The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned former Managing Director of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Umar Munir Abubakar, and four others before the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, over an N18 billion fraud. Other defendants are Henry Ekhasomi Sambo, Adebayo Adebowale Aderibigbe, Chief Richard U. Uche and Aderemi Adegboyega. They were arraigned before Justice Silvanus Orji of the Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Apo on a 26-count charge bordering on conspiracy, abuse of office and illegal diversion of public funds. In a statement, the EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said that trouble started for Abubakar and co-defendants (some of whom were former board members and current members of staff of NSITF) when a whistleblower petitioned the EFCC accusing them of abusing their positions to divert public funds running to billions of naira. Acting on the petition, EFCC operatives investigated the allegations and discovered that between 2012 and 2015, they received kickbacks in dollars in the discharge of their duties, and conspired to divert about N18 billion, being contribution from the Federal Government of Nigeria, as take-off grants and Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The said money was diverted into personal accounts by an e-payment mandate. The offence contravenes Section 311 of the penal code cap 532 LFN (Abuja) 1990 and punishable under Section 312 of the same code. The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred. In view of their pleas, counsel to EFCC, Steve Odiase, urged the court to fix a date for trial and to remand them in prison custody pending trial. However, counsel to the defendants, J. K Kolawole, Napoleon O. Idenala, J. A. Kalu, J. C. Njikonye and Obafemi Adewale, applied for bail for their clients and prayed the court to grant them bail on liberal terms. After listening to the arguments, Justice Orji granted them bail on the following terms: “Each of the defendants is admitted to bail in the sum of N50 million with two sureties in like sum,” while the sureties should be resident in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. He further ruled that one of the sureties must be a civil servant of at least the level of a director, and warned that anyone who failed to fulfill the bail condition “shall be remanded in prison custody.” They were also warned not to leave the country without the permission of the court. One of the counts read that the accused, on or about 2012 to 2015 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, while being entrusted with dominion over money belonging to NSITF, dishonestly converted to their own use the sum of N18 billion, being the Federal Government’s contribution as take-off grant and Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) for MDAs. It further read that the said sum was diverted into personal accounts by an e-payment mandate jointly signed by Umar Munir Abubakar and Henry Ekhasomi Sambo, who thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 311 of the penal code CAP 532 LFN (Abuja) 1990 and punishable under Section 312 of the same code. The trial has been adjourned to February 5 to 7, 2018.