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EFCC Discloses How Suspended REA MD, Others Allegedly Misappropriated N12.4Billion

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has alleged that the suspended Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, along with other senior officials of the agency, are involved in a N12.4 billion fraud.

The anti-graft commission said that as part of the ongoing investigation, it had traced 27 accounts to Ahmad, saying that Ahmad only declared two accounts to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

The Nation reports that EFCC said it was investigating the alleged “gross misappropriation of N12.4 billion COVID-19 funds, which were disbursed to the agencies in two tranches, noting that it suspected that N6 billion out of the N12.4 billion could have been diverted.

The commission further revealed that about N1.2 billion, which immediately accounted for Ahmad’s suspension, was sent into the accounts of eight staff members of the agency.

Although Ahmad and four others were the initial focus of the investigation, the EFCC has also indicted two directors of the REA for alleged involvement in malpractices in the agency and said it had uncovered the involvement of others in the alleged fraud.

The EFCC is accusing REA’s top officials of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of public funds, procurement fraud and money laundering.

One of the anti-corruption commission’s points of the investigation was the uncovering of 27 accounts linked with Ahmad.

Part of the EFCC report reads, “That the suspect made a false declaration at the Code of Conduct Bureau as he operates (27) active accounts against the (2) accounts declared by him.

“That on the 1st of September, 2020, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad declared his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau.

“That the suspect declared only two bank accounts with the Code of Conduct Bureau.

“That the suspect made a false declaration at the Code of Conduct Bureau as he stated that he does not have any factory or enterprise while in reality, he is a director in five (5) companies and shareholder (owner) in four (4) companies.

“That the suspect did not declare that he owns any factory or enterprise in the forms he filled at the Code of Conduct Bureau.”

The report on the issue of N12.4 billion COVID-19 cash, reportedly stated: “That in the year 2020 and 2021, two tranches of N6.2 billion each totalling N12.4 billion was disbursed by the Federal Government to the Rural Electrification Agency.

“That the funds were meant to fulfill the Federal Government’s economic sustainability plan of ‘Energy for All’ aimed at mass rural solar power lighting.

“That the agency decided to procure basically solar mini grid and solar lights in selected health care facilities and surrounding communities in the Federation.

“That for all the contracts proposed to be awarded by the agency, Selective Tendering procurement method was adopted and it was imperative to therefore seek ‘certificate of no objection’ from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

“That the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) issued ‘Certificate of No Objection’ while emphasizing that the agency should invite and request financial quotation from various companies for each lot, before awarding the contracts.

“That for most of the lots, the agency did not heed the directive of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) but rather went ahead to award most of the contracts to their choice contractors without inviting other approved contractors for each lot.

“That this approach did not give fair value to the government as financial quotation was not sought and received for consideration from other contractors as approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

“That the Rural Electrification Agency therefore awarded a total number of (77) contracts and (7) consultancy jobs to various contractors.

“That the narration of the contract award as furnished by the agency indicates contract splitting as contracts with the same project narration which should have been awarded as a single project, were split in numerous bits.

“That the splitting of the contracts into numerous bits below (N250,000,000.00) allowed for the approval of the Managing Director of the Agency.

“That the approval limit for the Managing Director for ‘Works’ in 2020 and 2021 was (N250,000,000.00) & below as any contract cost higher than that would have warranted Ministerial Tenders Board approval outside the control of the Managing Director of the Agency.

“That payments totalling (N313,111,070.40) were made by the agency to various companies not captured or approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

“That overpayments totalling about N310,000,000.00 were made to three contractors, which exceeded the contract award amount.

“That five contracts totalling N583,671,221.67 were furnished as Covid 19 contracts by the agency but Remita platform being the central source of all payments, did not reveal any form of payments to those companies; hence these contracts were used to pad the agency’s submission to the Commission in a bid to camouflage its misappropriation of the said sum.

“That suspicious payments totalling over N80,000,000 were made to various staff of the agency under the guise of fictitious narrations such as ‘survey and data collection’ and economic sustainability programme’.

“That for some of the contracts, payment vouchers were not raised while for others, relevant supporting documents were not attached in contravention of the Financial Regulation.

“That six consultants were engaged to serve as Project Owner’s Engineers entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring and evaluating the extent of execution of Covid 19 projects across the country.

“That have so far revealed that numerous contracts were under-executed, while some of them were no longer functional at the time of evaluation being just about six months after the supposed execution of the projects thereby indicating the use of inferior or substandard materials for the project execution.

“That sadly, some of the projects were also reported as 0% executed i.e they were never executed. That so far, projects totalling about (N2,000,000,000.00) have been reported as not executed across the country.

“The section, therefore, has reasonable grounds to believe that sums totalling about (N6,000,000,000.00) could have been diverted owing to non-execution, under execution, and poor execution of the contracts. Strategic recovery of all stolen/ criminally diverted will be carried out upon conclusion of ongoing analysis.”

In the case of N1.2 billion which led to Ahmad’s suspension, the EFCC report alleged that the cash was stolen from the agency’s account in tranches between March and June 2023.

