SOME top officials in the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir David Lawal are collecting as much as N50 million from candidates seeking appointments into the Boards of Grade A federal agencies and parastatals, a SATURDAY SUN investigation has revealed.
A lady, Hajia Mohammed (first name withheld), suspected to be a lawyer coordinates the syndicate on behalf of some top officials working in the SGF’s office that pad lists for Board appointments still being compiled by a presidential committee in the same office. Another woman simply identified as ‘Olori’ assists her
Beside the appointment of Heads of about 26 federal parastatals waiting for the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, there are hundreds of vacant Board membership positions equally waiting to be filled.
A SATURDAY SUN undercover investigation reveals that the syndicate has a number of trusted recruiters and canvassers who scout for people with means that want to serve on the Board of some federal agencies. Reception and poolside areas of top hotels in Abuja such as Sheraton Hotel and Nicon Hilton Hotel are usually used as venues for negotiations and collection of cash deposits for the appointments.
While negotiating with leaders of the syndicate for a membership position at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja recently, our undercover reporter was told that appointment into the Board of Grade A agencies like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, among others will cost a whooping N50million. The syndicate will also not accept a kobo less than N25million for appointment into the Boards of other less lucrative agencies.
Further investigations into the modus operandi of the syndicate shows the only qualification required from Board job seekers is the membership card of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in addition to ready cash. It was further gathered that between February and now, when the syndicate has been carrying on with its secret recruitment drive, over a billion naira has been generated from their collections from prospective candidates with additional millions of naira outstanding payments already made in post dated cheques.
The exact amount so far raked in by the syndicate could not be established because it was difficult to verify how much each of the over 76 names on the list of candidates that had paid as at the 20th of March when our undercover reporter penetrated the syndicate actually deposited. But from the list sighted briefly at one of the meetings, no fewer than 18 persons must have paid for Grade A Board appointments.
At one of the meetings with the two female leaders of the syndicate in March, our undercover reporter who negotiated for a less lucrative agency’s Board, was asked to pay a cash deposit of N20million and issue a post dated cheque of N5million which will be cashed when the list of appointment eventually comes out. When asked about the terms of payment for a Grade A Board job, Hajia Mohammed declared that those who have the option of choosing the agency of their choice would make a cash deposit of N40million and the balance of N10million paid through a post dated cheque when the federal government issues appointment letters.
Pleas for a downward review of the costs were rebuffed because there were more people waiting to pay than the number of slots they have to fill. A reliable source in the SGF’s office who confirmed the development to SATURDAY SUN however said, “the practice has been going on since and not something that has just started under the Buhari administration.” The top official said it is practice similar to budget padding discovered by President Muhammadu Buhari during the presentation of the 2016 budget to the National Assembly. “It’s more or less a normal trend in government just like you have budget padding or the ghost workers menace on workers payroll”, the source added.
The official further said “beyond what you have just discovered, party leaders also sell the slots for their constituencies to highest bidders, so it is not only a practice within public service, it’s equally deep within the ruling political parties, not just about APC but even more in PDP when they were in power.”
President Buhari had on Thursday, July 16, 2015 approved the dissolution of the Governing Boards of Federal Parastatals, Agencies and Institutions with immediate effect.
The syndicate went scouting for job seekers with means as soon as a presidential committee in the SGF’s office began compilation of names for Boards appointments. It was gathered that most of the names compiled by the syndicate must have been smuggled into the lists of agencies under the Ministries of Education and Agriculture.
Some of them include National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Kaduna, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Abuja, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Abuja, National Commission for Nomadic Education, (NCNE), Abuja and National Commission for Adult Education Mass Literacy and Non Formal Education (NMEC), Abuja.
Others include Nigerian Educational Research Development Council (NERDC), Sheda, FCT, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Bwari, Abuja, West African Examination Council (WAEC), Lagos, National Examination Council (NECO), Minna, National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), National Institute for Educational Planning & Administration (NIEPA), Ondo, National Teachers Institute (NTI), Kaduna and Nigerian Mathematical Centre (NMC), Sheda, FCT.
Others are Nigerian French Language Village (NFLV) Badagry, Lagos, Nigerian Arabic Language Village (NALV) Ngala, Borno, National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) Aba, Abia, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Abuja, National Library of Nigeria (NLN), Abuja, Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Abuja and Computer Professionals Registration Council of (CPN), Lagos.
Those under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development include Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), National Fadama III Programme, Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP), Agricultural Development Project (ADP), Bank of Agriculture, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC), National Institute for Stored Products Research Institute, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Institute of Agricultural Research & Extension Services (IAR) and National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), National Institute of Freshwater Fisheries Research (NIFFR), National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), National Institute for Horticultural Research (NIHORT), Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN), National Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri and National Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR).
All efforts to get a detailed official reaction from the office of the SGF failed as at press time. While the Director of Press in the office, Mr Bolaji Adebiyi was said to be on leave, his deputy, an Assistant Director, Nakorji Moh’d in a brief response to text messages from Saturday Sun said he was not aware of the scam. He refused to give further explanation or comments.
Written by ADE ALADE