How Oronsaye, Others Diverted N14bn Pension Fund – Witness
First prosecution witness, Rouqayya Ibrahim, on Tuesday narrated to a Federal High Court in Abuja, how a former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, and some officials allegedly siphoned N14bn pension fund using about 66 illegal bank accounts.
Ibrahim, an investigator and an operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told Justice Gabriel Kolawole that the fraud was discovered in 2010.
Oronsaye was Head of Service of the Federation between June 2009 and November 2010.
Ibrahim said the methods used for perpetrating the fraud included payments to “ghost” pensioners and disbursements of funds for non-existing contracts.
She also said the scam in which about N14bn pension fund was siphoned was perpetrated through payments of non-existing allowances to fake members of staff and to the National Union of Pensioners and Association of Federal Civil Service Retirees.
The EFCC is prosecuting Oronsaye, Osarenkhoe Afe and three other firms on 35 counts, including illegal acts of “conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act on the contract of biometric enrolment”.
The other defendants are Fedrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, Cluster Logistic Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, and Drew Investment & Construction Company Limited.
While testifying on Tuesday, Ibrahim who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi, said apart from one company, Innovative Solutions Uptrach Communications Limited, which executed “a semblance” of a contract awarded, other firms were paid for non-existing jobs.
At some point in her evidence-in-chief, Ibrahim sought to use a chart to demonstrate to the judge how the fraud was allegedly perpetrated, but the request was opposed by defence lawyers.
The judge upheld the objection by Afe’s lawyer, Mr. Oluwole Aladedoye, ruling that the prosecuting lawyer, Adeniyi, having said he did not intend to tender the document which bore Oronsaye’s photographs, allowing the witness to use it in the course of her evidence would not serve any purpose.
The judge also ruled that the procedure of using the chart to demonstrate her evidence was unknown to law, adding that the situation envisaged under section 239 of the Evidence Act, whereby a witness could be allowed to use a document to refresh his or her memory had not arisen.
Justice Kolawole noted that he would not record the oral evidence with respect to the statement unless it was first tendered and admitted as exhibit.
However, when the prosecuting counsel sought to tender it along with two others, Aladedoye opposed the admissibility of the document, saying the statement was obtained from his client under duress.
He said, apart from the November 24, 2011 statement, the two others made by Afe on February 24, 2011 and on March 16, 2011, were obtained through “oppression”.
The judge ruled that going by previous decisions of the Supreme Court and provisions of section 28 and 29 of the Evidence Act, the court had no choice but to order a “trial within trial”.
He adjourned till June 21 for the “mini procedings”.