By Yekeen Nurudeen
Three siblings — Onukaogu Onyinyechi Esther, Onukaogu Joshua and Ebenuwa Chinazo Jennifer — have been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on a 13-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence.
The three of them were said to have drawn salaries as ghost workers from the federal ministries of education and works, for three years, to the tune of N9million before the law caught up with them.
Esther allegedly abused her office while being staff of Soft Alliance, consultants to the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, on IPPIS between 2012 and 2013, to input her name and two of her siblings (Jennifer and Joshua) into the IPPIS database as staff of Federal Ministry of Education and Federal Ministry of Works respectively, for the purpose of receiving salaries from the federal government.
The offence breaches Section 1 (1) (a) and is punishable under Section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, No. 14, 2006.
“That you Onukaogu Onyinyechi Esther and Onukaogu Joshua between January 2014 and December 2014, at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with the intention to defraud, obtained the sum of N1,860,865.72 (One Million, Eight Hundred and Sixty Thousand, Eight Hundred and Sixty Five naira, Seventy Two Kobo, only), from the Federal government of Nigeria, under the false pretence that Onukaogu Joshua is a civil servant working in the Federal Ministry of Education, which pretence you knew to be false,” reads Count 6 of the charge.
But the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge, just as Elizabeth Alabi, the counsel to EFCC, urged the court to fix a date for trial and to remand the suspects in prison custody.
M. Hirse, the defence counsel, informed the court that he had pending applications for the bail of the defendants.
Responding, Alabi urged the court to refuse the application, saying “they were once granted bail and they jumped it”.
However, Justice A. Adepoju ruled that “the purpose of bail is to secure the attendance of the defendants in court. It is their constitutional right to be granted bail”.
The judge granted each of the defendants bail in the sum of N5 million with one surety each in like sum. The sureties must be civil servants not below salary Grade Level 10, while the matter was adjourned to September 21, 2017, for hearing.
Meanwhile, the accused are to be remanded in EFCC custody pending the perfection of their bail conditions.