The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday brought a 16-count charge against a permanent secretary, a director and four others in the Federal Civil Service before an Abuja High Court for allegedly diverting a whopping N32.8 billion police pension fund into their private bank accounts.
The presiding judge, Justice Abubakar Talba, who refused an oral bail application, consequently remanded the permanent secretary, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Kigo; the director, Chief Esai Dangabar; and four other top government functionaries in Kuje prison.
The top government functionaries are Alhaji Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakuku Yusufu, Mrs. Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Alhaji Habila Zira.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 16-count criminal charge of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and diversion of public fund amounting to N32.8 billion that contravened sections 97 and 315 of the Penal Code laws.
A breakdown of the charge showed that the accused persons had, between January 2009 and June 2011, diverted a sum of N14, 518,567,724 being part of police pension from an account domiciled at First Bank Plc.
Between January and December 2009 in Abuja, they also allegedly breached the public trust, making away with N8,920,371,822 from police pension fund kept at First Bank Plc.
The charge sheet indicated that between January 2010 and February 2011 in Abuja, the six accused persons criminally agreed amongst themselves to divert another sum of N4,739,894,896 of the police fund, while between February and June 2011, N858,301,006 was also siphoned from the same source.
They were also accused of stealing N656,559,289 in January 2011 while ,in March 2009, another N462,963,012 was allegedly looted from the same source.
However, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 16 charges filed on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs
There was a drama, however, when a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and counsel to the first accused person, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, applied orally for their bail but was turned down by the court which insisted that the request must be put into writing with cogent reasons to show why they should be granted bail.
Justice Talba also turned down Awomolo’s subsequent request for the accused persons to be remanded in the EFCC custody pending the determination of their bail application on the grounds that EFCC custody is not, in law, a prison.
Consequently, Justice Talba ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody till April 3 when their applications for bail would be heard.
The court also adjourned to April 25 to begin the trial of the permanent secretary and five other accused persons.