By Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja and Ugo Aliogo in Lagos
In order to protect over N100 billion worth of pension assets managed by First Guarantee Pension Limited (FGPL), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has invited a member of the House of Representatives, Chidi Duru, one Chief O.O Ojo, and a South African, Mr. Derrick Roper, representing Novare Holding Limited, for diversion of millions of naira of FGPL, a licensed pension administrator, a senior operative of the anti-graft agency told THISDAY in Abuja yesterday.
Top officials of the regulatory agency for pension operators in the country, the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), were also said to have recently met with the Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, at the anti-graft head office in Abuja where the EFCC agreed to specially partner PENCOM to smoke out pension thieves and fraudsters in the sector with a view to jailing them.
The anti-graft agency specifically accused Duru of diversion of N16 million being part of the equity contribution of Novare Holding, a South African firm, to another business without following due process and obtaining board approval; collecting N20.5 million as “executive allowance’’ without board approval and diversion of the company’s assets worth millions of naira for his personal use.
Duru, whom EFCC alleged is fronting for some powerful political forces in the country, has also been accused of serving as the chairman of the board of executive committee of FGPL that was “fraudulently’’ involved in engaging the services of Hard Rain Software Limited to develop a software for the licensed pension administrator at the cost of N31million despite PENCOM, the apex regulatory agency for pension administrator’s directive calling for suspension of the project.
The EFCC has also accused him of approving payment amounting to $285, 102 to Novare Investments for “questionable’’ consultancy services and other charges without board approval.
The anti-graft commission, had arrested a senior staff of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mrs. Chinyere Christie Ekweonu, who stood as surety for Duru, but released her after over a week in detention.
“Also, Duru’s bank cheque, totalling N30milion presented as evidence of part payment of his portion of the start-up share capital was found not to have been debited from his bank account upon verification,” EFCC further stated.
The anti-graft agency has also indicted Duru and his collaborators of alleged forgery of some shareholders signatures on a document referred to as the “Shareholders Resolution,” which purportedly mandated him to negotiate with Novare Holding on behalf of other shareholders during the acquisition of the FGPL’s shares by Novare Holding.
Some of the shareholders who Duru allegedly forged their signatures include, former Speaker of House of Representative, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na-Abba; former Deputy Speaker, Hon. Austin Okara; Senator Annie Okwonkwo, Alhaji Kasim Ibrahim Iman among others.
The EFCC added: “A verification of some of the shareholders signatures was carried out; and it was observed that the signatures of some shareholders who featured in the resolution presented to the commission were forged.
“The discovery then called to question the admittance and investment of Novare Holding in FGPL. The issue is presently being investigated by the EFCC.’’
Duru has also been indicted for allegedly manipulating a process that led to the FGPL to obtain five expatriate quotas, which also covered Roper. But it was established that only two of the quotas were related to the pension administrator, while the three others were used by Grand Towers Plc, a company allegedly owned by Duru.
“It was also established that in obtaining the expatriate quota, false information on Roper was provided. Roper was presented to the Ministry of Interior as an Executive Director of the pension administrator while in fact the PENCOM had granted him conditional approval as a part-time director. Consequently, he was not entitled to use expatriate quota,” the source quoted from the indicting report.
It was gathered that the expatriate quota’s dirty deal was exposed as a result of a petition initiated by some big shareholders of the pension administrator to the Ministry of Interior.
Some of the petitioners include, Alhaji Ibrahim Imam, Hon. Opara, Senator Okonkwo, Ahmed Salik, Hon. Patric Asadu, Terngu Tsegba and others.
The EFCC’s operative further stated that: “Duru also violated the pension fund administrator’s licensing condition and the Code of Corporate governance by offering the shares of the FGPL without a board resolution to Genoou Concept for an unsubstantiated transaction.’’
The EFCC had arrested Duru before at his Maitama, Abuja residence, when the agency was presented with a petition signed by Alhaji Kashim Imam, arising from the “Draft First Guarantee Pension Examination Report’ and ‘First Guarantee Pension Target Report’.
The anti-graft agency has filed charges of money laundering, criminal conspiracy and other financial crimes against Hon. Duru in Federal High Court, Lagos.
But Duru last night said no invitation was extended to him by the EFCC.
He accused the anti-graft commission of circulating and sponsoring the same old falsehood against him which was quashed by Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court Abuja on August 11, 2011 and June 18, 2012.
“It is a continuous attempt to obscure issues and not address the frontal issues.
“It judgment of the court represents the judgment of the court. It has not been overturned by a superior court,” he said.
Duru said it was unfortunate that the anti-graft commission was acting on hearsay rather than carrying out a detailed investigation.