EFCC, ORONSAYE AND THE TALE OF FRAUD

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A popular proverb holds that when a jealous one is unable to establish faults in a beautiful child, he harasses the child to go and have his bathe. This appears to be the situation in the unending desperate efforts by the present leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC to blackmail the former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsaye.

Recently, the Media were awash with sponsored reports alleging that the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Financial Action Task Force, Mr. Steve Oronsaye was involved in high level fraud during his reign in office as Head of Service of the Federation.

First, it was a report alleging that he was involved in N6.2b pension fund diversion while in office as Head of Service, among others. Another was that alleging that the Auditor General’s Report indicted him for N123billion fraud.

As weighty as these allegations appear, the world is at a loss on why a report of alleged fraud perpetrated between 2009 and 2010, as quoted was kept in the shelf until when the move to establish the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Center-NFIC reached an advance stage; or was it kept as a weapon for blackmail against the elder statesman? When that did not stop the passage of the NFIC Bill, Lamorde waited until recent media reports favoured Mr. Oronsaye’s possible emergence as Secretary to the Government of the Federation or Chief of Staff to the President. Out of fear of the unknown and desperate mischief, he started again.

Just as nothing is hidden under the sun, the works of men are always exposed by nature at the appointed time. In each of the attempts to tarnish the image of Mr. Oronsaye, the glaring facts always vindicated him.

Every Nigerian close to history can read between the lines on the grouse of the EFCC under Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde against the former head of Service, Mr. Steve Oronsaye. The move to establish the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Center that will be responsible for the receipt of information from financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions, analysis of the financial information for the purpose of turning this information into financial intelligence and dissemination of the financial intelligence to all law enforcement agencies is the issue. The NFIC Bill is the beginning and end of the matter.

The NFIC Bill, which has been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, awaiting Presidential assent, is designed to provide a sustainable and credible legal framework for the FIC, Nigeria. As is the accepted practice in other jurisdictions, the Bill seeks to provide the FIC with operational independence and autonomy, and greater ability to provide financial intelligence to all relevant competent authorities in order to strengthen anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures.

The establishment of the Center means removing the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit from the EFCC, as it is presently and giving the Center operational autonomy. The bulk of international/donor support that comes to EFCC is attracted by the NFIU and is NEVER accounted for. The issues are very clear. It is a clear case of witch-hunt and tarnishing of image. Just call a dog a bad name and hang it.

To start with, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye initiated Civil Service reforms and took deliberate steps to entrench accountability and transparency in public Service in Nigeria. He personally wrote a letter reporting the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) findings to the EFCC, which resulted in the prosecution of one Mrs. Chidi and Dr. Shuaibu.

Surprisingly, after EFCC closed investigations in the Pension case in 2010, arraigned the subjects in 2011, obtained a “negotiated judgment” on one of the pension suspects in 2013, the Chairman is seeking to reopen the investigation by claiming that one of the suspects “wrote an additional statement” to indict Mr. Oronsaye.

For the benefit of those who have not been following the pension case –Mrs. Phina Chidi is the lady who covered her face in all the pension trial cases. This is a woman whom, investigation reports showed glaring evidence of her involvement in moving money from pension accounts using “her under-aged children”. How can a woman who ought to have been convicted all of a sudden become a star witness for the EFCC? Did the woman suffer from hallucination? Was she under duress after three years to forge a story against Mr. Oronsaye? Why now? Nigerians are not asking relevant questions.

It is no news that Mr. Oronsaye started the investigation of Pension fraud when he became Head of Service. It is also a fact that can be checked out that he set up the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) before he retired in 2010. He also personally submitted the final report of that task team to EFCC and ICPC and invited them to investigate and prosecute those indicted before he retired. How come the complainant is now being witch hunted? Instead of prosecuting all those found guilty, EFCC is now turning to claim that it has evidence to prosecute Mr. Oronsaye –forged evidence generated by his ‘selected investigators’ from the North, including Mr. Mustapha Abdurrahman and Mr. Mustapha Gadanya, a younger brother to Mr. Tahir, who, not only was a staff of Mrs. Chidi, but who has been dismissed from civil service for conspiring with Mrs. Chidi to steal Pension fund? Why is EFCC making a charade of such an important case?

Mr. Oronsoye is the chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Financial Action Task Force. He recommended the merger of the EFCC with ICPC and has been in support of the autonomy of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, a unit presently under the EFCC which has been battling the Commission for autonomy. The NFIC bill seeks autonomy for NFIU and what do you think that EFCC will do when it is obvious that the largest international donor funding comes to EFCC because of NFIU?

This criminal intimidation of innocent Nigerians while the actual criminals in the system are allowed to walk the streets freely is unfortunate and must be resisted by all. This is indeed an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians.

The earlier sponsored report which stated that Mr. Oronsoye was grilled by the EFCC following a statement made by a Deputy Director, Pension Account in the office of the head of service, Mrs. Phina Chidi is a clear manifestation of set-up and betrayal of public trust.

In the report, Mrs. Chidi was said to have informed EFCC interrogators that she was given a mandate to shop for contractors who could make returns to the former Head of Service in the award of fictitious contracts which cost the country N5bn. She did not show any evidence of the mandate. In the Civil Service, instructions are communicated through formal memo.

She alleged further that the returns were made to Oronsaye through Shuaibu. Where is the evidence that there was such a transaction?

The said contracts were allegedly awarded between January 2009 and November 2010 when Oronsaye was Head of Service. Why did it take the EFCC three to four years before they realized it?

She alleged that the proceeds from the phoney contracts were paid into the accounts of two new generation banks before they were withdrawn by Shuaibu and taken to Oronsaye. You mean, he withdrew over N6b cash and delivered to Mr. Oronsoye? How is that possible? Why did it take an additional statement after three years for Mrs. Chidi to try to robe in Mr. Oronsoye?

In the report, Mrs. Chidi was quoted as saying, “In addition to my statement on January 11, 2011, I wish to state as follows: that I was asked by Dr. Shuaibu to shop for company names to execute our contracts, proceeds of which should be given to Mr. Stephen Oronsaye the then Head of Service.”

After three years of her statement to the EFCC, she now remembered that Mr. Oronsoye should be included? This is a clear case of afterthought. Even a little child will clearly see that it is a set up. No one needs to be told that the woman is being used to set the man up.

Ultimately, the EFCC under the present leadership lacks focus and direction. It is the most corrupt in the history of Nigeria and needs a total overhaul.

President Buhari must read in between the lines. Surely, he is smarter than that!

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Articles by Chike Duru