*The felons are in Italy, Ghana and Senegal, says EFCC
*We are aware and will assist to track them – Interpol
By Emma Okereh
Full scale war against corruption may have gathered momentum as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has sought the assistance of the International Police Organisation (Interpol), on the extradition of Nigerian treasury looters and cybercrime suspects, hibernating abroad.
The anti-graft agency is also trying to push to a tight corner, fleeing officials of Process and Industrial Developments Nigeria Limited (P&ID).
They were the P&ID officials who approached a British Court over claimed breach of a 2010 gas contract agreement and obtained an award of $6.6 billion (about N3.2 trillion) as damages against the Nigerian government.
But following an appeal, a Commercial Court in the UK, presided over by Justice Sir. Ross Cranston, granted a stay of execution of the award.
Yesterday, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mohammad Umar Abba, appealed to delegation of the National Central Bureau of Interpol Nigeria, led by CP Garba Baba Umar, were on a courtesy visit at the EFCC headquarters, Abuja, to assist the country track the fleeing P&ID officials so they could be brought back for prosecution.
The EFCC boss explained that the commission needed the support of the Interpol in the extradition of some of the fugitive looters, who he stated, are taking refuge in some West Africa countries, particularly Ghana and Senegal, noting that with Interpol’s support, corrupt elements that fled the country could be forced back home to face justice.
He said: “We most graciously need your intervention and assistance, so that we can get enough information that could lead to the extradition of some of our suspects.
“There are two suspects being investigated in regards to the P&ID case. They are Italians who are also on the run from the country.
“The information we have is that they are currently in Italy. We want the assistance of the Interpol in this regard, especially for information that could lead to their extradition”.
Abba expressed delight over the long-standing robust collaboration between the EFCC and Interpol, stressing that the EFCC has earned positive outcomes from the collaboration.
In his remarks, the Head of Interpol Nigeria, CP Garba Umar assured the EFCC that the Interpol was on the same page with the EFCC on the P&ID case, and would not relent in its efforts to ensure that justice is served on all in the matter.
“You are aware that we are working hand-in-hand with you and we are the catalyst that aided the EFCC in making sure the P&ID case was a success and so, we are looking forward to seeing that this partnership goes a long way.
“There are lots of things that we can share and be beneficial to each other, so that is why we are looking forward to having this robust relationship and enhancing policing in Nigeria,” Umar said.
Recall that on January 11, 2010, P&ID signed a gas supply and processing agreement with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on behalf of the Nigerian government.
In the terms of the agreement, P&ID was to build and operate an Accelerated Gas Development project to be located at Adiabo, Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State.
The Nigerian government was to source for natural gas from oil mining leases (OMLs) 123 and 67 operated by Addax Petroleum and supply to P&ID to refine into fuel suitable for power generation in the country.
Nigeria was expected to supply an initial volume of about 150 million cubic feet of gas per day.
Eventually, it was to be ramped up to about 400 million cubic feet per day during the 20-year period.
However, P&ID alleged that after signing the agreement, the Nigerian government reneged on its obligations after negotiations were opened with the Cross River State government for allocation of land for the project.
P&ID said the failure to construct the pipeline system to supply the gas frustrated the construction of the gas project, thereby depriving it of the potential benefits from over 20 years’ worth of gas supplies.
On August 2012, P&ID served the Nigerian government a Request for Arbitration.
On July 2015, the Tribunal found that Nigeria had repudiated its obligations under the GSPA and that P&ID had been entitled to claim damages for breach.
On December 23, 2015, the government asked for the award to be set aside.
However, on February 10, 2016, the application was dismissed, paving way for the hearing on July 22 to 24, 2016 to determine the damages.
Two members of the three-man tribunal, Lord Hoffmann and Anthony Evans, held that P&ID’s expenditure and income should have been about $6.597 billion if the GSPA was duly performed by government.
Both officials said the award should be paid together with interest at the rate of 7 per cent from March 20, 2013.
Alleged N14bn stolen from Pension Account: N1.5bn transferred to Maina’s private account in nine months- Witness
The trial in absentia of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Force Team, (PRTFT) continued on Wednesday before Justice Okong Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) is prosecuting Maina, alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd on a 12-count charge of operating fictitious bank accounts, corruption, and money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.
A press statement by Wilson Uwajeren, head of media and publicity of the commission, explained that at yesterday’s trial, counsel to Common Input Property and Investment Ltd (the second defendant), Adeola Adegbite told the court of his intention to disengage as the company’s counsel, but even though Prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubakar, acknowledged the receipt of the defence counsel’s disengagement application, dated November 25, 2020, and made no objection to it, Justice Abang, ruled that Adegbite remained counsel to the second defendant by the court records.
The testimonies against Maina, continued with that of the ninth prosecution witness, (PW9), Rouqayyah Ibrahim, a principal investigation officer with the EFCC in Anti Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing (AML CFT) unit of the Commission and member, Pension Fraud Team, who stated that he knew Maina and Input Property Investment Ltd, following the invitation of the EFCC in 2010, to join in the pension verification exercise.
