CSO alleges massive fraud in National Lottery Commission

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… Petitions EFCC, Special Duties Minister

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…Over 100 official bank transactions done with staff personal accounts

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…Calls for DG’s suspension

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A civil rights organisation, the Network for Best Practice and Integrity in Leadership, NEBPRIL, has raised the alarm over what it describes as the sordid developments bothering on official malfeasance at the National Lottery Regulatory Commission.

NEBPRIL said the Commission under the watch of the Director-General, Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, has seemingly enabled acts that “border on official deceit, financial fraud, administrative infractions, impunity and other forms of official malfeasance, that run contrary to the civil/public service rules, Procurement Act as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Act.”

In a statement by its Chairman, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, in Abuja, today, the organisation disclosed that it has petitioned both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the supervisory ministry to the regulatory commission, Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Relations, to investigate the allegations of financial fraud in the Commission.

Ogene, a former member of the House of Representatives, disclosed that NEBPRIL on April 6, 2021, wrote a letter to Mr. Gbajabiamila, which was received and acknowledged by his office on April 7.

The letter, he said “sought clarifications on about 143 bank transactions that were made using the bank accounts of about 20 specific staff members at different times. It should be noted, and curiously too, that those 20 staffers are mostly from the Finance & Accounts, Internal Audit departments and the office of the Director-General.”

He said that NEBPRIL had sought the information, as a responsible organisation “with strong advocacy for best practice, integrity in leadership and fairness to all parties, but sadly, till date no official explanation has been received from the Commission in response to our letter.”

Ogene further disclosed that on April 13, 2021, a Media Adviser to the DG visited his office, and “made verbal acknowledgement of the authenticity of some of the allegations of financial infractions, which he, however, suggested were perpetrated among other things, to provide funds to patronize the National Assembly Committees that oversee the activities of the Commission.”

This unwitting disclosure necessitated further probe into the financial records of the NLRC, and thus a new petition dated August 6, 2021. In it, NEBPRIL said: “Financial transactions in the Commission involving multiple staffers of the agency evidentially suggest a disturbing collusion of the Director-General of the commission with some Accounts and Audit staff, to enable brazen, unethical activities that amount to financial fraud.

“A close study of a few of the Finance and Audit documents of the Commission, revealed multiple, systemic official financial fraud, financial infractions, official impunity and less that transparent internal  financial governance structure in NLRC, under Mr. Gbajabiamila.”

The petition listed some of the fraud allegations thus: “It is evident based on the documents at our disposal, that some members of staff of the Commission, especially in the Finance & Accounts and also Audit departments, have made themselves willing members of the financial fraud syndicate in the commission.

“Evidently, between March and December 2019, about N348,200, 950 was diverted through the use of the bank accounts of 20 staffers, in a total of 143 transactions.

* In March 2019, the sum of N26,024,000 was fraudulently mopped-up in 11 transactions, via bank accounts of nine members of staff.

* In April 2019, N27,140,000 in 12 transactions by nine staff accounts

* In May 2019, N9, 483,000 in 5 transactions through four staff accounts

* In June 2019, N23, 414,400, was mopped-up via nine members of staff accounts in 10 transactions.

* In July 2019, a total of N61,130,350 was mopped-up in 27 different translations through the bank accounts of 10 staff.

* In August 2019, N17,786,800 was mopped-up in eight transactions through the accounts of six staff.

* In September 2019, N56,466,200 was mopped-up in 24 transactions, using the accounts of 16 staff.

* In October 2019, N21,276,200 was mopped-up in 10 transactions via nine staff accounts.

* In November 2019, N39,650,200 was mopped-up in 18 transactions, using the accounts of 12 staff.

* In December 2019, N65,829,600 was mopped-up in 29 transactions, using the accounts of 14 staff.

“In 2020 financial year, a total sum of N42,650,400 was mopped-up in 18 transactions using the accounts of nine staff.”

NEBPRIL also listed the names of the alleged perpetrators and the roles they played especially how much was siphoned through each of them.

Also, there were contraventions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Section 2906 and 2916 of the Financial Regulations and other key extant rules in awarding multiple million naira contracts above the DG’s approval limit.

“For instance, on October 23, 2019, the sums of N15,000,000 and N17,000,000 were disbursed  for the same purpose on the same day to a pool staff redeployed from the office of the Accountant General of the  Federation, to head the checking unit of the Finance & Accounts department of NLRC.

“The same amount was disbursed to him the following day, for the same purpose (payment for computer consumables), totaling N64,000,000 in two days!

“In December 2020, sundry other questionable payments above the DG’s approval limits were also made, in breach of extant financial and civil service laws.”

According to the petition, every mechanism of checks and balances put in place by government by way of creating various units in the Finance and Account department of the Commission to check and double check every transaction from approval to payment levels, have been fraudulently by-passed, owing to the fact that all those put in place to carry out these functions are the very ones committing the fraudulent acts.

NEBPRIL therefore implored Abdulrasheed Bawa, chairman of the EFCC, to use his good offices to investigate these allegations and bring the culprits to book, adding that “such action being in tandem with the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s anti-corruption stance, would also help reconcile the faith of the ordinary Nigerian to the often stated position that under your headship of the EFCC, there will be no sacred cows – especially against the backdrop of the privileged standing of the DG, National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Lanre Gbajabiamila, as a younger sibling of Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, and Nigeria’s No.4 citizen.”

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