AT LEAST four Nigerian government officials have developed varying ‘health issues’ while undergoing probe for alleged funds misappropriation and corruption in their offices.
These sudden ill-health conditions often occur when investigations are carried out on various unexplainable spendings and at other times, during court cases, which inadvertently delay process and frustrate justice.
The ICIR takes a look at peculiar cases where officials have taken ill or developed sudden ill-health conditions while under probe for alleged corrupt practices.
Upon interrogation, Kemebradikumo Pondei, the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), who took over from Joi Nunieh in February, blacked out during the House of Representative investigative panel hearing held in Abuja on Monday.
The interim MD ‘fainted’ while he was being quizzed about N641 million naira paid to a certain Clear Point Communications company for the purpose of ‘locating NDDC projects across Nigeria’ and a N536 million to another company for a campaign tagged Save Lives in the Niger Delta.
Pondei also faced members of the panel in defence of financial malfeasance to the tune of the N81.5 billion, which is reported to have been expended by the commission between January to May.
However, the NDDC via its Twitter page on Sunday countered the notion, submitting that the said amount was spent between October 29, 2019 and May 31, 2020.
“It’s false to say #NDDC mismanaged N81.5 billion between Jan and July 2020. Truth is that sum was spent by two Interim Management Committees of the NDDC between October 29, 2019 and May 31, 2020, according to the #CentralBankofNigeria,” the tweet read in part.
The NDDC was established in 2000 for the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
In January 2016, Olisa Metuh, former spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was arraigned on seven counts of money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for allegedly receiving N400 million from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Metuh was indicted by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency for using his company, Destra Investment Limited, to launder funds.
Following his indictment, the former PDP spokesperson was tried and during the course of the case in court, the former PDP spokesperson had a series of undermining health episodes that led him to seek permission to get treatment abroad, all of which was denied.
On February 5, 2018, Metuh appeared in court in an ambulance, after his lawyer submitted that he had been absent from previous court proceedings on the grounds of ill health.
His counsel told the court that he had been admitted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra state.
Again in March 2018, Metuh, while in court ‘fainted’ as he approached the dock, pushing his lawyer to request withdrawal from the case. Okon Abang, the judge on the case, insisted that the trial must continue.
All the while, Metuh sought permission to travel abroad for medical attention but his requests were turned down by the court.
On February 25, Metuh was sentenced to 39 years imprisonment.
Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) was on October 25, 2019, arraigned alongside a firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, by the EFCC.
The former pension boss was being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency on 12 counts bordering on alleged N2 billion pension fund fraud, money laundering, and operating fictitious bank accounts among other fraudulent activities.
Maina is also accused of diverting N100 billion of pension funds.
While appearing for his trial at a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) high court in November, Maina, was wheeled in by two prison guards, buttressing reports of ill-health earlier submitted to the court.
As a result of his reported ill-health, the former PRTT chairman submitted a bail application which Okon Abang, the judge hearing the case granted a bail sum of N1 billion. Abang ruled that two sureties, who must be prepared for an N500 million bond each, must always be in court with the defendant at each adjourned date.
However, Maina, contested the bail condition which he described as stringent.
In June, Abang varied the bail conditions of the embattled pension boss, who has been remanded in a correctional facility since he was arrested alongside his son, Faisal in September.
Faisal was accused of operating an account he used to divert various sums of money, including N58 million.
Maina and his son are yet to meet new bail conditions and have remained in detention.
In August 2019, Winifred Oyo-Ita, Nigeria’s former Head of Service was reported to have checked into a hospital after facing probe of an alleged contract scam to the tune of N3 billion.
Oyo-Ita was interrogated by the EFCC for alleged abuse of duty tour allowance, money laundering and stealing of government funds.
The unexplainable funds were said to be kickbacks on contracts, illegal estacodes and duty tour allowance received from the government.
She was subsequently sacked in September 2019 after about N600 million was allegedly found in the bank account of her aide.
The former head of service was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 in acting capacity. In January 2016, her portfolio was conferred with a permanent status.