“Before my appointment as Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, all Permanent Secretaries’ bank accounts were investigated; mine had the least, one was about N30,000 and it was the highest; all in all I had about a hundred thousand naira. I was the only one with the least amount, meaning I didn’t steal money. Thank God I am not a thief; this is the reward for honesty. Anyway, even if I wanted to steal, what money is in this ministry?”
That was how Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita addressed a former minister she was permanent secretary to in the Ministry of Science and Technology when he paid her a congratulatory visit, along with his top aides in 2015, on her appointment to the office of HoS to the federation by President Muhammadu Buhari .
Four years down the line as the number one civil servant of the federation, the woman with less than a hundred thousand naira in her account is now a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N3billion contract scam.
She was also interrogated for alleged abuse of duty tour allowance, money laundering and stealing of government funds.
After a four-day grilling during which she was in custody of the anti-graft agency beginning from August 8, Mrs Oyo-Ita has landed in the hospital after being granted an administrative bail. She has been given restricted access to visitors at the private hospital in Jabi area of Abuja where she is receiving treatment.
Although the administrative bail was granted so that she could be reporting for further interrogation from her office, she has not been able to return to the anti-corruption agency’s office since she was allowed to go.
About N600million has been traced to the account of one of her key aides who has been unable to give any justifiable explanation for it.
The EFCC has blocked the account and has initiated the process of obtaining an interim forfeiture clause to seize the cash.
Preliminary findings confirmed that about N3billion has been traced to the Head of Service which came in through proxy companies.
“There were proofs of how she secured contracts through proxy firms from some ministries including Special Duties, Power, Works and others. There was a case of abuse of office because there was evidence of pressure on Permanent Secretaries to get her contracts”, a source in the know disclosed to Neptune Prime.
Investigators also discovered that she was involved in falsification of Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) and estacodes.
The source added: “About N600 million has been traced to the account of one of her aides. This illicit account has been blocked and the EFCC is in the process of invoking interim forfeiture clause.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to apply Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.
“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the court.”
The source revealed that “We have only covered a fraction of the preliminary findings, she will still have to return after completing her treatment.”