A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of former Head of Service, Steven Oronsaye, on Tuesday ,told a Federal High Court, Abuja, that the Head of Service, under Oronsaye,  operated 66 illegal accounts.
The witness, Rouqayya Ibrahim, who was an operative and investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said: “Sometime in 2010, EFCC and other anti-graft agencies were invited for  Pension verification in the Civil Service. During that time, my colleagues discovered a payment mandate for payment of pensioners bearing 32 names, which was suspicious to them.
“Based on that, they requested for further information on the mandate and the statement of account from the office of the Head of Service. It was confirmed that some of the names on that list were fake pensioners. Based on that,  EFCC instituted a pension fraud team to properly investigate activities of Head of Service in terms of pension payment.
“I was drafted to be a part of the team along with 10 of my colleagues,” she said, adding that the team wrote letters to all the existing banks at the time to furnish them with the statement of account of all the accounts operated by the Head of Service for pensioners and also, payment mandates.
“Based on their replies and letters written from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, we discovered that the Head of Service was operating 66 illegal accounts. We also discovered that there were modus operandi used by the Pension office to syphon pension funds into their account.
“We discovered that about N14 billion has been stolen from the pension funds of the Head of Service,” the witness said, adding that her team equally discovered that the modus operandi included payment made into accounts of different companies for illegal and non-existing contracts.
In his ruling on the matter, the judge held that, in view of the objection raised by the counsel for the second defendant on the admissibility of the defendant’s statement, a mini proceeding would be conducted (trial within trial) to prove the claim.
The judge adjourned the case till June 21, 2016 to begin the trial within trial.
Others, she noted, were ghost pensioners whereby names were inserted into pensions payroll and payment made to them even when they were not pensioners.
Another was the National Union of Pensioners and Association of Federal Civil service Retirees, both, she told the court, received payments from the pension accounts, which, according to her, were illegal payments.
“For example, National Union of Pensioners received over N2 billion from the Pension account. The vast majority of the amount was withdrawn and handed over to one Mr Shuaibu, who is presently standing trial in one of the courts,” she said.
She further told the court how her team discovered through investigation, particularly in biometric contracts, that over N600 million was paid to several companies with the exception of one company, which actually did some semblance of the contract.
However, at a point into her testimony,  the witness requested that she be allowed to use a chart to illustrate her findings. But when it was brought forward, the defence counsels objected to it.
Counsel for the first defendant, Chief Kanu Agabi, based his objection on the ground that it was against fair trial.
Also objecting to the use of chart was the counsel for the second defendant, Oluwale Aladedoye, who held that as a member of the investigative team, the witness should be able to give her evidence based on her findings without the use of chart.
He added that the use of chart would be prejudicial to the defence team and, therefore, urged the court to disallow the procedure.
In his response, the prosecution counsels, Adebisi Adeniyi, held that the defence counsel could not substantiate their claims, adding that the objection to the use of chart was misconceived as, according to him, he was not seeking to tender it in evidence, but to use it for the purpose of demonstrating her findings in the investigation.
“The essence of the document was to assist the court arrive at justice. There is nothing prejudicial in allowing the witness use the document to demonstrate her investigation,” Adeniyi told the court.
He also declined the defence counsels’ position that they were not served. According to him, everybody was served the document.ORANSANYE
In his ruling, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that he shared the opinion of the defendant that tendering the chart would be prejudicial and added that he was however bothered by the position of the prosecution counsel that the chart was only intended to assist the witness demonstrate her findings.
He asked: “If it will not be tendered in evidence, of what use will it be? How much of her explanations will I remember when judgment would be given. Unless the chart was tendered in evidence, I will be back to square one as I may not remember all her demonstrations.
“The PW 1 has not shown any sign of a witness who has problem of loss of memory.  She appears clever and clear-headed of the evidence she is giving. It is also important that the defendant be accorded fair hearing and fair trial.”
The judge then disallowed the use of the chart, saying, “the chart is disallowed from being demonstrated in the court.”
In continuation of her testimony, the witness attempted to give oral evidence of the second defendant’s (Osa Afe) statement with the EFCC, but was stopped by the judge, who stated that he would not accept oral evidence of the second defendant’s statement at the circumstances.
At this point, the prosecuting counsel moved to tender the second defendant statement in court, but it was objected by the second defendant’s counsel, Adadedoye, who based his objection to the admittance of the document on the ground that the defendant made the statement through oppression. He said he was induced, he was threatened, bundled and harassed into making the statement.
He added that he was ready to demonstrate his position if the court would allow a trial within trial.
Shortly before the adjournment, Chief Agabi notified the court of an application for the release of the first defendant’s passport, but Justice Kolawole said he was yet to see the application and, however, deferred  hearing on the application to the next adjourned date.