At last, after a very long wait and apprehension within the state and outside, alleged thieves who defrauded the Oyo State Local Government Pension Board of N1,590,783,671.47k were on Monday arraigned before Chief Magistrate Court 4, Iyaganku, Ibadan.
Arraigned before Mrs. Tijani Durosaro, 10 of the alleged pension fraudsters were charged on a nine-count charge of conspiracy to steal, abuse of office and stealing of local government staff pension fund.
The alleged fraudsters were Hakeem Muili, Alhaja Iyabo Giwa, Adeduntan Johnson, Oguntayo Banji, Adesina Jimoh, Johnson Bosede, Adebiyi Olasumbo, Kareem Rasheed, Muili Adedamola and Salewa Adedeji.
They were all arraigned under Charge No. Mi/238C/2013 in Commissioner of Police Versus the 10 accused.
After hearing their pleas, all the alleged pension scammers were ordered by Justice Durosaro to be remanded in Agodi Prison due to their inability to perfect their bail conditions.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution team was led by the Attorney-General of Oyo State, Ojo Adebayo.
Others in the prosecution team were Ademola Ojekunle and Miss Olumide Ojo, both Senior Legal Officers in the Ministry of Justice, Oyo State.
Yinka Okunade appeared for all the accused persons, except the second accused, who was represented by O. Makinde.
On the application of the defence counsel, each of the accused persons was admitted to bail in the sum of N2 million, with two sureties in like sum.
According to the judge, each surety is to have a certificate of local government origin, or a Certificate of Occupancy in respect of a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, or an account with any of the reputable banks in Oyo State, or Certificate of Business Registration.
The matter was thereafter adjourned to March 19, 2013 for trial.
In August last year, the Oyo State Government discovered a pension fraud in its Local Government Service Pensions Board totaling, at the initial stage, N2,608,398,709.29 but which later skyrocketed to N6.4 billion.
Making this disclosure was Chief Lasisi Ayankojo, the Chairman of the board and the Local Government Service Commission.
According to Ayankojo, the interim investigative report of the commission into the account of the board between September 2010 and March, 2011, which unearthed the colossal fraud, had indicted 10 civil servants, who were allegedly involved in the scam.
Ayankojo said eight of the alleged perpetrators of the fraud were then being detained by the police while two of them had absconded.
He said that upon the receipt of the report of the committee, the board met the state Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who ordered that the board should get to the root of the scam immediately.
Delving into the mode of the perpetration of the fraud, Ayankojo disclosed that the board discovered the fraud after complaints by local government workers and teacher retirees that their pensions had not been paid to them by the government.
He said that upon the receipt of the complaints, the board set up a committee to look into the details of the retirees’ grouses, stating that the committee, in the process of its work, found out that monies were indeed collected by civil servant intermediaries working in the commission and never remitted to the pensioners.
Revealing how these anomalies came into being, Ayankojo said that the total amount of the money involved in the scam was collected via issuance of cheques to the affected civil servants in their own personal names, rather than through e-payment into the accounts of pensioners, a situation he said made the fraud to sail through easily.
Giving a detailed account of how the suspects allegedly stole the state money earmarked for pensioners, Ayankojo said the then Executive Secretary and Director, Finance and Administration of the board, between September, 2010 and November 2010, withdrew by cash the sum of N680,430,646.69 from the Local Government Staff Account meant for pensioners, while these same two individuals withdrew N1,353,868,062.60 from the Teachers Account of the board.
The chairman said that the two officers of the board had at present absconded and all efforts made by the police to apprehend them had failed.
Ayankojo also said that the two officers of the board, alongside seven other top civil servants of the board equally collected N173,800,000 from the pensioners’ accounts between September 2010 and March 2011.
He alleged that another staff of the account department of the board (names withheld), at various times within the period, personally withdrew N401,300,000 of the board’s money earmarked for pensioners.
According to Ayankojo, while they were being interrogated by the police, the suspects claimed that they collected the cheques of the amount stolen from the Executive Secretary, who is currently at large and after cashing the cheque, returned the money to the Secretary.
Ayankojo said that the state government had no option but to invite the police to get into the root of the matter so as to conform with the administration’s abidance with due process and accountability.
Ayankojo said: “We enjoin pensioners in the state to be patient with us.
“What we are doing now is to protect their interests.
“That is why we are telling the whole world what has happened that is causing delay in the payment of their pension money.”
Asked whether politicians of the immediate past government were the ultimate receivers of these allegedly stolen pensioners’ money, Ayankojo said he could not say with certainty since the matter was before the state police, which is investigating it.
Ayankojo explained that the alleged fraud had been responsible for the slow payment of teachers and local government pensioners’ money in the state, stating that records had shown that these were where the money had gone.