According to him, a payment mandate, bearing the names of several individuals, totaling N94 million was discovered during the cause of the verification, and that some of the pensioners’ names on the list were fake, for which a report was made to the EFCC by the team, leading eventually to the creation of the Pension Fraud Team.
The Pension Fraud Team, he said, wrote to about 30 banks, requesting the bank accounts of Mr. Steven Oransanya as the Head of Service, in which it turned out that Mr. Oransanya at that time, operated 66 illegal bank accounts, unknown to the Accountant General.
“Our investigation revealed that there were five modus operandi that the suspect whom we were investigating at that time was using to steal money from the pension account. In total we were able to deduce that N14 billion was stolen from the pension account. In the five modus operandi was payment to fake pensioners, non-existing contracts, illegal payment to National Union of Pension NUP and illegal payment to another association called Association of Retired Federal Civil Servants.
“We discovered that the suspect will often pay companies for non-existing biometric contract and once the payment is made, they withdraw cash and hand it over and likewise payment to the two association of NUP and Association of Retired Federal Civil Servants. They will withdraw the money cash and hand it over to the person who asked them to supply the account.
“Once we concluded the investigation of those who were indicted, they were charged to court, and some have been convicted,” the witness said.
According to him, Abdulrasheed Maina was part of those indicted and charged before Justice I. Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, but that he ran away for six years. And was arrested and charged before the present court.
The PW9 revealed that Maina as chairman, PRTT was deeply involved in stealing pension funds. One of the things discovered was the payment of N133 million for a non-existing contract to Xanjhi Technology, a company he appointed to computerize the pension payroll. The money was withdrawn in cash, converted to dollars and handed over to Khalid Biu (PW5), a staff of Fidelity Bank and handed over to Maina’s secretary, Ann Igwe Oluchi, who is now standing trial at FCT High Court Gwagwalada. Xanjhi Technology and its owner, Ahmed Mazangari are also standing trial for inserting about 15 fake persons into the pension payroll which they were engaged to computerize.
According to the witness, “We also discovered that Frederick Hamilton Ltd, owned by Osa Afe, presently standing trial with Steven Oransanya who received payment for a non-existing biometric contract handed over about N250 million to Maina.
“Our investigation further revealed the existence of six accounts with Fidelity Bank, out of the six, five were linked to Abdurrasheed Maina. We discovered that there was nowhere in the accounts opening packages of these accounts where the name, birthday or signatures of Abdurrasheed Maina appeared. These account are: Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu (PW4) Drew Construction, also an account Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Services Ltd, Cluster Logistics Ltd, Fatima Aliyu, he also had a personal account in his own name with Fidelity Bank, and also in the name of Dr. Abdullahi Faizal.
“For example Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu’s account bears the name of Abdurrasheed Maina’s sister. It also bears her passport, photograph. On the face of it, it appears the account belonged to her, but when we invited her for investigation, we discovered she didn’t know anything about the account, even though it contains her name and children but it was not her signature. She informed us that she remembers at one point that Toyin Meseke (PW2), who is a Fidelity Bank staff requested for her PHCN (power utility) bill but she wasn’t sure what he wanted it for and that was one of the document that was used in opening the account. She also informed us that when she started receiving alerts, she contacted Toyin Meseke and he promised to deal with the issue.”
The turnover in Yeldu’s account, the witness said, was over N300m.
The analysis of the identity used in the opening of Abdullahi Faizal’s account, (one of the many variants of the name Maina used for his son and himself) showed that it was forged, even as Meseke, the account officer, confirmed that Maina had complete control over the account, though his name, signature and photograph did not appear anywhere in the account opening packages. The account had a turnover of about N1.5 billion within nine months from mostly cash deposits from unknown sources.
“We called for the statement of Drew Construction and of his Fidelity Bank, and discovered the same modus by Maina, concealing and stealing the identity of his family members, registering companies in their names, opening corporate bank account without their knowledge.
“In the case of Drew Construction, it was the name of his other sister, Fatima Abdullahi Aliyu. When she was confronted, it showed that she had no knowledge of the account, even though it bore her name and other similar information that belonged to her. The turnover was about N55 million all from cash deposits within a few months.
“We also discovered from Common Input, a company registered by Maina and his wife, using the details of his sister (PW2), taking advantage of his sister-in-law, Mairo Bashir (PW1), who deliberately allowed Maina to conceal his identity without doing the ‘Know Your Customer’ and allowing him to operate the accounts as Fatima Abdullahi. When Fatima was invited, we confronted her that her BVN was linked to Common Input and Kongolo Dynamic Cleaning Services Ltd and she confirmed that she did not know about the existence of the company and that Maina requested her to give her BVN so that she will be removed as a signatory from the company and she wasn’t aware of being a signatory of any company but innocently gave them the BVN, believing that will make her stop being a signatory of the said company.
Justice Abang adjourned the matter till December 3, 2020 for continuation of trial.