Plus: So many probes, not enough con­vic­tions

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Ab­bas Ji­moh

The same com­mit­tee headed by Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo prob­ing the NIA Ikoyi cash re­cov­ery is also prob­ing the Babachir scan­dal. Their re­ports are yet to be pub­li­cized six months af­ter

It seems to be a sea­son of probes, with most of them re­main­ing un­solved, and gap­ing like open sores. From cor­rup­tion-based ones, to those hing­ing on ad­min­is­tra­tional malfea­sance, the va­ri­eties abound.

Is NNPC’s $25bn con­tract an oily is­sue?

The pub­lic spat be­tween the Min­is­ter of State for Pe­tro­leum Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Manag­ing Direc­tor (GMD) of Nige­rian Na­tional Pe­tro­leum Cor­po­ra­tion (NNPC) Maikanti Baru led the Se­nate on Oc­to­ber 4 to set up an ad-hoc com­mit­tee to probe al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against Baru.

Kachikwu had ac­cused Baru of award­ing $25bn worth of con­tracts in the NNPC with­out fol­low­ing due process.

When Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki con­sti­tuted the ad-hoc panel last week, fol­low­ing a res­o­lu­tion of the Se­nate and pub­lic outcry over the award of the al­leged con­tracts, the com­mit­tee was given four weeks to sub­mit its re­port.

The Se­nate also charged the nine-mem­ber com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate a let­ter writ­ten by the Min­is­ter of Pe­tro­leum, Ibe Kachikwu, to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari ac­cus­ing Baru of abuse of of­fice, other il­le­gal ac­tions and in­sub­or­di­na­tion.

The lat­est $25bn con­tract con­tro­versy is com­ing on the heels of al­le­ga­tion by a for­mer Gover­nor of the CBN, now-Emir of Kano Sanusi that about $20 bil­lion oil money was miss­ing from the NNPC.

This was fol­lowed by Chuk­wuma Soludo, Sanusi’s pre­de­ces­sor’s ac­cus­ing the man­agers of the NNPC of mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing over N30trn of pub­lic funds, in­clud­ing sev­eral bil­lions in oil money.

Un­healthy go­ings-on at NHIS?

The July 6 sus­pen­sion of the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Health In­sur­ance Scheme (NHIS) Dr Us­man Yusuf was the cli­max of a feud be­tween him and the Min­is­ter of Health Prof Isaac Ade­wole. The three­month sus­pen­sion was on Oc­to­ber 6 ex­tended in­def­i­nitely.

The Min­is­ter ac­cused the embattled Yusuf of fraud. The sus­pen­sion came weeks af­ter the Se­nate launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his ac­tiv­i­ties as the NHIS chief. The law­mak­ers ac­cused him of “cor­rupt ex­pen­di­ture of N292 mil­lion” which he al­legedly spent on healthcare train­ing “with­out re­course to any ap­pro­pri­ate ap­prov­ing author­ity.”

While he ini­tially de­nied that he was sus­pended, he later said he would not hon­our the sus­pen­sion and would con­tinue to act his po­si­tion. He later left the of­fice af­ter some days of de­fi­ance when there were re­ports that he may be ar­rested by the Po­lice.

In a spon­sored mo­tion by Sen­a­tor Kabiru Garba Marafa, he noted that Yusuf has been in­volved in ex­pen­di­tures way beyond his limit.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives had ear­lier asked the Min­is­ter to within a week re­in­state Yusuf and also asked the min­is­ter to halt the re-ac­cred­i­ta­tion of Health Main­te­nance Or­gan­i­sa­tions (HMOs) pend­ing the out­come of an on­go­ing probe of the NHIS by the House.

NIA’s $43m Ikoyi re­cov­ery

Op­er­a­tives of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC), act­ing on a tipoff on April 12, said they found $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 hid­den in­side an apart­ment at Os­borne Tow­ers, Ikoyi.

The funds were val­ued at over N13 bil­lion based on the then pre­vail­ing ex­change rate set by the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria.

But the dis­cov­ery which could have been another suc­cess in the on­go­ing anti-cor­rup­tion war of the present ad­min­is­tra­tion be­came prob­lem­atic fol­low­ing con­flict­ing re­ports about the own­er­ship of the money.

On April 14 the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Agency (NIA) re­port­edly ad­mit­ted own­ing the money, say­ing it ware­housed it in the La­gos apart­ment for an op­er­a­tion it is con­duct­ing.

