- As NDDC contractors abscond with N70bn –Auditor
Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered that former Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, and one F.O. Alayebami, facing N676 million money laundering fraud charges, be remanded in Kuje Prisons. They are to remain in prison custody till Wednesday, March 2nd, will be heard.
The judge, however, ordered that former Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs. Anastasia Nwobia, who is a nursing mother, should continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted her by Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions, EFCC.
Justice Chikere gave the order after Moro and the three accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 11-count charge, bordering on obtaining money by false pretences, procurement fraud and money laundering, preferred against them by EFCC. Moro was arraigned alongside Nwobia, Alayebami and Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited, while another suspect, Mahmood Ahmadu, is said to be at large.
The accused persons were alleged to have contravened the Public Procurement Act No. 65 of 2007 in contract awards by not following the necessary procedure laid down by government. According to EFCC, the award of Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, recruitment contract to Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited had no prior advertisement and assessment, while a procurement plan was not carried out. The anti-graft agency added that there was no budgetary provision for the recruitment exercise in the 2014 federal budget; hence, applicants were made to bear the responsibility of funding the project without the approval of the board, contrary to section 22(5) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission Act, 2000.
Parts of the charges read: “That you Abba Moro Patrick, Anastsia Daniel Nwobia, F.O Alayebami, Mahmood Ahmadu (at large) and Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd. on or about the 17th of March, 2013 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court with the intent to defraud, conspired to induce a total number of 676,675 Nigerian job applicants seeking employment with Nigerian Immigration Service to deliver property to wit: cumulative sum of N675,675,000, which sum money represents the N1,000 per applicant under false pretence that the money represents e-payment for their online recruitment exercise into the NIS and which pretence you knew was false contrary to section 8 &1(1) (b) and punishable under section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, No 14 of 2006.
“That you Abba Moro Patrick, Anastsia Daniel Nwobia, F.O Alayebami, Mahmood Ahmadu (at large) and Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd. on or about the 30th of April, 2013 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did award contract for the provision of online enlistment and recruitment services to Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited without advertising the contract contrary to section 25(1) and punishable under section 58 of the Public Procurement Act, No 65 of 2007. “That you Abba Moro Patrick, Anastsia Daniel Nwobia, F.O Alayebami, Mahmood Ahmadu (at large) and Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd. on or about the 30th of April, 2013 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did award contract for the provision of online enlistment and recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Immigration Services to Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited without advertising the contract contrary to section 45(2) and punishable under section 58(5) of the Public Procurement Act.65 of the 2007 and punishable under section 58 of the same Act.
“That you Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd. and Mahmood Ahmadu (at large) on or about the 17th of March, 2015 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court converted the sum of N202,500,000, part of the sum of N675,675,000, obtained from the 675,675 Nigerian job applicants seeking employment with the Nigerian Immigration Service to buy property at No.1 Lahn Crescent, Maitama, Abuja which you reasonably ought to have known that such funds form part of the proceeds of the unlawful activities and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 (2) of the money laundering provision Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
It would be recalled that the conduct of the recruitment test in March, 2014, led to the death of no fewer than 20 applicants, while many others were injured in stampedes in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Minna. Meanwhile, EFCC, yesterday, told Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that it had moved former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd), to Lagos State for investigation in connection to fresh allegations linking him with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Management Agency, NIMASA, scam.
The anti-graft agency was responding to an application filed by counsel to Badeh, Mr. Samuel Zibiri, SAN, asking the court to grant him bail on self-recognition or on such favourable and liberal terms as the court might deem fit. The application was brought pursuant to section 35 (4) of the 1999 Constitution and sections 158, 162 and 165 (1) (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. Justice Tsoho has fixed March 4, 2016 to deliver his ruling on the application.
Earlier, Zibiri in moving the application submitted that his client voluntarily went to EFCC office in honour of its invitation on February 8, 2016 and was subsequently detained after several hours of interrogation and being compelled to write a bulky statement. He added that his client had been in the custody of EFCC since then.
Zibiri further submitted that the alleged case, which his client was invited, was ordinarily bailable, adding that there was no reason for, or any likelihood that his client would jump bail, escape from justice, interfere with witnesses or investigation upon his being granted bail. But in opposing the application, counsel to EFCC, Cosmos Ugwu, said the court sitting in Abuja had no territorial jurisdiction to grant the application since Badeh was in the custody of the Commission in Lagos.
He also informed the court that the applicant was being investigated on a fresh allegation linking him to the NIMASA scam and had been moved to Lagos. He submitted further that Badeh was yet to fulfil the terms of his administrative bail which the Commission granted him after his initial detention. It would be recalled that EFCC had over the weekend moved Mr. Badeh from Abuja to Lagos.
Reports have it that the decision to move the former Chief of Defence Staff to Lagos was motivated by a belief that he owned properties in the area. A source told our correspondent that the commission was trying to trace some of the properties.
“We are trying to trace houses that belong to some of the military chiefs. Apart from checking their bank accounts, we want to find out if part of the money for arms procurement was spent on those houses. “Based on the outcome of our investigations, Badeh may be charged to a Lagos High Court instead of Abuja,” the source said. Badeh, who is being investigated in connection with the $2.1 billion arms deal scandal was said to have been confronted with some documents, including letters to the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), demanding the procurement of some military equipment. According to reports, contracts totalling $930,500,690.00 were awarded by the military under the leadership of Badeh. The money was said to be part of the $2.1 billion arms fund. Badeh is also said to be answering questions on non-specification of procurement costs, absence of contract agreements, award of contracts beyond authorised thresholds, transfer of public funds for unidentified purposes and general non-adherence with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act.
Meanwhile, Auditor General of the Federation, AGF, Samuel Ukura, disclosed yesterday that after collecting N70 billion, some contractors working for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, disappeared into thin air without any presence at sites.
This disclosure was contained in the Auditor General’s query to NDDC for the financial year covering 2008 and 2012. Ukura also alleged that despite notifying the commission of the financial infractions on three separate occasions, NDDC failed to respond to the query.
The Auditor General laid this complaint yesterday at a public hearing called by the Senate Public Accounts Committee to look into the said query. The Auditor General told the committee, headed by Senator Andy Uba that the blame for the infraction should be shared between the contractors and the management of NDDC. Uba, in his remark, wondered why NDDC management should not be sanctioned for the financial infractions. He said: “The management of NDDC should explain why the contractors who were mobilised did not show any presence at the site.
“The management should also explain why appropriate sanctions should not be meted on it.” In his response, NDDC Director of Finance and Supplies, Jimoh Adejule, explained that upon receipt of the query, the board engaged the services of a consultant to verify the claims by the Auditor General. He said the report filed by the consultants showed that it was only N11 billion that was at stake.
The Auditor General, who stood his ground, wondered why the commission should further expend public funds to engage the services of a consultant when its engineers, who awarded the contracts and were supposed to supervise it, were still within the reach of the commission.
Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Mrs. Ibom Seminitari, assured the lawmakers of plans to unravel the perpetrators of the fraud, even though she said the alleged financial infraction took place before she took over. Uba subsequently gave the parties one month to reconcile the differences and report back to the committee.