Abuja — The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the temporary forfeiture of 23 properties that were allegedly traced to former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina.
The court order followed an ex-parte motion that was brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Attached to the motion that was moved by counsel to the anti-graft agency, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar was a schedule that contained a list of the properties located across five states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
Aside okaying the interim seizure of the assets, Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo directed EFCC to publish the order in a national daily to enable anyone that is interested in any of the properties, to within 14 days after the publication, show cause why it should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
This order came on a day the EFCC secured nod to arraign the former pension boss on a 12-count criminal charge bordering on money laundering, fraud and the operation of fictitious bank accounts.
He is expected to be docked on Friday before Justice Okon Abang, while his son, Faisal, will also be separately arraigned on a similar charge.
EFCC had told the court that the 23 assets linked to the ex- PRTT Chairman, which it found in Abuja, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Borno, Sokoto and Kano state, were acquired with proceeds of crime.
The Commission said its investigations revealed that whereas Maina used pseudo names to acquire some of the properties, documents that were recovered from him further disclosed that he also used names of his wife, son, mother, his late father, as well as a company where his relations are directors.
It told the court that Maina massively looted funds meant for Federal Civil Service Pensioners through "a fraudulent nationwide numeric enrolment exercise of pensioners" which he spearheaded.
The agency said it uncovered the fraud which was perpetrated with names of fake pensioners, at the end of an investigation it conducted in 2010.
In a 30-paragraphed affidavit that was deposed to by one of its investigative officers, Mr. Mohammed Goji, EFCC, told the court that it had some time in 2010, constituted a special team after it was invited by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service to assist in the verification/biometric exercise of the Federal Civil Service Pensioners.
Goji who was a member of the special team, told the court that in the course of the exercise, two fake pensioners were discovered, leading to a large scale investigation into more fake pensioners.
"That in the course of the investigation, it was discovered that large scale corruption in form of stealing and money laundering of pension funds had taken place, spearheaded by one Abdulrasheed Maina, who was the Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, along with his accomplices.
"That the said Abdulrasheed Maina alongside one of his cohorts, Stephen Oronsaye, the former head of the Civil Service of the Federation had set out to siphon funds belonging to the Federal Civil Service Pensioners by setting up a fraudulent nationwide biometric enrolment exercise of pensioners on Federal Government payroll under auspices of a Pension Reform Committee.
"That the said Stephen Oronsaye invited one Osarankhoe Afe to join the Pension Reform Committee which was being led by Abdulrasheed Maina.
"That the said Osarenkhoe Afe introduced a company known as Innovative Solutions to the Pension Reform Committee through the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) for he biometric enrolment project, which company was headed by one Mr. Robert Ikazoboh", the deponent averred.
He told the court that the firm received an excess sum of N25millon, adding that initial contract sum of N14.5m was shared between Afe, Maina and two directors in the OHCSF.
EFCC told the court that Maina later instructed the firm to tender request for contract extension to the tune of over N136m, out of which over N155m was transferred to him through the account of another company, Fredrick Hamilton.
The agency said its investigations revealed that Maina fictitiously owned and operated five accounts with Fidelity Bank Plc that had a cumulative turnover of over N2.7billion, of which 95% of the deposits were made by the Bankers in their own names and other bogus names.
It said the fake bank accounts were opened with the active connivance of four officials of the bank in Kaduna state, noting that one of them, Toyin Meseke, who was identified as the Account Officer to some of the investigated accounts, severally delivered huge sums to Maina, sometimes in foreign currencies, using a Bureau de Change operator, one Bashir Mohammed Taura.
Aside allegation that the ex-pension boss used funds he siphoned from public coffers to acquire choice properties, EFCC, told the court that one of the companies he controlled, Cluster Logistics Ltd, received a total sum of N155.7m from the Department of State Service, DSS, in the name of DSS pension's biometrics between November 16, 2011 and November 4, 2012.
"That investigation conducted revealed that the above funds were used by Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina to acquire assets and properties in different parts of the country and abroad, including those listed in the schedule to this application.
"That investigation further revealed that Mr. Maina's known legitimate source of income is not commensurate with the humongous stated to paragraph 18 above, among other assets and properties traced to him some of which are listed in the schedule to this application".
It said several documents relating to numerous properties "reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crimes", were recovered after a search warrant was executed on August 1 at residences of Maina's relative, Uwani Maina Usman and his associate, Mairo Bashir, in Kaduna and Abuja.
EFCC said it would be in the overall interest of justice for the court to order that all the properties be permanently forfeited to the government, same being proceeds of crime.
It will be recalled that Maina and his 20-year-old son were arrested in a hotel in Abuja on September 30, by DSS operatives and subsequently handed to the EFCC on October 2 for further investigation and prosecution.
Maina had for over four years, successfully evaded arrest, after he was fingered in an over N2.1bn pension scam that led to the prosecution of several public officers, including the former head of the Federal Civil Service, Mr. Oronsaye.