Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja has remanded former Interior Minister, Abba Moro at Kuje Prisons in Abuja over alleged N676m money laundering and fraud charges.
Also sent to Kuje Prison alongside the ex-minister is F.O. Alayebami (the 3rd defendant), while the 2nd defendant who is a former Permanent Secretary at the Interior Ministry, Anastasia Nwobia, is to remain on her administrative bail that was earlier granted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Nwobia’s counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) drew the court’s attention to the fact the defendant is a nursing mother and could be remanded in prison custody.
Consequently, the trial judge granted the extension of her administrative bail and adjourned the suit till March 2, 2016 for the argument of the defendants’ bail application.
Moro and the other defendants had taken their not guilty plea before the court on Monday when the EFCC arraigned them on an eleven count charge bordering on fraud in the 2014 job recruitment exercise for the Nigeria Immigration Service that led to the death of 19 job seekers.
The accused persons were alleged to have contravened the Public Procurement Act No. 65 of 2007 in the contract awards by not following the necessary procedure laid down by the government.
According to the EFCC, the award of the contract to Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited had no prior advertisement, no needs assessment and a procurement plan was not carried out before the award of the contract.
The commission added that there was no budgetary provision for the exercise in the 2014 federal budget, hence, the applicants were made to bear the responsibility of funding the project without the approval of the board, contrary to Section 22(5) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission Act, 2000.
The charge sheet reads in part: “Moro, Anastasia Nwobia, F.O. Alayebami and Mahmood Ahmadu (at large) and Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd allegedly defrauded Nigerian applicants to the tune of N676,675,000 representing N1,000 per applicant through e-payment for their online recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Immigration Service on March 17, 2013.
“The contract was awarded through selective tendering procedure by invitation of four firms without seeking approval of the Bureau for Public Procurement contrary to sections 40, 42 and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, No. 65 of 2007 and punishable under Section 58 of the same act.
“Drexel Tech Global Nigeria Limited, the company that provided the online enlistment and recruitment services, is said to be unregistered and had no legal capacity to enter into the said contract.”
The EFCC discloses that out of the N676m, one of the accused persons, Mahmood Ahmadu, who is at large, lavished over N423m in connivance with Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited.
Explaining how the money was spent, the commission said, “The sum of N202,500,000 was spent on purchase of a property in a choice area of the Federal Capital Territory; N120,100,000 was used in upgrading a property in Abuja, while a total of N101,200,000 was converted to United States dollars for personal use.”
The suit, FHC/ABJ/CR/42/2016, was endorsed by a director in the commission’s Legal Department, Aliyu Yusuf.
Apart from the charges of obtaining money by false pretences, the ex-minister and others were also accused of breaching the Public Procurement Act with the manner they went about the recruitment contract allegedly awarded to Drexel.
Meanwhile, the conduct of the recruitment test in March, 2014, led to the death of no fewer than 20 applicants while many others were injured in stampedes in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Minna.