds were allegedly diverted by the duo through various companies.
Rouqayya spoke Tuesday while testifying as a prosecution witness in the trial of Orosaye, the Managing Director of Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, Osarenkhoe Afe and the company on a 24-count charge bordering on stealing and obtaining money by false pretence.
They are alleged to have been involved in several contract awards during Oronsaye’s tenure as HOS.
The prosecution alleged the fraud, involving about N2 billion, was allegedly perpetrated using firms like Cluster Logistic Limited, Kongolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, Drew Investment and Construction Company Limited, and Xangee Technologies Limited.
Led in evidence by lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Rouqayya said in the course of investigations, the EFCC requested for payment mandate from the office of the Head of Service (HOS).
She said: “We analysed the mandate, obtained necessary information like bank account numbers, and then requested for the account statements from the banks,” she said.
She stated that the analysis revealed a company, Xangee Technologies Limited, which she noted, was already being tried before Justice Abubakar Talba of the High Court of thr Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Gudu, for alleged pension fraud.
The witness said: “We discovered that the company received payment of more than N183 million for biometric enrolment, but there was no biometric contract executed by the company, instead the money was withdrawn cash, converted to US dollars and handed over to Abdulrasheed Maina, through his brother, Khalid Biu,”
She added that three other companies – Mofshad Ventures, Mofshad Limited and Kombosko Nigeria Limited, received more than N400 million for non-existent contracts.
The witness said: “We discovered that the three companies were associated with one Emmanuel Olanipekun, who is also currently standing trial, and one Chidi, also standing trial, and the monies were withdrawn in cash with part of it given to Mr. Oronsaye.”
She said investigation of the pension account in Union Bank showed that there was a letter, instructing that the money be transferred to another pension account.
“We saw another letter on it, on which there was a minute and instruction from Mr. Oronsaye, to transfer about N113 million to a Unity Bank account belonging to the State House, which we discovered he was the sole-signatory.
“As at the time the transfer was made in 2010, Mr. Oronsaye had ceased to be the Principal Secretary in the State House and had become the Head of Service. We discovered that the monies were withdrawn through cheques, but all efforts to get the person to whom they were issued to, was unsuccessful, and Mr. Oronsaye could not explain the reason for the disbursement,” the witness said.
Rouqayya further investigation of such suspicious transfers led investigators to discover six accounts in Fidelity Bank in the name of Faizal Abdullahi, Mafisa Abdullahi, Kongolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, Drew Investment and Construction Company Limited, and Cluster Logistic Limited.
She said: “There was also another account in the name of Abdulrasheed Maina, and his brother, Biu, a staff of the bank, who opened the accounts and was the accounts officer.” She added that after Biu resigned from the bank, Toyin Meseke, a staff of the bank took over as the account officer.
The witness said: “We invited him for an interview and discovered that all the accounts were operated by Abdulrasheed Maina, even though his name, picture and signature were not anywhere in the opening account packages.”
She said Maina operated the account mainly through text messages and emails, as “instructions regarding payment or withdrawal were sent to Meseke by text or email”.
Rouqayya said forensic analysis of Meseke’s phone was carried out, which revealed how funds were fraudulently diverted from the account. She added: “The account officer will, after receiving instruction from Maina, convert the money to US dollars and deliver same to him in Dubai.”
According to her, Maina, a former Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms remained at large. She said Maina never showed up in the course of investigations, and deserted his known residence.
The witness, who said investigations showed that Maina paid cash of $2 million to buy a house in Jabi, told the court that apart from the Interpol notice issued for Maina’s arrest, “we are still doing all we can, but yet to get hold of him.”
Earlier, Jacobs tendered three statements made to EFCC’s investigators by Oronsaye, during the course of investigations. The statements were identified by Ibrahim and were admitted in evidence by the court when defence lawyers, Joe Agi (for Oronsaye) and Oluwole Aladedoye (for Afe and his company) failed to object.
In reaction to complaint by Aladedoye that the EFCC was sponsoring media publications meant to prejudice the trial, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole warned the EFCC to desist from such practice.
The judge said he read some of the publications handed to the court by Aladedoye and found that the information were ascribed to the EFCC. He said that was the second time such incident would happen in the cases being prosecuted in his court by the EFCC.
The judge warned that should such occur the third time, he would not hesitate to hands off the case and return the file to the court’s Chief judge to allow the EFCC try its cases and secure conviction through the media.
Justice Kolawole said it was wrong for the EFCC to release documents, in relation to a case pending in court, to the media, even when such documents were yet to be tendered in court.
He said he was not against the media covering court’s proceedings, but was not comfortable where publications are made to prejudice pending proceedings.
Justice Kolawole adjourned to December 5, 2017 for continuation of the judicial trial.