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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC) has smashed a nine-man syndicate behind N1 billion salary fraud involving 599 ghost workers.

The anti-graft agency has also arrested a couple, Dayo Usman Aliyu and Ronke Usman, who were said to be members of the syndicate.

The couple, who are staff of the Accountant-General of the Federation, were said to have exploited the gaps in the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

Another suspected member of the syndicate, Bede Anyanwu, an Accountant with the Federal Ministry of Environment, was quizzed and released on administrative bail.

According to findings made by our correspondent, the EFCC had received a formal complaint from the  Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on the huge number of ghost workers.

The Ministry was said to have recommended 399 ghost workers to EFCC for probe but in the course of investigation, the commission uncovered 200 others.

The nation was believed to have lost more than N1 billion to the syndicate at the time the Minister contacted the anti-graft agency.

It was learnt that the EFCC chairman constituted a team to probe the pay fraud, leading to the arrest of nine civil servants from some Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs).

It was gathered that the alleged involvement of the couple in the IPPIS shocked EFCC investigators.

A top EFCC source said: “The Ministry of Finance reported 399 ghost workers for investigation. The commission’s investigation has uncovered additional 200.

“A total of nine suspects have already been quizzed at the Abuja headquarters. But the agency is spreading its dragnets wide as cases have been forwarded to some zonal offices of the EFCC for further investigation.

“The Port Harcourt, Lagos and Ibadan offices of the commission are handling the cases of some suspects that were picked up in Umuahia and Abeokuta.”
Investigation revealed that the arrest of the couple in OAGF provided the lead for the busting of the syndicate.

The source said:  ”The syndicate led by one Dayo Usman Aliyu, a staff of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), alongside his wife (Ronke) also a staff of OAGF, exploited gaps in the IPPIS to enroll ghost workers into the Federal Government payroll, using agents who supplied accounts.

“At the time Dayo was arrested by the EFCC, he was raking in a monthly heist of N6.1million through remittance by his agents.

“He had an arrangement in which his agents, some of them civil servants, would collect the money (from ghost staff) and remit 40 per cent of the proceeds to him.

“At the time of his arrest, there were eight such agents working for him.”

The source gave further details on how the N1 billion fraud was perpetrated.

It added: “Apart from the agents who are civil servants, some non-civil servants were also put on the payroll and collecting salaries from the Federal Government with fake appointment letters.

“One of such was Hassan Momoh who was collecting four salaries with four different names. He does not work in any ministry but investigation revealed that he earned over N4 million in two years from the proceeds of the scam.”

It was also learnt that an Accountant with the Federal Ministry of Environment, Bede Anyanwu, had been quizzed by EFCC as a suspected member of Dayo’s syndicate.

Anyanwu was released on administrative bail by the EFCC pending the conclusion of the ongoing probe.

The top source said: “From our findings, Anyanwu approached Dayo and enrolled about five people into the IPPIS platform. We are still in the process of identifying the five people.

“For each of the five, Anyanwu remitted 40 per cent of the salary paid to Dayo through his wife, Ronke.

“ Ronke was arrested and she made a statement that she received the remittance every month and that she uses the money (about N150,000 -N200,000) to take care of the family.”

Responding to a question, the source said: “The accounts of all the identified suspects have been blocked.”

It will be recalled that the Minister of Finance recently summoned the Managing Director of a first generation bank over the alleged complicity of the bank in the payment of salaries to 23,000 ghost workers on the payroll of the Federal Government.

Also, the Minister also asked the Director General of Pension Commission, Ms Chinelo Anohu-Amazu to appear before a probe panel in her ministry on how Pension Funds Administrators (PFAs)  allegedly generated fake PFA numbers for the “ghost workers”.

After the initial probe by the ministry, the Minister handed over the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).

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