The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arraigned four persons before Justice Abubakar Talba of Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu on nine counts of conspiracy and collecting money by false pretence.
The suspects are, Ibrahim Ahmed Mazangari, Muhammed Sani Sulaiman, Hajia Fatima Mazangari and Saleh Yerima Tsojon.
Mr. Wilson Uwajaren, spokesperson for EFCC, said in a statement on Tuesday that the accused persons were alleged to have obtained N1.2bn from the Federal Government by false pretence and with intent to defraud.
The amount was purported to be monthly pension payable to M. S. Suleiman, Saleh Yerima Tsojon, Isah U. Adamu, Daniel Mikano and Abdulahi Garba Musa who were falsely held out as pensioners of the Federal Government by inserting their names on the pensioners’ payroll.
“The accused persons who were offered a biometric contract by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, to regularise names of pensioners on the pensions’ payroll, allegedly smuggled in names of fake pensioners and collected unearned pension.
“The fraud allegedly involved two companies – Xangee Technologies Limited and Century Construction Company Limited,” Uwujaren said.
The commission recalled that Justice Talba had at the sitting of June 30, 2015, rejected a plea bargain proposal mooted by Ibrahim Salau, counsel for Mazangari, before adjourning to September 15, 2015 as a result of the absence of Fatimah Mazangari, the third accused person, who was ill.
“Don’t mention plea bargain here. I don’t want to hear about it,” the judge had declared.
The statement said at the resumed sitting on Tuesday that all the other accused persons were present in court to take their plea.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
In view of their plea, the prosecuting counsel, O. A. Atolagbe, while expressing eagerness for the trial to commence, prayed the court for a short adjournment as one of the key witnesses, who was to appear in court, was bereaved.
Salau moved the bail application for the accused persons and prayed the court to admit them to bail on liberal terms, arguing that “the accused persons will not default.”
Although Atolagbe did not oppose the bail application, he urged the court to “put into consideration the nature of the offence, as it touches on financial crimes involving large sums of money.”
In his ruling on the bail application, Justice Talba admitted the accused persons to bail in the sum of N10m and two sureties each in like sum, one of whom must be a director in the Federal Civil Service, and the other, a responsible member of the society, who must submit an affidavit of means and tax documents.
By Patrick Aigbokhan