ANTI – CORRUPTION WAR: EFCC freezes N30b NSIPA cash traced to private accounts

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has tracked N30 billion of the N44 billion moved from the accounts of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA).

The multiple accounts to which the funds were moved by some NSIPA officials have been frozen by the anti-graft agency as part of an ongoing probe.

It was learnt that the N44 billion was suspiciously moved from NSIPA’s accounts into private and corporate accounts linked to those serving as fronts.

Some of the officials of the agency have been undergoing investigation.

For hours yesterday, EFCC interrogators grilled the suspended National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the agency, Halima Shehu.

The anti-graft commission also arrested NSIPA’s immediate past Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA), Mr. Bwai Adamu Hamza.

Hamza retired from the agency in December.

Shehu and Hamza were subjected to interrogation yesterday by a special team.

Former Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development minister, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, failed to honour the EFCC invitation to appear for interrogation.

She also did not send any message on why she did not turn up.

Officials designated to interrogate her waited in vain.

The EFCC invited Umar-Farouq over the alleged laundering of N37, 170,855,753.44 during her tenure through a contractor, James Okwete. The former minister denied the allegations.

There were strong indications last night that having failed to turn up without explanation, the former minister might be declared wanted by the EFCC.

Investigations showed that the ongoing probe of NSIPA assumed a new dimension following the discovery that the total cash taken out of the agency’s vaults was N44 billion.

But, after tracking the movement of the cash, the EFCC recovered and froze the N30 billion it traced to multiple accounts.

As of Tuesday, the agency had intercepted and seized N17 billion.

Within 24 hours, the commission traced and froze an additional N13 billion in some accounts, raising the cash seized to N30 billion.

Detectives were still profiling many accounts last night to uncover the balance of N14 billion.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said the EFCC Executive Chairman. Mr. Ola Olukoyede was personally leading the probe.

The source said: “After hours of interrogation and profiling of many accounts, the EFCC was able to confirm that unauthorised N44 billion was suspiciously moved out of NSIPA’s account to some private and corporate accounts.

“So far, N30billion has been traced to some accounts and frozen.

“Our operatives are on the trail of the owners and alleged fronts or firms used to siphon the cash.

“Records showed that the N44 billion was hurriedly moved out of NSIPA’s account in one week.”

As of press time, the EFCC had arrested Hamza in connection with the action.

According to the investigation, Hamza, who retired on December 29, was picked up to clarify the movement of the cash under his watch.

Shehu and Hamza were said to have “worked closely” in the agency.

Another source said: “The National Coordinator and the ex-DFA were grilled by our investigating team for hours on Wednesday. Halima was taken into custody on Tuesday while Hamza was arrested yesterday.

“Based on the new focus of the EFCC chairman, Halima was, on compassionate ground, allowed to go home at about 11pm on Tuesday. She reported for another round of interaction yesterday.

“For Hamza, the EFCC arrested him following intelligence that he might travel out of the country for an engagement.”

The source added: “The two persons have made useful statements and we have recovered some records which enabled us to trace and freeze N30 billion. For a long time, the two officials have been working together.

“Immediately Hamza retired, Halima appointed him as a Special Adviser on Finance. He was expected to resume work on Tuesday.

“Our team is, however, working round the clock to uncover the accounts where the remaining N14 billion was hidden.”

On Umar-Farouq’s connection with the matter, her accuser, Okwete was in EFCC’s custody yesterday awaiting her arrival for a face-to-face interrogation.

“We will give her some grace and if she does not honour our invitation, the EFCC will have no choice but to declare the ex-minister wanted.”

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