SaharaReporters just learned that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have since Monday been raiding the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) located at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. Our sources said the EFCC agents were on the trail of Christy Olabode, a level 6 officer at FAAN who allegedly masterminded a N70 million fraud. Our sources said she was arrested, but released on Tuesday on administrative bail.

A source at the aviation agency told SaharaReporters that EFCC operatives made visits to FAAN on Monday, Tuesday and today. “They stormed the security department of the agency where a meeting was being held to unravel those behind the fraud,” a source told us. The source added that the EFCC operatives immediately arrested Ms. Olabode, who is under investigation for allegedly diverting furniture allowances of staff between 2013 and 2016 before the fraud was exposed.

EFCC and FAAN sources disclosed that officers of the anti-corruption agency also carted away some documents relevant to an on-going investigation into the alleged fraud. A source said the documents included the agency’s monthly payroll data.

Our correspondent also learned that EFCC operatives searched Ms. Olabode’s private home to see if official documents would turn up. One source said he could not say for now if useful documents were found at the suspect’s home.

In addition to arresting Ms. Olabode, the EFCC also arrested two other staff members of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) department as well as a man identified as “a brother” to Ms. Olabode. A source said Ms. Olabode’s brother happens to be an employee of FAAN but works at the Ilorin International Airport. The main suspect’s husband, Mr. Olabode, works at FAAN’s human resources department at the agency’s headquarters.

“On Tuesday, Mrs. Olabode was released on bail because she’s nursing a six-month-old baby, but she was told to report to the EFCC office in Lagos daily. Her husband stood in as a surety for her bail,” an EFCC source disclosed. “If she fails to report to us, then the matter will result in the arrest of her husband,” the source added.

In a statement to SaharaReporters, Yakubu Dati, who oversees FAAN’s Corporate Communications, confirmed the diversion of funds and the arrest of the main suspect. However, Mr. Dati said that the management of FAAN had suspended the suspect and two others to allow for proper investigation into the fraud.

According to him, on discovering the fraud, the agency’s management had set up a committee to investigate the major suspect. He disclosed that when the main suspect named others involved in the fraud, those suspects were also swiftly suspended.

Mr. Dati added that when the chief suspect confessed to the committee that she had funneled some of the monies to her brother’s accounts, the management subsequently suspended the new suspect.

He revealed that the management had concluded plans to set up an audit team to further investigate financial transactions in the department over several years. He said the audit would investigate any illegal practices by personnel in the accounts and commercial departments, recommend ways of closing all loopholes that made theft possible, and ensure that all revenues are captured and accounted for.

Mr. Dati’s statement added that FAAN’s audit “would further modernize its accounting system, explore new ways to boost revenues, and also continuously monitor activities of its personnel involved in revenue generation and accounting.” He declared that the agency required more funds to effectively manage the airports, fund the rehabilitation of many airport terminals, and also complete ongoing work on some facilities at airports.

He hinted that, after the audit, FAAN might adopt a policy of rotating its personnel in the accounts and commercial departments every two years so that no person would stay in one unit for more than a two-year period of time, noting that people plot to perpetrate fraud and commit other kinds of financial malfeasance when they stay too long in one post.

 

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