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N12bn pension fund stolen through 56 accounts -Witnesses

By The Citizen
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The Federal High Court on Wednesday in Abuja admitted, in evidence, bank documents in respect of 56 accounts allegedly used in siphoning N12bn Federal Civil Servants pension funds.

Sani Teidi, a former Director of Pension Administration in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, and 33 others are standing trial for the missing funds.

Mr. Anthony Mapkwe, from Zenith Bank Nig. Plc produced information on 52 accounts, while Mr. Emphriam Atajiri, an official of Skye Bank Nig. Plc produced information on four accounts.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the EFCC claimed that the accounts, which were officially used by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation for pension purposes, were hacked into by the accused persons.

Justice Adamu Bello adjourned the matter to March 14 for the hearing of the substantive issues.

NAN reports that Phina Chidi, Deputy Director (Finance and Accounts) and Aliyu Bello, Personal Assistant to Shuaibu, are among the accused.

In a related development, an EFCC operative, Mr. Mustapha Gadanya, told the court that the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation invited the commission to investigate allegation of ghost pensioners.

Gadanya spoke while giving evidence in another criminal suit brought against Teidi.

Others standing trial are President, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Ali Abacha, and actor Zal, the Secretary-General of the union.

He said, 'From our investigation, it was discovered that there were several thousands of ghost pensioners being paid monthly that ran into millions of naira.

'The accused persons were also linked to a fraud of inflating check-off dues of pensioners.''

The EFCC had alleged that the second and the third accused persons (Abacha and Zal) retained the sum of N1.3bn from the deal.

According to the charge, Teidi allegedly spent the sum of N430m as his own share of the loot within the period of the alleged illegal transactions.

Mr. Sunday Ameh (SAN), the counsel for Teidi, however, opposed the attempt by the Prosecution counsel, Mr. Emmanuel Egboagwu, to tender the witness' written testimony as evidence.

Ameh argued that, 'There is no practice in our law books that allows a written evidence to be tendered in a criminal matter.''

In support of the objection, Mr. Solomon Umoh (SAN), the counsel for Abacha and Zal, submitted that it was only in civil matters that written testimonies could be tendered, adding, 'the court must disregard the attempt by the EFCC to give the court a new practice.''

Egboagwu, however, urged the court to discountenance the objections raised by counsel for the accused persons, adding that 'there is indeed a practice recognised by our law books that support tendering of written evidence in criminal matters''.