On Tuesday morning, a civil society organization called Zero Tolerance for Social Immoralities Initiative (ZETSI) gathered at the National Human Rights Commission headquarters in Abuja to protest the suspension of seven staff members from the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) over an alleged N1.2 billion fraud.
The protesters, singing solidarity songs, claimed that the suspended REA staff were unfairly suspended by the agency’s management. They accused the Managing Director, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, of being the main culprit behind the alleged fraud.
Holding signs with messages like “SALIHIJO SUSPENDS 7 REA STAFF AFTER USING THEM TO PERPETRATE N1.2BN FRAUD,” and “WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR 7 REA STAFF SUSPENDED BY SALIHIJO AFTER USING THEM TO COMMIT N1.2BN FRAUD,” the protesters urged the human rights commission to intervene and ensure justice prevails.
Ibrahim Abdulrasaq Imam, the Chairman of ZETSI, read from a petition addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu, stating that the suspended workers were allegedly coerced into participating in the fraud between March and June of the previous year by the REA authorities. Now, they are being made scapegoats and suspended for their involvement in the incident.
Reading from the petition addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu, ZETSI Chairman, Ibrahim Abdulrasaq Imam said, “They(the suspended workers) were used to perpetrate the said fraud between March and June last year by REA authority, and currently made fall guys and serving suspension for the heist.
“The road to their ordeal started last year’s March when the authorities transferred various sums to the tune of N1.2b from the agency’s coffers to personal bank accounts of the said staff members, including Usman Kwakwa Ahmed, who hitherto was seconded from the Accountant-General Office to REA.
“All of the affected staff are in the Account Department of REA. The monies were transferred in bit with less than N5m paid into each staff member’s account at a time in order not to raise suspicions, and masked the fraud.
“The fraudulent scheme, an intrigue to clean out all the remaining 2022 allocation in the agency’s coffers, the narrations for the payments border on project supervisions and adjunct that have no relevant to their job.
“You would notice from the attached document that in total over N202m was paid into Asuni’s account, with N126m, N212.9m, N211.3m, N249.8m and N215.9m laundered through the bank accounts of Karaye(First Bank), Henrietta (Diamond), Titus (FirstBank), Laure (GTB) and Usman Kwakwa Ahmed (GTB & Zenith) respectively.
“Ostensibly acting on instruction from those who made the fraud possible, most of the affected staff members redirected the stolen monies to the accounts of their colleague, Usman Kwakwa Ahmed.
“It became incontrovertible that those staff members were used as conduits for the fraud by the powers-that-be in REA when following the leakage of the heist to the media and the ensuing reportage, the Managing Director, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad in an attempt to exonerate himself and some of his colleagues at the top set up a Disciplinary Committee headed by the Executive Director, Corporate Services, Mr Olaniyi Netufo.
“It turned out that Salihijo and Netufo were implicated with Kwakwa’s response to his query by the panel detailing how on the MD’s instructions he transferred the loot to some persons’ accounts including that of Netufo.
“Clearly, Netufo partook in the said fraud.There are copius evidence that Usman Kwakwa Ahmed through his accounts and his company’s account, Biznirrabi General and Supplies also transferred the spoils of fraud to that of Director of Fund, Abubakar Sambo, with Zenith, that of Olaniyi Netufo, one Adudu Yusuf Mohammed with FCMB, and Dan mama Mohammed’s account.
“It may interest you to know that the crisis emanating from the N1.2bn fraud is in a state in which the MD and Netufo have thrown their accessories under the bus having suspended them indefinitely.
“Only Kwakwa and the Director of Fund, Sambo, escaped suspension because they are not staff members of REA but that of the Accountant-General Office and have returned to their base.
“We therefore call on you to use your good office to right this wrong and get justice for the suspended staff members, who have been seriously treated unfairly by their boss with their careers harmed.”