Nigeria's money-munching mamba tale ends in fraud charges

Civil serpent: The education department employee said a snake had snaffled the money (AFP Photo/DAVID HANCOCK)

Abuja (AFP) - A woman in Nigeria who claimed a mystery snake swallowed nearly $100,000 of state funds under her care was charged with fraud on Friday, the anti-graft agency said.

Philomina Chieshe, an accounts officer in the education department of Nigeria's central Benue state, appeared alongside five others co-accused in high court in Abuja, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said.

The group were arrested after a probe last year into missing millions at their work place at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which oversees university admissions.

The suspects were slapped with eight-count charges of stealing 35 million naira (97,500 dollars, 86,950 euros), remittances from sales of forms by the state-run JAMB.

"Chieshe became notorious when she made an outlandish claim that a mysterious snake swallowed about 35 million naira cash," the EFCC said.

Three of the suspects were said to have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the others are yet to enter a plea. They remain in custody pending a bail hearing.

The hearing comes days after President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term in power, where he has promised to continue with a crackdown on Nigeria's crippling corruption.

Nigeria's biggest banknote is 1,000 naira, and the total amount of missing cash would fill several sacks. Investigators did not find a snake.