The Nigerian police have charged ten persons accused of stealing N1.6 billion(about $10million) pension fund, belonging to the Oyo State Local Government Pension Board.
The accused were arraigned 25 February before a Chief Magistrates Court 4, Iyaganku, Ibadan, on a nine-count charge of conspiracy, abuse of office and stealing.
Mrs. Tijani Durosaro presided over the court.
The alleged thieves include Hakeem Muili, Alhaja Iyabo Giwa, Adeduntan Johnson, Oguntayo Banji, Adesina Jimoh, Johnson Bosede, Adebiyi Olasumbo, Kareem Rasheed, Muili Adedamola and Salewa Adedeji. They all pleaded not guilty.
After hearing their pleas, all the accused were ordered by Durosaro to be remanded in the Agodi prison custody due to their inability to perfect the bail conditions.
The prosecution team was led by the Attorney -General of Oyo State, Ojo Adebayo Esq., who led Mr. Ademola Ojekunle and Miss Olumide Ojo, both Senior Legal Officers of the Ministry of Justice, Oyo State.
Yinka Okunade Esq. appeared for all the accused persons, except the Second Accused person who was represented by O. Makinde Esq.
On the application of the Defence Counsel, each of the Accused Persons was admitted to bail in the sum of N2, 000,000:00 with two sureties in like sum.
According to the judge, each Surety is to have a Certificate of Local Government Origin, or a Certificate of Occupancy in respect of a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, or an account with any of the reputable banks in Oyo state, or Certificate of Business Registration.
The matter was thereafter adjourned to 19 March 2013 for trial.
In August last year, the Oyo State government uncovered a pension fraud in its Local Government Service Pensions Board totaling, at the initial stage, the sum of N2.6billion. The amount later skyrocketed to N6.4 billion, according to Chief Lasisi Ayankojo, Chairman of the board and the Local Government Service Commission.
According to him, the interim investigative report of the commission into the account of the board between September 2010 and March, 2011, which unearthed the fraud, had indicted ten civil servants who were allegedly involved in the scam.
Ayankojo said eight of the alleged perpetrators of the fraud were then being detained by the police while two of them had absconded.
He said that upon the receipt of the report of the committee, the board met Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who ordered that the board should get to the roots of the scam immediately.
Ayankojo disclosed that the board stumbled on the fraud following complaints by retired local government workers and teachers about the non-payment of their pension by government.
The committee set up by the board to probe the claims found out that monies were indeed collected by civil servant intermediaries working in the commission and never remitted to the pensioners.
Ayankojo said that the diverted pension money was siphoned via issuance of cheques to the affected civil servants in their own personal names, rather than through e-payment into the accounts of pensioners, a situation he said made the fraud to sail through easily.
Giving a detailed account of how the suspects allegedly stole the state money earmarked for pensioners, Ayankojo said the then Executive Secretary and Director, Finance and Administration of the board, between September, 2010 and November 2010 withdrew by cash the sum of N680, 430,646.69 from the Local Government Staff Account meant for pensioners, while these same two individuals withdrew the sum of N1, 353,868,062.60 from the Teachers Account of the board.
The Chairman said that the two officers of the board had at present absconded and all efforts made by the police to apprehend them had failed.
Ayankojo also said that the two officers of the board, alongside seven other top civil servants of the board equally collected N173.8 million from the pensioners’ accounts between September 2010 and March 2011.
He alleged that another staff of the account department of the board at various times within the period, personally withdrew the sum of N401, 300, 000 of the board’s money earmarked for pensioners.
According to Ayankojo, while the suspects were being interrogated by the police, they claimed that they cashed the cheques and then gave the cash to the Executive Secretary who is currently at large.
Ayankojo said that the state government had no option but to invite the police to get into the root of the matter, in conformity with the administration’s principle of due process and accountability