12th April, 2012
Nnamdi Felix / Abuja.
The Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC, which is charged with the recruitment of staff for all federal ministries, departments and agencies have been caught up in the ongoing multi billion Naira pension scam currently rocking some federal establishments in the country.
While retirees and pensioners were dying on queues undergoing various verification exercises purposely designed to frustrate their collection of their entitlements, some top government officials at the Federal Civil Service Commission had been nabbed for stealing and sharing the funds meant for the payment of the pensioners.
Already the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has charged the officials who shared the sum of N110million meant for the payment of FCSC’s retirees before an Abuja High Court.
They are the Acting Director of Finance and Accounts, Alhaji Hassan Mohammed Tukur, the Chief Accountant, Mr. Babatunde Bisuga and another staff in the Accounts Department, Mr. Mohammed Ndakupe.
Investigations however showed that the embezzlement of the pension fund was aided by corrupt officials of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, who collaborated with the FCSC officials to perpetuate the fraud.
In a statement made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, First Bank’s Business Development Manager, Mr. Ibrahim el-Rufai, said that the bank compromised the procedure for opening an account by government’s agencies.
According to him, the bank ought to get a letter from the Accountant General of the Federation before FCSC can open a new account.
“With regards to Account No 4062040010584 (where the stolen money was domiciled), there was no approval of Accountant General of the Federation. Using our discretion, we; myself and my boss, used previous approval of the Accountant-General of the Federation, since it is in the same name of FCSC.
The procedure of opening a public sector government account in any bank requires authorization from the Accountant General plus mandate from the relevant commission or agency.
Mr. El Rufai further told investigators that opening of the fraud account was duly authorized by his boss at the bank, a Deputy General Manager, Mr. Lawal Balele Rafindadi.
One of the accused persons, Mr. Babatunde Bisuga, in his statement confessed to stealing the money.
They were charged with conspiracy to steal, stealing and forgery.
They were accused of making false document- the signatory mandate presented to First Bank to withdraw the stolen money. They also allegedly forged a debit mandate letter.
In his confessional statement, Abisuga said: “After the change of signatories, mandates were presented to bank for the withdrawal of the money. These were done in three times, the first was for N26million, second was about N40million and the third was for N42 million.
“These monies were transferred to some companies and the proceeds shared between Director Finance and Account, Alhaji Hassan Tukur, myself and Mohammed Ndakupe.
“The Director of Finance and Accounts took N60 million, while myself and Ndakupe took N20 million each.
“We were informed that the fund was from pension and this is an unusual transaction.”
Already the Prosecution counsel, Mr. Syvanus Tahir has lined up 14 witnesses to give evidence against the suspects.
They include a staff of FCSC, a staff of the First Bank and operators of the Bureau De Change where the stolen money was converted to United States Dollars.
The suspects were arraigned on April 3, 2012, before Justice Maryann Anennih of the FCT High Court on a 12- count charge bordering on fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, forgery and fraudulent conversion of public funds totalling N110 million.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them by the EFCC.
Count One of the 12 count charge reads:
That you Hassan Mohammed Tukur, Babatunde Abisuga and Mohammed Ndakupe, being officials of the Accounts Department of the Federal Civil Service Commission, sometime between October and November 2010 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, did conspire amongst yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit: conspired to take dishonestly the sum of N109,952,171.61 (One Hundred and Nine Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty Two Thousand, One Hundred and Seventy One Naira and Sixty One Kobo) only from First Bank of Nigeria Plc Account No. 4062040010584, property of the Federal Civil Service Commission without its consent and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990.