Desecration of the holies of holies: Dirty deals at Auditor General’s Office

Desecration of the holies of holies: Dirty deals at Auditor General's OfficeTop level fraud and huge financial malpractices uncovered at Audit House in Abuja draw attention of crime detectors and Legislators to failure of leadership under Samuel Ukura, Auditor- General of the Federation

By Tobs Agbaegbu

As a bureaucracy of the Federal Government, the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, AGF, presently occupied by Samuel Ukura, is widely believed to be a place for easy detection of fraud and various forms of financial malpractices in the Federal Civil Service. The occupant of the office, man or woman, is therefore expected to be a person of impeccable character who, as defined by the Federal Government in an advertorial for the vacant office in 2009, must as well be a person of ”vision, good managerial ability, professional competence, discipline, integrity and transparency in public and private life.” The occupant and Office of AGF is therefore highly referred and treated with awe.

The reverse appears to be the case in Nigeria presently. Verbatim is in possession  of  information and documents which clearly suggests that the office of the AGF may now  be the epicenter of high level  fraud and financial malpractices.

One case in point has already attracted the attention of the Special Fraud Unit, SFU, of the Nigeria Police, in Ikoyi ,Lagos. It is a case in which insiders in some banks operating in the country  connived with some officials of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation to defraud the Federal Government of over one billion naira.


At present, the Police appear to have concentrated on an aspect of the bigger fraud which it hopes will open clear window into the dirty deals at AGF’s office. The aspect involved an investigation into matters arising from a petition from a participant in the shady deal who has already confessed that in one deal alone, a huge sum of N240 million naira was realized and kept at a Zenith bank account for about a year.

In the petition which arose out of a quarrel over how to share the booty, the petitioner, Pedro Iorwuese Chellen, gave insight into how the entire deal was carried out, using Nicholas Mtemaye, an Assistant Director, Finance and Accounts  from the office of the AGF as ring leader.  Chellen claims his life is now in danger because he took 10 percent of the booty. He claimed that his business relationship with Mtemaye dated as far back as November 2010.

Writing through , T.M.Agboh, a Makurdi based lawyer, Chellen who claims to be the owner of C.M.Sterling Ventures Limited and Jercey Clean Limited explained that until his deal with Mtemaye got awry, both of them enjoyed ”cordial working relationship . He said he also provided ”prompt delivery by timely completing jobs that were assigned to me”.

To justify his assertion, he presented a graphic detail of his income and expenditure transaction with Mtemaye. He said, ”in one of our deals, we made a huge sum of money to the tune of N240,000,000.00 which money was credited into the companies’ accounts with Zenith Bank”. The money was said to have been kept for about one year, on the agreement that Chellen should take 10 percent ”for safe keeping”.

Chellen also gave details of how the money was disbursed after one year.  By the directive of Mtemaye in April 2012, he said a company called Cherry Wood was paid N46,497,775.66 through a Zenith Bank Account. Similarly, he said he paid ”the office of the auditor General of the Federation, the sum of N30,000,000 million on 6th August, 2012.

He said the office of AGF got another payment of N30 million from him on August 7th, 2012, on the directive of Mtemaye. Various other payments were said to have been effected from the money kept in his company’s account. The recipients were said to include Jobless Nig Enterprises which got N19million, Kaura-Namap Ventures.

Chellen said ”all other monies were electronically transferred to various accounts in various banks”, on the instruction of Mtemaye. His lawyers complained  that after rendering the services, their ”client no longer know peace as he receives calls from several people who claimed to have had your mandate to eliminate him unless the 10 percent is returned to you.”

On the strength of the petition, the Police have commenced full investigation into the matter. In a letter dated September 11, 2013, and titled ”case of Conspiracy, Money Laundering , Criminal Diversion and Stealing of funds to the tune of N240 million” , the Police alerted Ukura of their intentions.

In the letter signed by ACP Onwuka, the Police said the office of the AGF featured prominently in the fraud case and requested him to release  necessary information, documents and a number of his officers  for interrogation.

In their letter to the AGF, the police requested for full disclosures about the status of five companies which it believes were used as conduit pipes for the fraud. The companies were named as Messrs CM Sterling Ventures Limited, Kurara-Namap Ventures, Jubless Nigeria Enterprises, Cherry Wood Limited and Jerry Clean Limited.


 Verbatim learnt that the request by the police is just the first leg of a painstaking investigation which may eventually lead to the interrogation and likely detention of many top ranking officers , including   Ukura , the Auditor General of the Federation.  Verbatim learnt indeed that the AGF has been invited by the investigating  Police Unit in  Lagos.

Police sources told Verbatim that Ukura will be expected to answer questions on why it was possible for the fraud of such magnitude to succeed, in spite of bottlenecks provided against such acts. The Police are said to have received hints that the way and manner Ukura operated at Audit House would have naturally made it difficult for corruption to succeed there.

Since he became AGF, under highly controversial circumstances, he  is said to have changed rules adopted by his predecessors to ensure smooth operations at Audit House. Among others, he is said to have turned himself into the sole authority that approves and disburses funds. By his queer style, he is said to have rendered occupants of the post of Director of Finance and Administration, DFA, and other accounts staff, redundant.

 

It was not clear by press time last week if the requests of the Police have been fully met.  Verbatim learnt however that spirited efforts are being made by the AGF to obtain transfer of the case from Lagos to Abuja. Sources from the Office of the Inspector General of Police told  Verbatim that Ukura’s efforts are yet to receive approval by the IGP.

 Verbatim learnt that the National Assembly are also investigating the office of the AGF. The Federal Legislators, especially members of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts are thinking of  a full blown enquiry into the activities of Ukura since he became AGF, on account of his perceived poor performance in office.

The Senate Committee were said to be developing that line of thought after it had an encounter with Ukura a few days ago when he appeared before them to explain issues contained in the 2011 AGF’s annual report. The Committee were said to have berated Ukura for poor presentation and outward manifestation of incompetence.

When he appeared before the Committee On the 10th of October, last week, for instance, Ukura was said to have failed to provide the Senators with details of his many trips to South Africa. Abdul Ningi, from Bauchi was specifically said to have asked him to state explicitly, how many times he has travelled abroad this year alone and he failed to provide convincing answers. The Senators were said to have warned him to desist from hiding vital information and to return in a week’s time with details of what they wanted.

The AGF’s matter with the Legislators have been worsened lately by rumour that he is entangled with a brewing age doctoring scandal.

Ukura was a former  Auditor-General in Benue State. He was educated at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, as well as  Bayero University, Kano. He became AGF in October 2009. He has been credited with:

Sponsoring and promoting the Audit Bill, a bill seeking to empower the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation to live up to its mandate. The passage is expected to vest higher authority on the Office to address several challenges, including the engagement of specialised personnel to render expert services in particular aspects of auditing.

Ukura is also credited with  acquiring the new Audit House as foremost clearing house in the country. The eight-storey Audit House, located in the Central Business District of Abuja.

-Verbatim

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