The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has launched a probe into the over N100 billion worth of pension assets being managed by First Guarantee Pension Limited, with a view to preventing undue stripping. Already, operatives of the commission have questioned a senior staff of the Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Chinyere Ekweonu, who stood surety for a former lawmaker, Chidi Duru, said to be on the run, a senior operative of the anti-graft agency said in Abuja, yesterday.
The EFCC source said the former House of Representatives member and a South African, Mr. Derrick Roper, representing Novare Holding Limited’s interest, were being probed for diversion of millions of Naira of FGPL, a licensed pension administrator.
The anti-graft agency specifically accused Duru of diversion of N16 million, being part of the equity contribution of Novare Holding, a South African firm, to another business and collection of N20.5 million as “executive allowance” without board approval and diversion of the company’s assets worth millions of Naira for his personal use.
On the other hand, Duru, whom EFCC said was fronting for some powerful political forces, had also been accused of serving as chairman of the board executive committee of FGPL that was involved in engaging the services of Hard Rain Software Limited to develop a software for the licensed pension administrator at the cost of N31 million, despite PENCOM’s objections. EFCC also accused him of approving payments amounting to $285,102 to Novare Investments for “questionable” consultancy services and other charges without board approval.
“Also, Duru’s bank cheques, totalling N30 million, presented as evidence of part payment of his portion of the start-up share capital was found not to have been debited from his bank account upon verification,” the EFCC’s report further stated.
The anti-graft agency also accused Duru and his collaborators of forgery of some shareholders signatures on a document referred to as the “Shareholders Resolution,” which purportedly mandated him to negotiate with Novare Holding on behalf of other shareholders during the acquisition of the FGPL’s shares by Novare Holding.
Some of the shareholders, who Duru allegedly forged their signatures include former Speaker of House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na-Abba; former Deputy Speaker, Austin Okpara; Senator Annie Okwonkwo; Alhaji Kasim Ibrahim Iman and others. Our source also said that EFCC had also agreed to partner with PENCOM in the enforcement of remittances to the Contributory Pension Scheme.
The anti-graft agency has filed charges of money laundering, criminal conspiracy and other financial crimes against Duru at the Federal High Court, Lagos.