The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Tuesday, arraigned four persons before Justice Abubakar Talba of the Federal High Court, Gudu, Abuja, on a 29-count charge bordering on conspiracy, and collecting by false pretence.
Ibrahim Mazangari, Muhammed Sulaiman, Fatima Mazangari and Saleh Tsojon were alleged to have obtained N1.2 billion from the Federal Government by false pretence and with intent to defraud, purporting same to be monthly pension payable to M. S. Suleiman, Saleh Yerima Tsojon, Isah U. Adamu, Daniel Mikano, and Abdulahi Musa, who were falsely held out at pensioners of the Federal Government, by inserting their names in the pensioners’ payroll.
The accused persons, who were offered a biometric contract by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, to regularize names of pensioners on the pensions’ payroll, allegedly smuggled in names of fake pensioners, and collected unearned pension.
The fraud allegedly involved two companies – Xangee Technologies Limited and Century Construction Company Limited.
Mr. Talba had at the sitting of June 30, rejected a plea bargain proposal mooted by Ibrahim Salau, counsel to Mr. Mazangari, before adjourning to September 15 as a result of the his (Mazangani) absence who was said to be ill.
“Don’t mention plea bargain here. I don’t want to hear about it,” the judge had said.
At the resumed sitting today, all the accused persons were present in court to take their plea.
One of the charges reads: “That you Ibrahim Ahmed Mazangari, Muhammed Sani Suleiman and Xangee Technologies Limited between 28th April, 2011 and 24th November 2011, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, by false pretence and with intent to defraud, obtained an aggregate sum of N1,072,873.74 from the Federal Government.”
They all pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
In view of their plea, the prosecuting counsel, O. A. Atolagbe, while expressing eagerness for the trial to commence, prayed the court for a short adjournment as one of the key witnesses, who was to appear in court, was recently bereaved.
Mr. Salau moved for bail application for the accused persons, and prayed the court to admit them to bail on liberal terms, arguing that “the accused persons will not default.”
Although Mr. Atolagbe did not oppose the bail application, he urged the court to “put into consideration the nature of the offence, as it touches on financial crimes involving large sums of money.”
In his ruling on the bail application, Mr. Talba admitted the accused persons to bail in the sum of N10 million and two sureties each in like sum, one of which must be a director in the Federal Civil Service, and the other a responsible member of the society, who must submit an affidavit of means and tax documents.
While fixing November 2 and 3 for trial to begin, the judge ordered that the accused persons be remanded in prison custody, pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions.