Court remands former NSITF Chairman in EFCC custody over alleged diversion of public funds

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Jabi, Abuja, has ordered that the former board chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Ngozi Olejeme, be remanded in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s custody, until Friday.

Justice Maryam Hassan of the high court, who gave the order after listening to both counsel submissions on the defendant’s bail application, directed that the defendant should be in the EFCC’s custody pending the ruling on the application for bail on Friday.

Olejeme was arraigned on a nine-count charge in which she was accused of abusing her office, receiving bribes, awarding contracts without due process, diversion of public funds, money laundering among others, according to NAN.

What happened in court

The offence which she was charged for, was alleged to have been committed by her between 2012 and 2015, when she was at the helm of affairs as the chairman of the board of NSITF.

One of the charges brought against Olejeme alleged that the funds were diverted through the award of suspicious contracts to proxy companies, an offence the prosecution said contravened the provisions of sections 8, 19 (1) (b) (1), punishable under the Corrupt Practice & other Related Offence Act 2000 and Section 17, (1) (2), 39 of EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 and punishable under the same section.

However, Olejeme pleaded not guilty when the charges were read with her lawyer, Paul Erokoro (SAN, subsequently seeking for a bail for her on self-recognisance or on liberal terms.

The prosecuting lawyer, Steve Odiase, did not oppose but however, insisted that she must be granted conditional bail, requiring that she presents a surety.

With the defendant pleading not guilty, the prosecution counsel, Steve Odiase prayed for a date for hearing to enable the prosecution to prove her case against the defendant.

The defendant counsel, Paul Erokoro, SAN, therefore informed the court of the bail application dated and filed on October 18 before it.

Erokoro told the court that Olejeme was not a flight risk as she voluntarily returned to Nigeria when she heard that the prosecution wanted to question her and had been reporting to the EFCC’s office since she was questioned and released on bail in 2017.

The judge adjourned till Friday for the ruling and ordered that the defendant be kept in the custody of the EFCC.

What you should know

  • Recall that in 2017, the EFCC declared the former chairman of NSITF, Dr. Ngozi Juliet Olejeme wanted over alleged N69 billion fraud.
  • She was said to have alongside one Mr. Umar Munir Abubakar, who was the former Managing Director of NSITF, mismanaged and diverted well over N69 billion public funds into their personal accounts through the award of suspicious and bogus contracts to proxy companies.
  • The commission also noted that Olejeme had refused to honour its repeated invitations for her to answer some questions relating to the fraud.
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