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Thursday, 5 October 2017

EFCC rearrests perm sec for alleged N664m fraud

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday re-arrested the serving Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Clement Onubuogo, over an alleged SURE-P fraud.

Onubuogo was picked up on the premises of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, where he was already facing trial over alleged diversion of funds from the SURE-P programme inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Apart from prosecuting him before Justice Babs Kuewumi, the EFCC had also obtained an interim order to seize two properties belonging to Onubuogo as well as the sums of N664,475,246.6 and $137,680.11 found in his bank accounts.

The permanent secretary had on Wednesday appeared in court for the continuation of his trial before Justice Kuewumi.

When the case was called, the EFCC prosecutor was absent from the courtroom.

In the circumstance, Onubuogo’s lawyer, A. Dada, asked for an adjournment, noting also that his client was very ill.

The judge, who was displeased with the development, said he had adjourned several cases so as to devote enough time to the hearing of Onubuogo’s case on Wednesday.

The judge, however, acceded to the prayer for an adjournment, shortly after which the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, stepped into the courtroom, followed by the defence counsel, who was already on his way out.

Dada complained to Justice Kuewumi that his client had just been picked up by operatives of the EFCC.

He said having been granted bail by the court, it was wrong for the EFCC to re-arrest his client.

But Oyedepo said there was no law that stopped anyone undergoing trial from being re-arrested for another criminal matter.

“The money belongs to all of us and we should all support efforts towards recovering it,” Oyedepo said.

The judge said having already adjourned the case, there was nothing he could do about the re-arrest of the permanent secretary.

EFCC accused Onubuogo of acquiring properties with funds which he allegedly diverted from SURE-P, a youth empowerment scheme launched by ex-President Jonathan.

One of the properties is his house known as Clement Illoh’s Mansion located at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba, Delta State, while the other, a hotel, is said to be located at No. 19, Madue Nwofor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State.

On August 17, 2017, Justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered the temporary forfeiture of the funds and the assets following an ex parte application moved before him by Oyedepo.

In the ex parte application, the EFCC said the funds and the properties were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of stealing and bribery.

In an eight-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an investigator of the EFCC, Huleji Tukura, said the anti-graft agency uncovered how Onubuogo diverted N876.9m out of the over N10bn released by the Jonathan administration for the scheme.

Tukura said the EFCC also discovered that Onubuogo, who was saddled with the responsibility of supervising the SURE-P Technical and Vocational Educational Training, Community Service, Women and Youth Empowerment Programmes, abused his office by collecting kickbacks from contractors.

He was also accused of fraudulently awarding contracts to himself using front companies and some workers serving under him.

For instance, the EFCC investigator said, “Through a fictitious contract, the respondent (Onubuogo) along with Mr. John Tsokwa and Mr. Salisu Kura conspired and procured the sum of N29,168, 654 out of which the sum of N10,500,000 was retained by the respondent.”

Tukura added that “The respondent (Onubuogo) received the sum of N37,802,000, which was diverted through Agoha Joseph Emeka, a member of staff of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for his personal gain.

“Through Ojeagu Global Service Limited, a company owned by his family, with an account domiciled in Zenith Bank, the respondent converted the sum of N159,770,383.45, which he subsequently laundered.”

Onubuogo was also accused of laundering N182,529,000, which, according to the EFCC, was found in his Access Bank and First Bank accounts that he failed to declare.

The EFCC told Justice Anka that it had already recovered a total of N129, 826,452 from Onubuogo’s co-conspirators such as “Salisu Kura, Rabiu Said, Tonye Isokeiri, Buhari Dahiru, John Kanku, Ahmed Muazu, Muktar Sufian, Udoh Nnamdi, Umar Mashi, Salogu Karo, Usman Bello and Ahmed Makki.”



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