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PENSION SCAM: EFCC targets Fidelity Bank top shots

Nnamdi-OkonkwoTop shot of Fidelity Bank may soon be the guests of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly employing a man, Aliyu Biu to facilitate grabbing a juicy police pension account from First Bank.
Aliyu Biu was hired after his elder brother, former Pension Reform Task Team chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, who allegedly agreed to move N8 billion police pension money from First Bank to Fidelity Bank.
According to the Niche newspaper, It emerged during the week from EFCC quarters that the involvement of the bank in the scam could not have been without the knowledge of the bank’s top shots.
An EFCC source also told the newspaper that the bank’s involvement in seeking bail for the detained personnel speaks volume of the kind of chief executives the bank parades.
Brotherly link
Biu’s colleagues alleged that he might have been planted to run shoddy deals for Maina. A report in Premium Times, an online newspaper also quoted sources who alleged that Biu was the fixer for Maina’s alleged money laundering scheme. “While it seems he (Biu) was planted in the bank to facilitate his elder brother’s alleged money laundering schemes, his employment would not have been possible but for Maina’s coup in helping to allegedly move the N8 billion police pension account from First Bank to Fidelity Bank,” Premium Times quoted an anonymous EFCC source.
Some of the personnels in the alleged pension racket, mainly employees of Fidelity Bank, have been rounded up by the EFCC for allegedly helping Maina to launder funds. They are DanjumaZubairu (group head, private banking) and Abubakar Gwambe (account head, Abuja branch). Oluwatoyin Meseke (assistant banking executive in the marketing unit who also doubles as Maina’s account officer) was also arrested. Sources said the EFCC is preparing to grill Fidelity Bank’s current and former managing directors (MD)/chief executive officers (CEOs) after gathering facts from middle level managers involved in the alleged scheme
What is of particular interest to investigators is the policy which saw Biu employed at the same time the police pension account was moved from First Bank to Fidelity Bank by Maina. “Was it a coincidence or part of the condition for recruiting Biu?” a source wondered.
Current Fidelity Bank MD/ CEO, Nnamdi Okonkwo, was not at the helm when Biu was employed, but he was executive director in charge of the South Directorate and therefore in the loop of many core decisions.
Hatchet fund transfers in Maina’s account that bear the signature of money laundering were allegedly perpetuated. Investigators want to know whether the employees who aided the movement of the cash were acting rogue or at the behest of the management.
Former MD/CEO, Reginald Ihejiahi, served for 10 years until February 2014. Investigators would want to know if Maina’s case was an isolated incident or one out of several alleged money laundering infractions.
The Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 demands that any transportation of cash or of any negotiable instrument in excess of $10,000 (N2 million) or its equivalent by individuals in or out of Nigeria must be declared to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). The NCS must also report such declarations to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the EFCC.
A Premium Times report of November 4 detailed how Fidelity Bank officials at the Abuja branch allegedly moved several millions of naira to Maina’s companies without complying with the law. The report detailed how Maina’s bank handlers, relying on telephone instructions and scanned email messages, allegedly moved hundreds of millions of naira from the accounts of the three companies to bureau de change operators. The operators then allegedly converted the monies to dollars for onward delivery to Maina.
Allegations by EFCC
The EFCC is accusing Maina, including three companies linked to him; Cluster Logistics, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning, Drew Investment and Construction Company – of corruption and money laundering. Premium Times reported:
“The agency’s investigators, through a complex chart, provided some rare glimpse into the complex web of [alleged] illicit deals and network of relationships that saw hundreds of millions of pension funds allegedly ending up in the private pockets of Maina, (Steve) Oronsaye and other persons complicit in the pension fraud.
“The chart [allegedly] showed how monies travelled from pension accounts through front companies and ghost pensioners, and through banks and bureau de change into the pockets of alleged pension thieves.
“In the statement he gave to the EFCC on October 7, Meseke stated that he became the account officer for Cluster Logistics when the former account officer, Kalid Aliyu Biu, incidentally the younger brother to Maina, resigned sometime in 2012.
“He claimed that he did not know the real owner of the account until he started receiving instructions from Maina.
“Cluster Logistics account usually has inflows into it by cash payments, but transactions are done by telephone calls from the brother of my colleague, Khalid AliyuBiu (Abdulrasheed Maina).
“I usually receive calls from his brother (AbdulrasheedMaina) to make payment on his account. “The transaction of N33, 800,000, transferred to West Waves Bureau De Change was by email sent by AbdulrashedMaina (using AbdullahiFaizal, not real name) via his email, gajipeace@yahoo.com, to carry out the transaction, for onward delivery to him in Dollars. “Also, the transfer of N42,500,000 to West Waves BDC was done on June 5, 2014 by email message sent by AbdulrasheedMaina via his email gajipeace@yahoo.com, to carry out the transaction for onward delivery to him.
“Also on May 6, 2015, he sent another instruction, scanned and sent to me, to also debit Cluster Logistics with the sum of N47,400,000 and credit West Waves BDC, who converts the naira to dollars and sent to him,” he said.
DanjumaZubairu, Meseke’s boss who oversees private banking at the branch, and was also a guest of the EFCC, could not explain the sources of the massive cash flow into the account of the three companies linked to Maina.
Fidelity Bank pledges cooperation EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, told The Niche that the agency is determined to do a good job on the matter.
Although he was elusive on the claim that EFCC operatives are planning to invite Fidelity Bank top shots, he said it is at the discretion of the investigators to do so.
An official of Fidelity Bank confirmed to The Niche that the bank is willing to assist in the investigation, insisting that it is not known for underhand dealings. The official reiterated that Maina’s brother was employed by the bank based on his qualification and previous experience in the banking industry.
Question mark on banks’ employment policy
The allegation that embattled Maina planted his younger brother in Fidelity Bank as employee to facilitate alleged fraud running into billions of naira in pension fraud scheme has raised questions about employment policy in banks.
There is no bank with any employment policy at the junior level of engagement, making financial institutions potential facilitators of money laundering. In banks’ marketing department, the only rule of the game is the Machiavellian principle of the end justifies the means. In other words, banks encourage workers to win fat accounts at all costs. Financial analysts denounced such uncreative strategy of winning account deposits, stressing that with implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the end has come with such enslavement in the name of employment.
Director, Research and Advocacy, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vincent Nwani, said banks that are not innovative and creative will have to struggle to survive.
“Cheap funds are not going to be available any longer. Those days are gone. Banks need to be more innovative and look for deposits by working a little bit harder,” he warned.
To tighten the screw against illicit funds flow into the banking system, stakeholders urged the CBN to initiate comprehensive employment policy which banks must adhere to when employing workers.
A financial analyst who spoke anonymously blamed the CBN and banks for allowing dehumanising work conditions in banks that stoke insider fraud. He noted that between 40 and 70 per cent of bank workers are contract staff who do not have any sense of commitment. He urged the CBN to formulate a policy to end the practice.
After the banking system crisis in 2008 and 2009, the CBN initiated ‘Fit & Proper Person’ employment policy for banks at the management level. But it is an all comers’ affair at the junior level, leaving room for fraud.

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