The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned the trio of Onukaogu Onyinyechi Esther, Ebenuwa Chinazo Jennifer and Onukaogu Joshua before Justice A. S. Adepoju of the FCT High court sitting in Wuse, Abuja, on a 13-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence.
The defendants were said to have drawn salaries as ghost workers from their ‘respective ministries’ for three years, to the tune of N9million before the law caught up with them.
According to the EFCC, Esther allegedly abused her office while being a 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.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge.
In view of their pleas, counsel to EFCC, Elizabeth Alabi, urged the court to fix a date for trial and to remand the suspects in prison custody.
But, the defence counsel, M. M. Hirse, informed the court that he had pending applications for the bail of the defendants.
Responding, Alabi urged the court to refuse the application adding that, “they were once granted bail and they jumped it”.
However, Justice Adepoju opined 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, therefore, granted each of the defendants bail in the sum of N5million with one surety each in like sum. The sureties must be civil servants not below salary grade level ten.
The matter has been adjourned to September 21, 2017 for hearing.