It was re­ported that the NIA Direc­tor Gen­eral Am­bas­sador Ay­o­dele Oke, who was later sus­pended, had ap­proached the EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu to re­quest EFCC op­er­a­tives who broke into the apart­ment to back down while the op­er­a­tion was still un­der­way, but the EFCC boss de­clined his pleas.

While both cham­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly em­panel sep­a­rate com­mit­tees to probe the scan­dal, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari on April 19 sus­pended Oke and or­dered a full scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the dis­cov­ery.

The Pres­i­dent also set up a three-man com­mit­tee headed by Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Abubakar Malami, and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Mo­hammed Baba­gana Monguno. The Com­mit­tee was to sub­mit its re­port to the pres­i­dent within 14 days.

When grass cut an SGF to size

Be­fore the even­tual sus­pen­sion of the embattled Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion (SGF) Babachir David Lawal on April 19 by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, the Pres­i­dent had on Jan­uary 24 writ­ten the Se­nate that he would not re­move and pros­e­cute Lawal as de­manded by the law­mak­ers.

Pres­i­dent Buhari said the SGF was not given fair-hear­ing be­fore the in­dict­ment by a Se­nate Com­mit­tee headed by Sen­a­tor Shehu Sani.

The Se­nate had in De­cem­ber last year asked Pres­i­dent Buhari to sus­pend Lawal and en­sure his pros­e­cu­tion over al­leged breach of Nige­rian laws in han­dling con­tracts awarded by the Pres­i­den­tial Ini­tia­tive for the North East (PINE).

The Se­nate’s call fol­lowed the in­terim re­port of its ad-hoc com­mit­tee on “mount­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the North East” led by Shehu Sani which in­dicted Mr. Lawal for re­ceiv­ing N200 mil­lion con­tract to clear “in­va­sive plant species” in Yobe State through a com­pany, Rholav­i­sion Nige­ria Lim­ited. Babachir de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

How­ever, a pres­i­den­tial sus­pen­sion or­der is­sued by Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Femi Adesina read: “Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­la­tions of law and due process made against the Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion, SGF, Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of con­tracts un­der the Pres­i­den­tial Ini­tia­tive on the North East, PINE. The Pres­i­dent has also di­rected the sus­pen­sion of the SGF from of­fice, pend­ing the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

The same com­mit­tee headed by Vice

The evolv­ing saga sur­round­ing his re­call has gen­er­ated con­tro­versy, with Maina presently de­clared wanted by the EFCC, af­ter which he has been on the run

Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo prob­ing the NIA Ikoyi cash re­cov­ery is also prob­ing the Babachir scan­dal. Their re­ports are yet to be pub­li­cized six months af­ter.

The un­fold­ing scan­dal in­volv­ing the con­tro­ver­sial re­in­state­ment of the for­mer Pen­sion Re­form Task Team (PRTT) Chair­man Al­haji Ab­dul­rasheed Maina who was on Mon­day or­dered to be sacked by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari is ex­pected to take down with him some aides of the pres­i­dent in­volved in the saga.

The evolv­ing saga sur­round­ing his re­call has gen­er­ated con­tro­versy, with Maina presently de­clared wanted by the EFCC, af­ter which he has been on the run. He in­fa­mously, sur­rep­ti­tiously got re­in­stated and pro­moted to the post of a Direc­tor in the Min­istry of In­te­rior to head the HR depart­ment.

Way back in Fe­buary 2013, for­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan di­rected the then Head of the Civil Ser­vice of the Fed­er­a­tion, Al­haji Isa Bello Sali, to im­me­di­ately com­mence dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against Maina for ab­scond­ing from duty af­ter which Maina was de­clared wanted by the Nige­ria Po­lice over al­leged mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of N195 bil­lion pen­sion funds.

In June of 2016, Maina dis­closed that he had been cleared by the se­nate of the al­leged N195bn pen­sion theft, adding that the se­nate dis­cov­ered that the ‘miss­ing’ N195bn is in the gov­ern­ment’s cof­fers. He later asked for an apol­ogy from both the na­tion and the na­tional as­sem­bly, be­fore he be­came silent and went un­der again. He was al­legedly re­called through the of­fice of the Head of Ser­vice, shrouded in se­crecy un­til the news broke. The de­vel­op­ment led to the query of the Head of the Civil Ser­vice of the Fed­er­a­tion (HOCSF) Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita by Pres­i­dent Buhari. She de­nied Maina’s re­in­state­ment, and was di­rected by the pres­i­dent to sub­mit a de­tailed re­port to his Chief of Staff.

The probes con­tinue to mount, even as Nige­ri­ans wait with bated breath.

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