Abuja — A Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, yesterday, sent two serving military officers and two female bank managers to Kuje Prisons over alleged connivance and stealing of N339 million meant for the payment of military pensions.
They will, at least, spend the next four days in the prison.
Justice D.Z. Senchi, who ordered the remand of the four suspects in prison, said their applications for bail would be heard next Monday.
In the criminal case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against the suspects, the commission prayed the court to jail them for causing untold hardship to military pension beneficiaries and their families who were robbed of their entitlements after serving the nation for many years.
The two military officers sent to Kuje Prison include Wing Commander Ishaka Yakubu and Lieutenant Commander Akinbamidele Odunsi, while the two bank officials are Mrs. Abidemi Aderemi Kolade and Violet Ofoegbunam.
They were alleged to have conspired to collect monies meant for payment of death benefits to deceased Army officers, and converted same to personal use.
The EFCC said in the six-count charge of conspiracy and stealing of pension funds preferred against the four suspects that the offence breached Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 LFN (Abuja) 1990, and punishable under the same Act.
In one of the charges read to the suspects, who all pleaded not guilty, the EFCC said: "That you, Wing Commander Ishaka Yakubu 'm' while serving as a cashier with the Military Pension Board, Lieutenant Commander Akinbamidele Odunsi 'M' being an Assistant Director, computer, while serving with the Military Pension Board, Mrs Abidemi Aderemi Kolade 'F' being a Relationship Manager while serving with United Bank for Africa, UBA Plc, Kuforudua Branch- Abuja and Violet Ofoegbunam 'F' being a Branch Manager while serving with UBA Plc, Kuforodua Branch-Abuja, on or about February, 2016 in Abuja within the Jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, while being entrusted with dominion over money belonging to the Nigeria Military Pension Board dishonestly converted to your own use the sum of N339.374 million, which was withdrawn from the Military Pension Board Account with the pretence that the said sum represented payments to the supposed next-of-kin to deceased Nigerians as death benefit.
"That the said monies were paid and withdrawn in tranches and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 97 of the Penal Code Cap 532 LFN ( Abuja) 1990."
Their non-guilty plea forced the EFCC counsel, Steve Odiase, to ask the court to fix a date for hearing and remand them in custody pending trial.
Odiase invited the court to take note of the fact that Yakubu and Odunsi (1st and 2nd defendants) had on several dates, refused to come to court, "an attempt aimed at frustrating efforts to have them arraigned over the alleged offence."
He urged the court to impose stringent conditions should it be persuaded to admitting the defendants to bail.
However, Yakubu's counsel, Patrick Ediale, informed the court of a pending application dated November 2, 2017, praying the court to admit his client to bail.
He urged the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the defendant, saying "he is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved."
Other counsels in the defence also joined in seeking bail for their clients.
Justice Senchi, while ordering the remand of the defendants, adjourned to November 13 for hearing of their bail applications.