Governor Abiola Ajimobi
Eight employees of the Oyo State government are now cooling their heels at the State Criminal Investigations Department, CID, over alleged involvement in a pension scam totalling N2, 608,398,709.29.
According to a release from Festus Adedayo, special assistant on media and publicity to Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the fraud was recently discovered in the state Local Government Service Pensions Board.
Chairman of the board, Lasisi Ayankojo, who allegedly unearthed the fraud, said the interim investigative report of the Local Government Service Commission into the board's account between September 2010 and March, 2011, indicated that ten civil servants in the state may have been involved in the scam.
Though, the pension board boss refused to disclose the names of the indicted officials, he said eight of them have already been handed over to the police, adding that the remaining two had taken to their heels.
Ayankojo noted that the board had presented the report of the committee to the state governor, who immediately ordered further probe to get to the root of the alleged fraud.
He explained that the board became curious after receiving complaints from local government workers and retirees teacher that their pensions were not paid to them by government.
The development, he said, prompted the board to set up a committee to look into the details of the retirees ‘complaints, adding that the committee's investigations discovered that monies were actually collected by civil servant intermediaries working in the commission and never remitted to the pensioners.
Ayankojo revealed further that the amount involved in the scam was collected through issuance of cheques to the indicted civil servants in their own personal names, instead of paying into the accounts of the retirees through e-payment, making it easy for the perpetration of the scam.
According to him between September and November 2010, the then executive secretary and director, finance and administration of the board, withdrew the sum of N680, 430,646.69 from the Local Government staff account meant for pensioners, adding that the same individuals withdrew the sum of N1, 353,868,062.60 from the Teachers Account of the board.
The two senior officials, the chairman said, have now bolted to escape justice and that efforts by the police to get them arrested were yet to yield fruits.
Ayankojo also said that the two fleeing officers alongside seven other top civil servants of the board equally collected the sum of N173, 800,000 from the pensioners' accounts between September 2010 and March 2011.
He, again, informed that another staff of the accounts department of the board, at various times within the period, personally withdrew the sum of N401, 300, 000 of the board's money earmarked for pensioners.
While justifying why they invited the police to do further investigation, Ayankojo said the government felt obliged to know the details of how the state’s resources are spent.
He said questioned suspects have confessed to the police that they collected the cheques of the amount stolen from the absconded executive secretary and, after cashing the cheque, returned the money to him.
Ayankojo was cautious as he refused to directly link politicians in Adebayo Alao-Akala's regime to the scam, arguing that the police are still investigating the matter.
He, however, blamed the incident for the slow payment of pension to teachers and local government pensioners in the state.
The state police command confirmed the arrests but its Public Relations Officer, Bisi Clet-Ilobanafor, said only seven of the suspects are in its custody.
She said the executive secretary went on two-week leave but never returned back to work.
The treasurer, according to her, has retired from service and had gone to Saudi Arabia on Islamic pilgrimage.
The PPRO said that the police is still investigating the matter to determine the level of culpability of the suspects.