The report alleged that about eight staff members in the agency’s account department were used to steal the fund in what was described as “a devious scheme”.

The report listed other top officials of the agency indicted in the alleged fraud including the Director of Fund, Abubakar Sambo, his Technical Service counterpart, Barka Sajor and Executive Director of Corporate Services, Mr Olaniyi Netufo.

The report further stated, “That during the said period, various sums of money were paid into the personal bank accounts of the eight (8) staff members with narrations bordering on project supervision which fell outside their job roles.

“It was further emphasized that the funds received into the staff bank accounts were forwarded to one Usman Kwakwa Ahmed’s various bank accounts who then split the spoils of the fraud to the Director of Fund, Abubakar Sambo, the Executive Director Corporate Services, Olaniyi Netufo, one Adudu Yusuf Mohammed and Danmama Mohammed and others while also making various payments to Bureau De Change Operators on the instruction of the Managing Director, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad.

“That the Executive Director Corporate Services, Mr Alaba Netufo has been engaging and participating in the management and running of a private business whilst being a public officer, while also emphasizing that some notable contractors of the agency had on several occasions paid monies into the account of Necol (Nigeria) Limited, which is his company.

“That two companies namely Airan Construction & Supplies, and Tungsten Project Nigeria Limited were paid (N24.4) million and (N6.1) million for doing ‘’nothing’’, as they had no contract award.”

The report also revealed: “During the course of investigation, the section received intelligence regarding other categories of large-scale misappropriation of public funds within the agency, which are also being substantiated. They are as highlighted below:

“The agency coerces contractors who execute zonal intervention and capital projects to part with (5%) of the contract sum which they tag as ‘’monitoring and evaluation’’ charges, and these monies, which are usually paid in cash to senior/management staff of the agency, are more often than not, embezzled.

“That payments totalling (N728,915,229.04) made by the agency to (15) various contractors in the year 2023 for consultancy jobs were channels for stealing and diversion of public funds majorly because by virtue of the job roles of certain staff of the agency being zonal coordinators, project department as well as monitoring and evaluation department, it was unnecessary, ridiculous and alarming that external consultants were still engaged to execute the same responsibilities.

“Parallel Financial investigation is being carried out to establish the predicate crimes as well as its associated money laundering in a bid to prosecute all criminals and their accomplices while recovering the proceeds of crime.

“There was questionable award of contracts, and a significant portion of those contracts were either poorly executed or not executed at all, thereby leading to criminal diversion and stealing of public funds.

“Although computation is ongoing to ascertain the exact amount that was criminally diverted based on poor execution and non-execution of contracts, the Section has so far established that contracts totalling about Two Billion naira (N2,000,000,000.00) were never executed. Additionally, overpayments totalling about (N310,000,000.00) were made to three contractors, which exceeded the contract award amount.”

Also, the report revealed how N1,481,389,518.11 was fraudulently paid into the accounts of some staff member.

The report identified the members of staff as Asuni Adejoke Amina who received N270,103,614, and Musa U. Karaye, who received N128,720,251; while Okojie O. Henrietta received N212,900,000; Pada Emmanuel Titus received N291,109,081; Sheu Abdullahi Laure received N254,203,778.87; Yekeen Bola Nurudeen received N1,000,000; Ogunjobi Folusho received N1,000,000; Usman Kwakwa Ahmed received N322,352,793.24; while Abdullahi A. Sambo received N2,017,500.

The report also added “That in August 2022, Abdullahi Sambo, a staff e of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, was posted to the Rural Electrification Agency where he was first posted to the Audit Department after which he was posted to the head the Finance and Accounts Department.

“That upon resumption in the Finance and Accounts Department in March 2023, he informed the staff of the department that monies were going to be paid into their bank accounts, which they have to remit for the purpose of ‘project monitoring’.

“That consequently, between March and June 2023, payments totalling (N1,481,389,518.11) were fraudulently made by the Director of Finance and Accounts into the bank accounts of (8) staff members of the department as well as himself.

“That the payments were made using ridiculous narrations such as ‘implementation of performance management system and compliance monitoring’, ‘programme for monitoring investment and development of power sector’, ‘International/Local Investment and Development of Power Sector’ etc.

“That the said payments were made by the Director of Finance and Accounts to the said accounts without necessary approvals, procurement process documents and other substantiating documents as required.

“That upon receipt of the said funds in (iii), the said Director of Finance and Accounts gave instructions for disbursement to the staff.

“That Usman Kwakwa, being one of the staff in (iii), was at that time, the Personal Assistant to the Director of Finance and Accounts.

“That the Director of Finance and Accounts instructed (7) staff members listed in (iii) (1) – (7), to transfer bulk of the funds to Usman Kwakwa as well as other persons being his allies and some other staff of the agency.

“That the Director of Finance and Accounts further instructed Usman Kwakwa to disburse the collected funds to his friends and allies.

“That upon receipt, the Director of Finance and Accounts instructed his allies in (ix) to purchase various choice properties and assets being plots of land, houses and a car in his favour.”

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