The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is said to invite and probe the role of Ebenezer Onyeagwu led Zenith Bank Plc in the alleged illegal diversion and embezzlement of over N5.5 billion from the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has been revealed.
This newspaper gathered that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has invited the managing director and other top officials of the NSITF to come before it on Tuesday, June 15 to testify about the alleged diversion of nearly N61.1 billion by the agency’s administration.
Senator Mathew Urhoghide, who chaired the committee, invited the officials based on three questions raised in the 2018 Auditor General of the Federation report, which is currently being evaluated by the upper legislative body.
According to the Auditor General’s investigation, NSTIF was accused of diverting N5.5 billion from its account to Zenith Bank Plc, while another investigation found that the agency paid N38.2 billion in personnel costs from 2012 to 2017, which were not approved by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, and that N17.1 billion was transferred from these accounts to some individuals and companies.
“Audit discovered that the Fund was using a salary structure that was not permitted by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission,” the enquiry read. As a result, from 2012 to 2017, the Fund’s staff received an irregular payment of N 38,219,919,530.32 in personnel costs.
“Risk implementing an unapproved salary structure could result in a waste of public funds, as remuneration could be higher than staff productivity.
“For the implementation of the Fund’s salary structure, the Managing Director must obtain approval from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.”
“Audit of the Fund’s bank statements for the period under review revealed that contributions received from the federal government in 2014, amounting to N 5,500,000,000.00, were diverted to a Zenith Bank account number 1013938003, instead of the Skye Bank account number 1790122304, into which other contributions were paid, without providing any authority or any statutory authority,” the Auditor-General wrote.
“Audit also found the following: A. The bank account was opened without the approval of the Federation’s Accountant-General, as no such approval was presented for audit.
“B. The new account was formed particularly for this purpose, as evidenced by the bank statements, which show that a first tranche of N 2,750,000,000.00 was utilized to start the account on August 29, 2014.”
“Transfers from the account to third parties, people, and other NSITF accounts were also made without payment vouchers or other supporting paperwork to legitimize such transfers.
This casts suspicion on the legitimacy of all bank account transactions. As a result, audit cannot accept such transactions as valid charges against public funds without the appropriate evidence.”
“Audit observed from the Fund’s Statements of Account No. 1750011691 with Skye Bank Plc for the period 1st January 2013 to 20th December 2013, and Statements of Account No. 2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period 7th January 2013 to 28th February 2013, that amounts totaling N17,158,883,034.69 were transferred to some persons and companies from these accounts,” the third query read. Payment receipts for the transfers, as well as their accompanying documentation, were not given for audit. As a result, the reason(s) for the transfers could not be verified.”