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Imo uncovers N650m fraud in pensions board, arrests suspected culprits

By Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri) and Segun Olaniyi (Abuja)
30 August 2017   |   4:23 am
The Imo State government has uncovered a fraud of N650 million in the state Pensions Board. The amount was meant for the payment of retirees.

Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha

• Lawyer urges Buhari to reinstate 38 retired senior army officers
The Imo State government has uncovered a fraud of N650 million in the state Pensions Board. The amount was meant for the payment of retirees.

Consequently, Governor Rochas Okorocha had ordered the arrest of no fewer than 30 indicted officials who attended the payment parade of the retirees at the Imo International Convention Centre (IICC), Owerri on Monday.

The officials, who allegedly duplicated retirees’ payments and diverted same into their personal accounts, were promptly handed over to the law enforcement agencies.

The retirees had collected cheques for full payment of their pensions but were disappointed to learn that the monies had been diverted.

Addressing the retirees of eight local councils, Okorocha disclosed that the alleged fraud was contained in 92 cheques, which had N10 million and above written on each of them.

He said most of the alleged fraudsters wrote names of ghost pensioners on the cheques amounting to N650 million.

The retirees on first batch of payment were from Nkwerre, Ideato South, Njaba, Nwangele, Isu, Obowo, Onuimo and Orsu local councils.

However, the government decided to pay directly to the pensioners following the discovery of the fraud.

Okorocha had raised the alarm of the steady rise in the state pension bills N1.59 billion monthly, which led to a verification exercise that had yielded no positive results.

Meanwhile, a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Abdul Muhammed has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reinstate the 38 senior army officers who were wrongly retired last year.

Muhammed said President Buhari administration had set up two panels, which were instituted by the Nigerian Army and the Office of National Security Adviser (NSA) to probe allegations of electoral malpractices and corruption by Nigerian Army personnel with regard to arms procurement under the NSA office.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, Muhammed pointed out that out of the 38 senior army officers, nine were major generals, 10 brigadier generals, seven colonels, 11 lieutenant colonels and one major.

He added that the officers were wrongfully retired and were never charged, tried by a court martial or found guilty of any offence in line with the Armed Forces extant rules and regulations before they were retired.

In a related development, the Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastic Province has designated its diocesan day to pray for the repose of the late 10- year-old, Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, who was killed by security agents during the demolition of Ekeukwu Owere Market.

Archbishop of the diocese, Anthony Obinna, disclosed that one of Church member donated N1 million to the Ibeanusi family.

Speaking, Isaiah Ibeanusi, father of the deceased boy, confirmed that the state Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, informed him that Somtochukwu’s corpse had been taken over by the police authorities for further investigations.