ICPC arraigns REA staff for alleged N298m fraud

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has arraigned Usman Kwakwa, an official of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), for allegedly stealing N298 million through the agency’s payment platform.

He was arraigned on Thursday before a federal high court in Abuja on a four-count charge.

Kwakwa is one of several officers allegedly involved in over “N1.2 billion fraud” at the agency.

At least, five officials of the agency, including Kwakwa, have been charged separately by the ICPC for various amounts of funds they allegedly stole from the agency in March 2023.

Kwakwa pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million.

Earlier during the proceedings, Suobeni Akponimisingha, prosecution counsel, informed the court about the absence of three other defendants — Emmanuel Titus, Umar Karaye and Henrietta Okojie.

Akponimisingha said all the defendants were served with copies of the charges and duly informed of the day’s proceedings, but they chose to stay away.

He prayed for the court to issue a bench warrant against them.

In a short ruling, Emeka Nwite, the presiding judge, ordered the arrest of the three accused persons.

“The defendant decided not to come to court. I am convinced that the defendant deliberately absented himself from court,” Nwite ruled.

Nwite fixed June 13 for Titus and Karaye’s arraignment, while June 14 was fixed for Okojie’s arraignment.

The ICPC, in the separate charges filed against the defendants, accused them of moving funds belonging to the agency through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) payment platform to their personal accounts in tranches.

The public funds were meant for the provision of electricity to rural communities across the country.

In March, President Bola Tinubu approved the indefinite suspension of Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, the managing director of REA, as well as three executive directors of the agency, following findings obtained during a comprehensive investigation into the financial activities of the agency.

However, Ahmad’s name did not appear in any of the charges by the ICPC. He is yet to be recalled from suspension.

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