EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde
By Tobi Soniyi
Former director of Police Pension Fund, Chief Esai Dangabar, who is standing trial along with five others for complicity in the N32.8 billion police pension fraud, has continued to spill the beans on how several billions of Naira meant for retired police officers were shared illegally among top government functionaries.
In his statement to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on February 14, Dangabar said part of N8.9 billion withdrawn between January 5, 2009 and December 23, 2009 was used to settle members of the Police Pension Committees of the National Assembly to get the Police Pension Fund's Budget passed by the lawmakers.
Dangabar and another suspect in the scam, John Yusuf Yakubu, who was the pension fund's accountant, also listed as beneficiaries of the fraud certain people in the Auditor-General’s office, the Accountant- General’s office and the National Assembly.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Pension Matters, Hon. Ibrahim Bawa Kamba, was not available for comments last night as he was said to have travelled to Kebbi State for the Easter holiday.
But a member of the committee, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, denied any knowledge of the alleged bribe for budget passage. Okechukwu, who spoke with THISDAY over the telephone, said he had never heard anything like the allegation being levelled by the Police Pension Board.
"I am not even aware of anything of that nature. I don't even know the Director of Police Pensions Board you just mentioned. I won't even recognise him if I see him. In a nutshell, I am not aware of any fund coming from Police Pension Board to our committee," Okechukwu said.
Dangabar’s statement read: "I was shown summary of cheques withdrawal. Dated between 5th January 2009 and 23rd of December 2009 totalling N8,920,371,822.24.
"The said sums of money mentioned above were used for the payment of police retirees.
"However, some amounts were also used for public relations to members of the Police Pension Committee of the National Assembly.
"The public relation monies were made as condition precedent before the budgets of the office were passed."
In another statement he made on February 16, 2012, Dangabar also listed beneficiaries of some of the pension fund to include some persons in the offices of the Accountant-General and Auditor-General of the federation.
He said: "I was shown a copy John of Yusuf Yakubu’s statement of 14 February, 2012, where he mentioned various beneficiaries to the funds released to police pensions namely National Assembly, Accountant-General Office, Auditor-General Office, but all through when I was in office as Director I could not remember anything given to the Force Headquarters."
Others standing trial with Dangabar are the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Kigo; Alhaji Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakuku Yusufu, Mrs. Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Alhaji Habila Zira.
They were accused of diverting N32.8 billion police pension fund.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been granted bail. They were granted bail in the sum of N10 million each and two sureties each in like sum.
Justice Ababakar Talba, who granted them bail, ordered that one of the two sureties must be a civil servant not below Level 14 and that the sureties must be resident in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Besides, the sureties must swear to an affidavit of means which must be verified by operatives of EFCC before they could be allowed to go home.
The suspects were arraigned on a 16-count charge of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and diversion of public fund.
The alleged offences are contrary to Sections 97 and 315 of the Penal Code Act, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria, 2007.
Last Tuesday, the Joint Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service and States and Local Government Administration said it had uncovered another bank account used by managers of police pension scheme to illegally enrich themselves.
At the resumed public hearing of the joint committee last Tuesday, its chairman, Senator Aloysius Etok, expressed displeasure at the non-appearance of seven bank managers or their representatives to assist the committee to unravel what he called “the mystery behind the series of controversial accounts on the pension fund”.
He issued summons to the managing directors of seven banks and the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to appear before the committee when it resumes from the Easter break on April 16.
The summoned banks are First Bank, Union Bank, Zenith Bank, Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, GTBank and Skye Bank.
However, UBA was represented at Tuesday’s sitting by one of its Executive Directors, Mr. Dan Okeke, who was grilled by the committee members on the existence of an account bearing two different names.
When confronted with the documents showing the dual-ownership account, Okeke told the lawmakers that it was not possible for one account to bear two different names or for two different persons to operate same account.
He said if such a thing happened at all, it would be a major anomaly that the bank had to look into.
When the co-chairman of the committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, probed further and showed Okeke the documents in his possession, the bank chief said there was an approval for the opening of the account but could not say if it was before or after it was opened.
He requested the permission of the senators to go back to his office and bring a copy of the letter of approval.
When Etok sought to know if any interest was paid on the account or not, Okeke told him that the bank would not pay interest on such account except it was a fixed deposit account.
The committee chairman then asked him to bring the details of all the accounts of Police Pension Office, Office of the Head of Service, Customs Service etc with the banks and all the instructions attached to it.