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Pension scam: Ex-manager of defunct Oceanic Bank siphoned N1.9bn – Witness

By on November 29, 2013

An EFCC operative, Mustapha Sani, on Thursday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that Udusegbe Eric, an ex-manager of the defunct Oceanic Bank, used five “fictitious’’ companies to illegally siphon N1.9 billion from the Federal Pension Account.

Sani, the Head of Forensic Accounting at the Commission, said Eric gave instruction for the money to be remitted between March and May 2010.

The witness, who was a member of the team that investigated the transaction, said Eric also conspired to institute two other payment mandates from the defunct FinBank.

According to the witness, the payment mandates were instructions that gave room for the remittances of another N94 million to ghost pensioners.

“The mandates were valued at N49 million and N45 million respectively, with each having 16 transactions paid to several ghost beneficiaries.

Sani said that the accused was neither a staff of the Office of the Head of Civil Service nor their contractor.

“We further discovered in the cause of our investigation that Eric and Sani Teidi, a former Director, Pension Accounts at the Head of Service, were close associates.

Eric is standing trial along with Sani Teidi, a former Director of Pension Accounts at the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, over missing N5.7 billion pension funds.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 40 other people are standing trial for similar offence.

The list of accused persons has been broken down into seven suits for easy prosecution and management.

However, the witness’ testimony was momentarily discontinued when the defence counsel jointly urged the court to compel Chief Godwin Obla, the prosecutor to tender the witness’ statement rather than narrate it.

Obla objected to the prayer, saying that the court should allow the witness to prepare grounds for the documents to be tendered.

When the five confessional statements credited to the second accused (Eric) were eventually sought to be tendered, his counsel objected to it.

Mr Adewale Adegoke, the counsel to Eric, said the documents were functions of inducement, as according to him, a “trial-within-trial’’ was required to ascertain the authenticity of the content of the documents.

However, the prosecutor was opposed to the court granting such application on the grounds that the counsel to the accused person did not raise objection while filing his notice of compliance.

Obla submitted further that the demand by the second accused person’s defence team was a total disregard to the practised direction of the court.

Ameh, the counsel to the first accused person (Teidi), while trying to assist the court to unravel the controversy, said criminal trials were guided by the Evidence Act.

He explained that where the content of the Evidence Act clash with the Practice direction, the former must be sustained in the interest of justice and fair hearing.

In his ruling, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, granted the application and fixed Friday, Nov. 29 for the opening of a trial-within-trial.

“I did not view it from the perspective of fair hearing at first, but Mr Sunday Ameh (SAN) has actually opened my eyes to tread cautiously.

“Whatever we do here is subject to test at the appellate courts; in view of the weighty nature of the charge, we must ensure fair hearing and justice,’’ he held.

Similarly, the hearing of the charge against Aliyu Bello and Abdullahi Omeza was stalled because of objections raised on the admissibility of their confessional statements.

Bello, a former staff of the Pension Accounts in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, is accused of illegally appropriating the sum of N41 million pension funds.

In a similar vein, Omeza is accused of using 13 different banks accounts to convert the sum of N191 million pension funds to himself.

Mr Mahoud Magaji (SAN), the counsel to both accused persons urged the court to resist the ploy by the prosecutor to dump an induced confessional statements credited to Bello and Omeza.

Obla, the prosecutor, had earlier urged the court to adopt similar measure of trial-within-trial granted the first set of accused persons, in order not to waste the time of the court. (NAN)