Sunday Ajibade, a former worker of Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State has accused the management of the institution owned by a former House of Representatives member, Bode Ayorinde, of diverting millions of naira of pension contributions of staff members.
He also accused Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami of allegedly interfering with the investigation of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) into the alleged misappropriation of pension funds at the university, urging him to issue a disclaimer to exonerate himself from the grave allegation.
Ajibade disclosed this in a letter to Malami titled ‘Alleged Interference With EFCC Investigation Into Misappropriation Of Pension Funds/Pension Fraud At Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State’.
According to him, one Mr Oladokun Farinre, a Chartered Accountant (ICAN) and the university's bursary from 2008 to 2021 admitted that the institution did not enrol its employees in the nation's uniform contributory pension scheme.
Rather, it operated an unlicensed and unregulated pension scheme tagged "University Savings Scheme" where the management diverted the pension contributions of its staff members to.
The letter read, “I am a former employee of Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State, where I worked as a lecturer between November 2012 and October 2017. In a letter dated 17 November 2020 written by my Attorney, A. A. Solagbade Esq. of Femi Emmanuel Emodamori & Co. and addressed to the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), I reported the incident of misappropriation of pension funds and pension fraud at the University.
“I have annexed the acknowledged copy of that letter, for ease of reference. One Oshili Moses later invited me to the Commission’s Ilorin Zonal Command to adopt the petition, so I visited the Zonal Command on 11 January 2021 for that purpose, following which the Commission invited the University officials. The University rebuffed the invitation, so operatives from the Zonal Command visited the University and arrested the Registrar and one other officer.
“I visited Ilorin again on 26 February 2021 and gave a supplementary statement in the presence of another officer named Ayo Bashir. During my third visit on 30 March 2021, I discussed with the Zonal Head, one Mr. Kazeem Oseni, and presented him with documentary evidence of my allegations, following which Mr. Oshili Moses stated that he would invite me in three weeks to provide additional information. This invitation did not materialize so I contacted Mr. Oshili, and he stated that the Headquarters office had recalled the case file, and would contact me.
“Mr. Oshili’s report staggered my imagination, and I began suspecting that the University officials, particularly Hon. Bode Ayorinde (PhD) (the University Pro-Chancellor, who is a politician and former member of the House of Representatives), were pulling strings behind the scenes to scupper further investigation into the University’s illegal practices.
“Subsequently, the EFCC never contacted me or my Attorney, and stonewalled all my attempts to follow up on the investigation. My suspicion was later justified when my Attorney received a motion on notice seeking leave to appeal the judgement of 28 September 2020 by the National Industrial Court, Akure Judicial Division, in Suit NICN/AK/23/2018: Sunday Adediran Ajibade vs Achievers Educational Investment Ltd & 2 Ors. In paragraphs 4(f) and (h) of the supporting affidavit deposed to by Toyin Bamifere, she averred amongst other things as follows:
“4(f) That by the time the University resumed early this year 2021, the Respondent through his counsel had already petitioned EFCC Ilorin Zone to harass, intimidate, arrest and detained the officers of the Applicants for days.
“(h) That it took the intervention of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice and Chairman EFCC before these officers detained were released and the EFCC stopped destructing the activities of the school.
“I have annexed a certified true copy of the motion on notice filed on 19 November 2021, the supporting affidavit and other accompanying processes. The import of Mrs. Bamifere’s shocking revelation is that the Chief Legal Officer of the Federation interfered with and/or meddled in the EFCC’s ongoing pension fraud investigation. Her depositions certainly cast a dark cloud over the investigative efforts of law enforcement agencies and further erode confidence in our criminal justice system. In addition, they nourish the narrative that highly connected individuals can leverage their influence to insulate their illegal activities from scrutiny.
“For the record, Achievers University operates an unlicensed pension scheme tagged “University Savings Scheme”, which it uses as a piggy bank to siphon hundreds of millions of Naira in employees’ pension funds, in simulated compliance with the Pension (Reformed) Act, 2014.
“In fact, the University is not even registered with the Pension Commission (PenCom), does not have an employer code, and is not registered under the mandatory contributory pension scheme, contrary to the Act. The University has thereby denied the national Pension Funds the legitimate access to pooling and investing pension contributions of the staff of the University and jeopardized my social security and that of other employees.
“Mr. Oladokun Farinre (Chartered Accountant and University Bursar from 2008-2021) admitted these facts during his testimony as the University’s sole witness in Suit NICN/AK/23/2018, which the Court reproduced in its judgement of 28 September 2020.
“The Court equally found in Suit No. NICN/AK/25/2017: Olayiwola Akanji Popoola vs Achievers University, Owo, that these same admissions by Mr. Farinre were proof of the University’s breach of the Pension (Reformed) Act, 2014. Your alleged intervention has now derailed the investigation of these admitted infractions of the law that I reported in my letters to the EFCC and PenCom. Consequently, criminal breach of trust and pension fraud at Achievers University lingers on.
“The Honourable AG would recall that as at 31 December 2021, the Federal Government borrowed N8.77 trillion from Pension Funds to finance budget deficits and infrastructural development programmes. Such funds may become inaccessible, depleted, and threaten the national economy in future if they become subject to diversion and misappropriation by employers like Achievers University.
“It is therefore clear that the depositions in Mrs. Bamifere’s affidavit are too grievous to be ignored or dismissed by a wave of the hand; for they suggest that the Minister of Justice (a Senior Advocate of Nigeria) is aiding and abetting pension fraud. Thus, it is imperative that the Honourable AGF respond to these claims bordering on gross misconduct, abuse of office and sabotage of a criminal investigation, comprehensively. I fear that silence and/or anything short of a robust response may not bode well, considering the avalanche of similar accusations against your exalted office in recent times.”
When contacted, Ayorinde said he had nothing to say as the matter was already in court.