EFCC quizzes Head of Service Oyo-Ita over alleged N3b ‘fraud’
…Faces possible suspension
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has quizzed Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita over alleged N3billion contract scam.
She was also interrogated for alleged abuse of duty tour allowance, money laundering and stealing of government funds.
After a four-day grilling during which she was in custody of the anti-graft agency beginning from August 8, Mrs Oyo-Ita has landed in the hospital after being granted an administrative bail. She has been given restricted access to visitors at the private hospital in Jabi area of Abuja where she is receiving treatment.
Although the administrative bail was granted so that she could be reporting for further interrogation from her office, she has not been able to return to the anti-corruption agency’s office since she was allowed to go.
About N600million has been traced to the account of one of her key aides who has been unable to give any justifiable explanation for it.
The EFCC has blocked the account and has initiated the process of obtaining an interim forfeiture clause to seize the cash.
Preliminary findings confirmed that about N3billion has been traced to the Head of Service which came in through proxy companies.
Detectives, it was gathered, uncovered slush funds linked to the Head of Service while probing the activities of a former Minister under who she served as Permanent Secretary.
A source privy to the ongoing investigation said: “Preliminary investigation confirmed that she used different fronts or cronies to obtain contracts from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)
“While tracing embezzlement by the ex-Minister, detectives stumbled on diversion of funds into proxy companies which the Head of Service has relationship with.
“The startling revelations made detectives to dig further into her activities as a Permanent Secretary and Head of Service.
“There were proofs of how she secured contracts through proxy firms from some ministries including Special Duties, Power, Works and others. There was a case of abuse of office because there was evidence of pressure on Permanent Secretaries to get her contracts. She moved from one ministry to the other.
“Investigators also discovered that she was involved in falsification of Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) and estacodes
The source added: “About N600million has been traced to the account of one of her aides. This illicit account has been blocked and the EFCC is in the process of invoking interim forfeiture clause.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to apply Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.
“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the court.”
A source with full knowledge of the investigation said: ”We have only covered a fraction of the preliminary findings, she will still have to return after completing her treatment.”
But there was a pall of silence in government circle because of the sensitive nature of the EFCC’s findings.
Top government officials, who were aware of the grilling, kept mute in anticipation of a soft landing for the head of service.
But going by precedent, she is likely to be suspended from office by President Muhammadu Buhari, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
A source added: “Although she is a former official of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) where she worked under President Muhammadu Buhari, the law will take its course if she is indicted by EFCC.
A brief on the Head of Service on the website of the Public Service Institute of Nigeria reads: “Winifred has an impressive and well-documented work experience spanning over 30 years, including being the first female indigenous Managing Director/CEO of Cross River Estates Limited, between 1993 and 1995.
“She later transferred her service to the federal civil service where she was appointed to the rank of Assistant director in July, 1997 and rose to the position of a director, Finance and Accounts in January, 2009 in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
“Mrs. Oyo-Ita Winifred was appointed to the position of Federal Permanent Secretary on the 16th of March, 2013 and posted to the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs as the pioneer Permanent Secretary of the re-established Ministry.
“She was redeployed to the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in April, 2014. She was appointed as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in acting capacity in October 2015 and confirmed in January 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.”