The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has begun initial findings into the federal payroll fraud committed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s new media aide Bashir Ahmad.

The anti-graft agency told Peoples Gazette on Monday afternoon that Mr Ahmad’s action had been brought to the commission’s attention by way of HEDA Resource Centre, a public-interest think-tank run by anti-corruption campaigner Lanre Suraju. “We received a complaint and we have commenced an investigation,” ICPC spokeswoman Azuka Ogugua told The Gazette by telephone. “Our investigation is preliminary at this stage in order to establish accuracy of the information we received and then we take it from there.”

Ms Ogugua did not immediately give a timeline of her agency’s investigation, but an anti-graft official familiar with the matter said Mr Ahmad would soon be invited for questioning about the fraud.

The HEDA’s petition was triggered by The Gazette’s report of August 15, 2022, which detailed how Mr Ahmad defrauded Nigerian taxpayers to the tune of millions after leaving office as a presidential media aide . Mr Ahmad had said he had resigned from office in May in order to seek the ruling party’s House of Reps ticket in his home Kano State.

Despite confirming his resignation by deemphasising his employment at the Nigerian presidency, Mr Ahmad continued receiving salaries through May, June and July, until he was exposed by The Gazette’s report. He received at least N3,129,530.64 in fraudulent basic earnings, with his allowances and estacodes within the same period likely many times the salaries.

Mr Ahmad, who was earlier this month reappointed by Mr Buhari after failing to qualify to stand in the upcoming parliamentary elections, told The Gazette he refunded the illicit payments in full to the federal coffers for the months he was not an official. But he failed to supply evidence of the reimbursement or clarify what actions he took after receiving the first, second and third salaries, as well as federal allowances and estacodes, despite being a private citizen.

Mr Buhari has not disclosed what he knew about Mr Ahmad’s theft, which appeared in line with his action of keeping silent whenever his aides are caught in corruption.

The ICPC said it was aware of Nigerians’ relentless demand for Mr Ahmad’s investigation and prosecution for stealing from the federal purse at a time of rising poverty and strikes by several public sector unions as a result of the government’s inability to meet its financial obligations

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