The Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission, ICPC, on Tuesday returned parts of public funds looted by corrupt officials from the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Federal Pay Office to the affected agencies.
The development followed court orders secured by the ICPC in Abuja.
Although investigations and trial of the accused are still ongoing, ICPC Chairman, Ekpo Nta, said the agency sought court orders to recover and return the stolen funds to the affected offices in view of the “time-specific nature of the assignments these monies were meant for.”
On December 1 last year, the ICPC received a petition from the Ministry of Environment regarding a fraudulent electronic funds transfer from its account, allegedly by Adeolu Adeyanju.
Investigators however established that a forged payment mandate in the sum of N924 million was presented to the First City Monument Bank, FCMB, where the ministry’s account was domiciled.
The amount was therefore recovered by the ICPC and returned to the Ministry of Environment.
At an event to celebrate the recovery of the stolen funds at ICPC headquarters, Mr. Nta said the money was diverted to various company accounts, and those of officials of the victim agencies.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the diverted funds were originally meant for the Great Green Wall Program of the Federal Government, meant to check desert encroachment through tree planting.
Continuing, Mr. Nta said, “in furtherance of this case, ICPC is still tracking and investigating the movement of N468,794,613.79 through some financial institutions (bureau de change) by Adeolu Olugbenga Adeyanju, the main accused, who is currently facing charges before the FCT High Court No.4, Maitama, Abuja for forgery, theft conspiracy and being in possession of forged documents.”
Diversion of students’ meal subsidies funds at Federal Pay Office, Ogun State
ICPC also recovered N56, 211,086.23 out of 103,671,466.75 stolen by the Federal Pay Officer, Olusegun Lawal, in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The stolen N103 million was meant for meal subsidies for students and payment for capital projects at three unity schools in Ogun State.
ICPC said the affected schools were Federal Government Girls’ College, Sagamu, Federal Government College, Odogbolu, and Federal Science Technical College, Ijebu-Imushin.
The ICPC boss said further that, “investigations continue and recoveries are ongoing with the cooperation of the suspect.”
He added that Mr. Lawal was reported to the anti-graft agency by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICiR, in its earlier exclusive report published by PREMIUM TIMES, found that the office of the Accountant General of the Federation had petitioned the ICPC, following “pressure and complaints” from the affected schools.
According to the centre, contractors had to abandon projects, just as there was inability to subsidize the feeding of their students and staff due to financial difficulties occasioned by Mr. Lawal’s alleged stealing of funds allocated to them.
ICiR reported that whenever the bursars of the affected schools raised vouchers for the schools’ financial needs and sent same to Mr. Lawal to credit the institutions’ accounts as was the usual practice, Mr. Lawal always claimed that he had not received any funds from the Federal Government.
It was alleged that Mr. Lawal was singlehandedly signing cheques for withdrawals from accounts with Zenith Bank and Central Bank of Nigeria, contrary to civil service rules.
PREMIUM TIMES learned that suspicion was raised when Mr. Lawal alone effected withdrawals from the Pay Office accounts, and authorities failed to replace Mr. Lawal’s co-signatory.
According to investigators, Mr. Lawal set up fake companies, namely Oris Fish Industry Ltd., SOG Best Concept, Oris Farms and Food and Toyinlolu Gbade and Sons, to perpetrate the corrupt practices.
Checks by ICiR at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, however revealed that none of the companies was registered; yet, investigators said they received various bulk sums of money from the Pay Office between February 2014 and March 2015 for undisclosed jobs.
Commitment to Sustained Effort to Recover Loots
Mr. Nta however expressed the anti-graft agency’s commitment to recovering stolen funds.
“ICPC will vigorously continue to recover looted public funds and other proceeds arising from criminal activities linked to corruption investigations,” said ICPC boss.
He added that the success of loot recovery was hinged on “the prompt reporting by ministries and agencies of government, especially by their permanent secretaries, and of course by the press.”
He urged the press, civil society organisations, professional bodies and members of the public to support the collective crusade against corruption and report suspicious corrupt practices in both private and public sectors.