The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Wednesday arraigned nine suspects for allegedly being responsible for several ghost workers on the payroll of the federal government.
The suspects include Usman Dayo, Osuntope Opeyemi, Johnson Adedokun, Ojeido Sylvanus, Oyebode Ayodeji, Florence Dada, Olaolu Dada, Blessing Ejeh and Aderibigbe Taiwo.
Many of the suspects are civil servants from government agencies like the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources; Environment Ministry and the Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC.
The federal government has repeatedly said it lost billions of naira to ghost workers and has removed thousands of them from its payroll.
The suspects were charged for allegedly creating and inserting fictitious names in the payroll of the federal government for salaries and allowances without official consent, thereby causing the loss of several millions of Naira.
The offence is said be in contravention of Section 289 of the Criminal Act.
They were arraigned before Justice U. P. Kekemeke of Court 14, Federal High Court, Apo, Abuja.
When the charges against them were read out, all the nine suspects pleaded not guilty.
The court subsequently adjourned their trial to November 8.
Investigators from the anti-graft agency said in the course of investigations, one of the suspects was found to own and operate about 200 personal accounts with different banks in Abuja.
Another reportedly used the particulars of his family members to operate several accounts in various banks.
Another suspect was said to own more than 50 houses in various locations in Abuja and its environs.
The EFCC prosecution counsel, Mukhtar Mohammed, asked the court to remand the suspects in prison custody pending the commencement of their trial, after they pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Granting the request of the prosecution, Justice Peter Kekemeke adjourned till November 8 to hear applications by counsel to three of the suspects for plea bargaining.
The three suspects had applied through their lawyers to forfeit some property and cash in lieu of their conviction for the crimes.
The female suspects were remanded in Suleja Prisons in Niger State, while their male counterparts will stay at Kuje Prisons.
The alleged fraud by the suspects were uncovered by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Auditing, PICA, constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2016 to strengthen the controls over government personnel and pension costs.
PICA was set up to ensure that all federal government revenue receipts and payments were subjected financial rules and regulations
It is the first time government would be arraigning civil servants for allegedly inserting names of ghost workers into government payroll despite years of reports of losses of billions of naira through such practices at federal ministries, departments and agencies.
Despite government’s claim of recovering huge sums in recent times, no official of any of the agencies had been brought to face trial.