Ghost-working Scandal: EFCC closes in on Saraki’s aide
Anti-graft detectives are closing in on Bamikole Omishore, an aide to Senate President Bukola Saraki who was recently exposed for allegedly using his wife as a ghost-worker, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Official confirmation and other information obtained from sources at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicated that Mr Omishore was under corruption investigation and might be arrested soon.
“We are still investigating the matter,” Wilson Uwujaren, a spokesperson for EFCC, told PREMIUM TIMES Friday afternoon.
Mr Omishore denied committing “any crime” on behalf of himself and his wife when reached for comments by PREMIUM TIMES Friday afternoon, but was silent on whether his wife, said to be based in the U.S., received undue salaries at the National Assembly.
Another EFCC official told PREMIUM TIMES under anonymity that detectives are in possession of evidence that could form the basis of “an unannounced arrest” of Mr Omishore “soon”.
“We now have an overview of his case and we are preparing to arrest him to make another example out of him,” the source told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Wednesday night.
Mr Uwujaren would only confirm to PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Omishore was under serious investigation Friday afternoon, but declined to elaborate.
The anti-graft office received a petition from anti-corruption campaigners last month, detailing how Mr Omishore, 35, allegedly enlisted his wife on the payroll of the National Assembly.
The Punch Newspaper, which published the petition, said Abiola Omishore lives in the United States where she works as a nurse.
From her base in the U.S., Mrs Omishore was allegedly drawing N150,000 in monthly salaries from taxpayers’ money, The Punch reported.
Mr Omishore was also accused of fabricating National Assembly identification credentials for his wife. She reportedly received the undue income through her GTBank using her maiden name, Abiola Aiyegbayo.
Over a three-year period, the alleged fleece has run into millions. At a time, accumulated salaries for several months allegedly hit Mrs Omishore’s bank account, in the manner of backlog salaries payouts, the Punch reported.
Mr Omishore was initially reluctant to publicly speak on the allegations, telling PREMIUM TIMES on the night the story broke that he would wait until he read the petition before anything.
He rejected subsequent requests for him to speak on the raging scandal for four weeks until PREMIUM TIMES informed him of the latest information out of the EFCC.
“I am completely confident that neither my wife or myself committed any crime,” Mr Omishore said Friday afternoon without saying specifically whether or not his U.S.-based wife was on the payroll of the federal government.
“It is my humble recommendation for you to revert back to your sources to follow rule of law and due process,” Mr Omishore said. “Instead of this undue speculation, as I see this constant call from you as an attempt to intimidate.”
Mr Saraki has not spoken since the allegations were first leveled against his aide four weeks ago. His spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES request for comments Friday night.
A former banker in the U.S., Mr Omishore served as a digital media aide to Mr Saraki since 2015, during which he took on critics of his principal. He was named a Diaspora affairs aide in 2017, but he could still be seen releasing press statements on behalf of his principal while pushing back against unfavourable reports against the Senate President.
U.S. authorities petitioned
A ghost-worker is someone on the payroll who does not actually work for a victim organisation, according to the Fraud Magazine.
If the allegations hold in court, Mr Omishore or his wife or both of them could face several months, or even years, behind bars, said anti-corruption activist Lanre Suraj.
Mr Suraj’s civic group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, recently dispatched a petition to the F.B.I. and the U.S. Department of Justice for a thorough examination of the allegations.
“Amongst the things we hope to uncover is whether the U.S. authorities were aware that Mrs Omishore lives and works there but still managed to be milking Nigerian taxpayers,” Mr Suraj said.
Mr Suraj said millions of politicians and public service employees have enriched themselves through multiple layers of ghost-working schemes over the past decades.
Successive administration since the return of civil rule in 1999 have adopted policies and innovations aimed at curbing the menace, but its perpetrators appear to be getting ahead of every administration. The practice is said to be particularly prevalent at the National Assembly, where even lawmakers are suspected to be drawing salaries under fictitious names they submitted as legislative aides.
Governments at all levels regularly announce the winnowing of hundreds of thousands of ghost-workers from payrolls. The federal government’s efforts had recorded significant success since the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in 2007.
But Mr Omishore sees the allegations against him and his critics who have jumped on them as a witch-hunt that could further discourage cerebral personalities from joining public service for the purpose of sacrifice.
“Sadly, serving in Nigeria is one where you hardly get accolades, regardless of sacrifices made,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
“You are demonised, called unprintable names irrespective of what one does,” he added. “Sadly, some members of the fourth estate of the realm also jump on the bandwagon of speculation, making it harder for good people to even want to serve.”