• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Alleged fund diversion: Court orders arrest of three REA staff

Autonomy of a bank guarantee shall only apply in the absence of fraud

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the arrest of three staff of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) for failing to appear at their arraignment over multiple charges of alleged fraud and diversion of public funds.

The staff, Emmanuel Pada Titus, Henrietta Onormen Okojie, and Umar Musa Karaye respectively, had earlier been granted administrative bail by the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), over alleged fraud, criminal conspiracy and diversion of public funds amounting to the tune of N1.835 billion.

In the charges presented by Osuoben Ekoi Akpanimisingha, an assistant chief legal officer of the ICPC, Titus is being arraigned for the alleged diversion of N261 million, while Okojie is arraigned for the diversion of N342m, and Karaye, N165 million.

Okojie had sought the permission of the court to have the trio arrested for deliberately failing to appear, despite having full details of their arraignment by the commission.

Quoting section 114 and section 184 of the Criminal and Justice Act respectively, the complainant informed that he had personally served the defendants the notices of arraignment on May 29, 2024, with the details of appearances clearly stated, but the defendants on their notices had failed to appear for their arraignments.

Recall that investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, as well as the Account Committee of the House of Representatives, had shown outflows of payments amounting to N1.835 billion

The alleged disbursements were paid in tranches into six personal accounts of some senior officials of the agency.

Charge sheets co-signed by Henry Empire, director of legal services, and Osuoben Ekoi Akponimisinghi, assistant legal officer of the ICPC, stated that a total of N1.835 billion were paid by Abubakar Abdullahi Sambo in tranches to the defendants.

The court had adjourned the re-arraignment of Emmanuel Pada Titus, Henrietta Onormen Okojie, and Umar Musa Karaye to June 13, 2024 and that of Usman Ahmed Kwakwa to June 14, 2024 respectively.

It would also be recalled that in March 2024, President Bola Tinubu suspended Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, managing director and chief executive of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) indefinitely. The suspension followed an investigation into the financial activities of the agency and the alleged diversion of N1.2 billion into personal accounts.