N27bn pension thief rearrested after outcry

2013-01-30
THE PUNCH Newspaper

There were indications on Tuesday that public outcry against the light sentence handed an Assistant Director in the Police Pension Office, Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf, by a Federal Capital Territory High Court, forced the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to rearrest him.

The high court presided over by Justice Mohammed Talba had on Monday sentenced Yusuf to only two years’ imprisonment with an option of N750,000 fine for conniving with others to defraud the PPO and pensioners of N27.2bn.

Even before the judge rose, many in the courtroom expressed amazement at the judgment. While many Nigerians took to social networks like the Facebook and Twitter mocking the judgment, prominent lawyers and civil rights activists condemned it as a setback to the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade.

On Tuesday, one of the civil rights groups, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, demanded the probe of Talba for the light sentence.

Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress said the judgment was an indication that the judiciary could not be relied on to deliver the country from monumental corruption.

A source close to the EFCC told one of our correspondents that the commission, apparently embarrassed by the public outcry , moved swiftly to redeeem its image by sniffing more into Yusuf’s records in order to nail him.

The source said, “We never expected what happened yesterday(Monday). The reactions that followed the judgment were embarrassing to us and that was why we quickly had to look into his files again and sniffed out things that we had overlooked. With those things, we had to rearrest him for fresh prosecution.”

EFCC spokesperson, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, had told The PUNCH in Abuja that Yusuf was rearrested because he had a pending case. “He will face fresh charges. When you are arrested and you are being investigated, logically you will be rearraigned to face fresh charges, ” he added.

He later issued a statement in which he said Yusuf would be arraigned today (Wednesday) before Jutice Adamu Bello of a Federal High Court in Abuja on four counts.

Uwujaren said, “He will be arraigned over non-declaration of his assets and liability in his asset declaration form and his failure to declare his interest in a company known as SY-A Global Services Limited.

“The pension fraud convict is alleged to have used the company, SY-A Global Services Limited, to lodge N250m with Zenith Bank.

“Yusuf’s re-arraignment is coming on the heels of a questionable ruling by Justice Mohammed Talba of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday, January 29, in which he was handed a two- year jail term with an option of N250,000 fine on each of the three counts against him.

“Yusuf is one of the six persons standing trial in the N32.8bn Police Pension scam. The six accused persons in the police pension scam were first arraigned on March 29, 2012, on 16 criminal charges bordering on conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.

“The other accused person are Esai Dangabar, Atiku Kigo, Ahmed Wada, Mrs. Veronica Onyegbula and Sani Zira. Kigo was the director of the PPO before he was made a permanent secretary.”

Count one and two of the charges to be preferred against Yusuf reads:

“That you, John Yusuf on or about February 14, 2012 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division knowingly failed to make full disclosure of your assets and liability in the Declaration of Asset Form filled by you, by not declaring your interest in a company known as SY-A Global Services Limited , a Nigerian company incorporated by you, and solely owned by yourself and members of your immediate family and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27(3) of the EFCC (Establishment, etc.) Act CAP E1 2004.

“That you, John Yusuf, on or about February 14 , 2012 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division knowingly failed to make full disclosure of your assets and liability in the Declaration of Asset Form filled by you, by not declaring your interest in the N250m you have in a fixed deposit account with Zenith Bank in the name of SY-A Global Services Limited, a company in which you are the sole signatory to its account and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27(3) of EFCC (Establishment ,etc.) Act CAP E1 2004.

Furthermore, count three explained that the convict also, knowingly, failed to make full disclosure of the sum of N10m he lodged in a fixed deposit account with the First Bank of Nigeria Plc in the name of the same company.

Count four accused him of failing to make full disclosure of N29m which was fixed on his instruction by one Danjuma Mele in the account of Jidag Technical Services Ltd with Diamond Bank.

A list of witnesses attached to the charge sheet showed Mustapha Gandaya, Mele, officials of Zenith Bank and officials of Diamond Bank as witnesses to be called against the accused person in the course of his fresh trial.

Exhibits to be presented in court for the trial, according to the charge sheet, include statement of the accused person, statements of witnesses, and other relevant documents and exhibits.

The charge sheet in the new suit was numbered FHC/ABJ/CR/14/2013 and dated January 29, 2013. It was signed by Chile Okoroma, the Acting Director, Legal and Prosecution Department, EFCC, on behalf of the Chairman of the commission and the Attorney- General of the Federation.

EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), and many others in the FCT High Court where Yusuf was convicted on Monday, had openly expressed their amazement with the lightsentence handed him.

Also, the EFCC had, in a statement shortly after the court rose , condemned the sentence, saying it would study it and “respond appropriately.”

The statement read in part, “The EFCC has expressed reservations about the ruling of an FCT High Court, Abuja which handed a six year jail term with the option of N750, 000 fine to Yusufu, one of the six persons standing trial in the N32.8bn Police Pension scam.

“The commission is of the view that the option of fine runs contrary to the understanding between the prosecution and the defence wherein the convict consented to a custodial sentence with the forfeiture of all assets and money that are proceeds of the crime.”

Meanwhile, a civil society group has asked the Judiciary to probe Justice Talba because his judgment on Monday was an open invitation to would-be corrupt government officials to help themselves with public funds.

Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Mallam Awual Musa , who made this known, advised the Judiciary to begin to redeem its image.

 

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