CRIME WATCH: Can of worms at the Imo State Police command.

The Imo State Police Command is stinking of fraud! The scam is  being perpetrated by some police officers attached to the department, responsible for the payment of police salaries, known as the Mechanized Salary Section(MSS), some civilians attached to the audit department, in collaboration with some corrupt bank officials.

Investigation by Crimewatch revealed that the major fraud was committed through bloating of payroll with fictitious names. Other means used in swindling the command are, through embezzlement of burial expenses for late officers, withholding of touring allowances and other charges, already released to the police command, by the Force Headquarters, Louis Edet House, Abuja.

It was also gathered that the fraud had been going on, in the command unabated, until the police commissioner, Mr. Mohammed Jimjiri Abubakar, took over from his predecessor, Ibrahim Maishanu, in July 2011.

Our findings further revealed that the command was defrauded the sum of N309,629,682million in every six months, N619,259,364million in a year, and N49,540,749.12 billion in a period of eight years.

Further checks also laid bare how the alleged crime was carried out between January and June last year. For instance, a total of N39,609,574 million was allegedly stolen by the syndicate in January, N30,925,226 found its way into the pockets of the officers in February, the same conduit pipe was used to siphon the command’s N35,224,328 in the month of March.

It also lost the sum of N69,969,884 million to the fraud syndicate in April, N68,358,197 million in May, while the command was also swindled N67,542,473 million in the month of June.

The names of the suspected officers are withheld.by Crimewatch. One of the officers was invited for questioning but the investigating team, led by the Assistant Commissioner of Police(ACP) in charge of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID)Owerri, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, did not find him culpable.

Crimewatch learnt that it was one of the officers, who prepared the payroll filled with fictitious names, which indicted the civilian staff, leading to his arrest.

He was said to have been arrested in a bank premises, as he went to withdraw money for the syndicate. The civilian staff, we further learnt, was the one who usually went to the banks, to withdraw the loot to be shared by members of the syndicate. Another person who was quizzed in respect of the orchestrated fraud, and statement obtained from her, is a Spy Constable(female) who is a computer operator. She is said to be the one who used the computer to manipulate facts and figures for the syndicate. As a member of the group, she is also a beneficiary of proceeds from the organised scam.

Some of the officers were found paying themselves senior officers’ salaries, whereas they are junior officers. For instance, one of them, a Corporal, was paying himself about N150,000 monthly. The amount is meant for Deputy Superintendent. In this particular case, the bank officials are absolve of any complexity, since the duty of the bank is to credit officers’ account, based on the amount of money and other information stipulated in the banks schedule, for instance, their names and account numbers.  There was also an instance, where two of them allegedly withdrew the sum of N10million in one swoop, from a bank(name withheld).

It was further gathered that apart from the fraud allegedly perpetrated by the group, separate, individual frauds were committed by three persons already fingered in the fraud. This was discovered with the help of the court. We learnt that the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) went to the court to swear an affidavit, which enabled it to gain access to some documents, where it was discovered that the payroll contained many fictitious names. There is, however, claim that what the police boss did was mere transfer of the officers, out of MSS, without plugging all holes of fraud.

“The command is still losing a lot of money through the loopholes created by the suspected officers. After some of them were transferred, the dubious account is still reflecting in the Vote Book, which is a booklet used in specifying the amount paid in a particular period. Some of the deals are, however, not contained in the Vote Book, due to their collaboration with some bank officials. There is also what is known as Authority to Inquire Expenditure(AIE).

It was gathered that it is only the CP and the PPO, who have the right to see copy of AIE. We also learnt that usually, after payment of salaries and others, nobody knows what remains in the account.Crimewatch, however, learnt learnt that AIE is one of the tools used to commit fraud.

But the CP debunked the allegation that the scam is still going on. He insisted that the detection, arrest, detention and transfer of the officers, marked the end of the fraud going on in MSS.
A source said it was when the bubble burst that the CP ordered the arrest, detention and investigation of the officers.

He said after their release from detention, they were transferred out of MSS. But our investigation revealed that until recently, some of them were still working in the same section, against the recommendations or Report of the investigating team.

For instance, Crimewatch gathered authoritatively that four of them are still working in the same section, despite their alleged involvement in the fraud, both at personal and group levels. But this was again denied by the CP.

According to him, all the suspects were transferred out, after their release from detention. He disclosed how one of them was transferred to Oru West Local Government Area, and another moved to Okigwe Division. No mention was, however, made of the computer operator, but an impeccable source revealed that the lady is still in MSS, manning the same computer used for the fraud. But the CP explained that it is not his duty to transfer the civilian staff. According to him, it is duty of the audit department.

Crimewatch also gathered that the officers fingered for the fraud are stupendously rich. A source disclosed that some of them have houses and factories in Kaduna, Jos, Owerri and Jalingo, Taraba State, and cruise around in state-of-art vehicles. According to the same source, the way and manner some of them display their ill-gotten wealth make their colleagues to be green with envy.

How the bubble burst 

The scam in MSS, Imo State Police Command, had been going on for several years, but when Mohammed Jimjiri Abubakar, took over in July last year, some police officers, who knew and heard about his anti-corruption stance and crusade, spanning over 28 years, perceived that the end of fraud in the command was near. They saw him as a police boss, who would not treat with levity, but act on any information given to him by his subordinates, concerning the rot in the MSS. It was based on that the Police Pay Officer wrote a petition one day, informing him of the high scale fraud going on in the section. “Oga, there is a lot of fraud in my department,” he was quoted as saying verbally, after submitting the petition to the CP. After the information , Abubakar decided to take officers working in the section unawares. A police source captured it thus: “One day, in a Gestapo fashion, the CP stormed the section with his aides and other senior police officers, drove out officers working there and locked up the whole office. And he ordered the arrest and detention of the key suspects.” They were later released on bail after sometime, and after some of them presented medical reports about their failing health. Some of them were affected by the mass transfer of officers by the Force headquarters, while investigation continued.


Team of investigators:

A team of investigators was constituted immediately by the CP and it was headed by Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, the Officer In Charge(O/C) of the Sate Criminal Investigation Department(SCID) and former Force Public Relations Officer(FPRO) under the retired Inspector General of police, Ogbonna Onovo. Also in the team was his second in command, Mrs. Tina Ogbodo, a Superintendent of Police(SP).

During investigation, there were startling revelations. For instance, they discovered that there were many fictitious names in the payrolls. It was on that strength that the form e committed by each of them and recommended serious disciplinary action against them. Part of the recommendations were that, the Police Service Commission (PSC) should query the senior officers among them, while the junior ones should undergo orderly room trial. The Report was also sent to Abuja to act on.

The former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim was said to have invited the suspects for interview. But after that, nothing much was heard of the case, before Ringim was retired. There are, however, speculations that the suspected officers are making frantic efforts to ensure that the matter dies a natural death, especially, from the Abuja end.

For instance, the affected officers were again invited to Abuja recently, and the story making the rounds is that about N30 million exchanged hands, in a bid to cover the fraud.

 

Written by: Chris Anucha

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