A Federal High Court judge, Justice Okon Abang on Monday condemned the roles played the United Bank of Africa(UBA) and Fidelity Bank in the N2 billion pension fraud perpetrated by a former chairperson of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, and concluded: Both banks were the conduits used by the convict to deprive the pensioners their legitimate earnings.
Justice Abang on Monday sentenced Mr Maina to eight years imprisonment in his four hour judgement at the end of two-year trial on Monday.
The judge said the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Fidelity Bank Plc were used by Mr Maina as “conduit” to defraud the pensioners.
Noting that the convict’s fraudulent activities “ruined” many homes in the country, Mr Abang said the two banks ought to have been charged alongside Mr Maina for serving as “conduits” through which the stolen funds were channelled.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that Mr Maina used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts. He also recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.
“UBA and Fidelity Bank Plc should have been arraigned with the convict for illegal transactions,” the judge held, adding that “their licences ought to have been withdrawn.”
“The banks benefited from the proceeds of illegal transactions. UBA and Fidelity Bank provided the channels with which the convict (Mr Maina) used in defrauding the federal government,”
He said the banks abdicated their responsibilities by failing to carry out due diligence to establish the true identities of persons in whose names Mr Maina opened and operated the fictitious bank accounts.
Nigeria in urgent need of national rebirth
The court noted the prevalence of monumental financial fraud in Nigeria’s public sector, calling for drastic measures to tackle the problem.
“The facts of this case portray the moral decadence of the society we live in. I think we need a National rebirth of guaranteed regeneration,” he said, noting that
while the convict lived in opulence at the expense of pensioners, his victims died in penury in Nigeria.
“Having considered the monumental fraud of how the pension funds were stolen, over N2.1 billion by the 1st Defendant (Mr Maina), it is a clear case that the convict is inhumane, heartless and has no compassion for the pensioners.
“Meanwhile, the convict, through the assistance of UBA and Fidelity Bank Plc, deprived the pensioners that gave their all to this country in their youthful age, their legitimate earnings.
“Whereas the convict was feeding fat on their sweat faraway in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), buying choice properties, driving bulletproof cars, living in affluence beyond his legitimate earnings.
“An abnormal situation requires drastic actions to send a message to those that believe in dishonesty to have a rethink; turn a new leaf.
“Dishonesty is an endemic disease in this country that requires urgent treatment if we are to make any headway in this country,” the court declared.
While underscoring the plight of the pensioners whom the official stole from, Mr Abang said, “Some have suffered and died while waiting for their reward.”
“The facts of this case are sordid, immoral, and morbid,” the judge noted, adding that, “the facts portray the moral decadence in Nigeria.”
He said Maina could not have earned the sum of N2 billion when his salary as a civil servant. “The convict’s salary as a civil servant was a little above N300, 000, and could not have amounted to N2 billion even if he was saving all his salaries for 35 years,” the judge observed.
Reviewing the testimonies of witnesses in the suit, the court held that Maina’s only defence witness, Ngozika Ihuoma, “testified on irrelevant issues” that were not related to the charges against Mr Maina.
The judge noted that EFCC’s nine witnesses “proved the prosecution’s case beyond reasonable doubt,” leading to Mr Maina’s conviction and sentencing on Monday.
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