The Federal Government’s Whistle-Blowers’ Policy has again recorded another major setback in an attempt of the current government to get the buy-in of Nigerians to join hands in the fight against corruption in the country.
The setback was recorded as a result of the recent victimisation of one whistle-blower at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria that led to his eventual dismissal from the Bank. This, the whistle-blower claimed was a parting gift for exposing (alleged) corrupt practices of (an) outgone management team of the Bank ….
The whistle-blower insists that he and other members of the Bank’s audit team were targeted for dismissal by the former management following their refusal to partake in what in their opinions were considered as illegality and unethical acts of corruption that constitute serious financial crimes/offenses against the country and the teaming masses of Nigerian workers whose NHF contributions were being stolen with impunity.
The whistle-blower invited the wrath of the former management team upon himself when he decided to report their illicit and unwholesome activities to; the Honourable Minister, Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in two separate letters to the agencies.
As at the time of filing this appeal, CBN, EFCC and the Office of the Auditor General were at various stages of their investigations into the major allegations ofserious financial misconduct levelled against the relieved management team …. Meanwhile, the supervising ministry that was the primary addressee of the two letters is yet to neither respond nor send any team of investigators to the Bank in response to the whistle-blower’s passionate appeal to investigate the allegations and the wanton destruction of FMBN under the stewardship of ….
In both the first and second letters which were duly acknowledged at the office of the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola; the whistle-blower made a fervent appeal to the minister to wade into the matter between the auditors and the acting executive management team but to no avail.
The whistle-blower, is a fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a first-class graduate of Accountancy from Bayero University Kano. From our recent interaction with him, the man is a national asset that the country is blessed with. Apart from graduating top in his set with the then only first-class degree from Bayero University in the year 2002, the … is currently under a self-sponsored part-time PhD program in Credit Risk Management at the Northern University of Malaysia.
This is in addition to his MSc Finance from the University of Leicester (UK) in 2009. He is, just like his other colleagues in the audit group an erudite and experienced banker cum auditor with impeccable character that is required in audit jobs.
The whistle-blower indicated that his decision to report the incident of victimisation and intimidation to the Honourable Minister was supported by the relevant sections of the FMBN Act 2004 which provides that in the absence of duly constituted board, the Hon. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola should acts as the Board of the Bank.
Three major issues were cited by the protesting auditor in the letter of complaint as the main reasons behind the dissolution of the then Internal Audit Team Headed by Mr. Anibaba Taslim, another senior Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA).
The team was dissolved illegally and its members transferred away from their areas of core competencies in the Bank to pave way for nefarious activities and transactions (which run into billions of Naira) that were earlier resisted by the audit team. In that letter, the copies of which we sighted, the auditor averred that the auditors were being intimidated, witch-hunted and persecuted by the then executive management committee of the Bank for doing their jobs as auditors of the Bank. He said that he was transferred to far away Taraba Stateand without any job description just like how the other members in the group were also transferred to various remote locations to serve as a punishment for their steadfastness and commitment to the anti-corruption stand of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The first issue he said was a request for additional disbursement running into hundreds of millions put forward by the relieved executive management committee of the Bank to enable some contractors to remobilise to site. The contract is for the renovation of Mamman Kontagora Building (MKH) in Lagos.
While the contract was awarded by the erstwhile dissolved board of the Bank(the Board was inaugurated in 2013), the then acting management committee …, developed serious interest perhaps due to the huge value assigned in the contract and continued to mount intense pressure on the Bank’s internal auditors to release additional funding to the contractors. This, the auditors argued could only pass through if the job certification of the previous milestones achieved was presented to them as required in contract administration under Public Procurement Act (2007). The auditor insisted that since the sum of N1.5billion out of the N2.7 billion was already disbursed, representing about 55%, whereas the job completion was lurking in the range of 20%, it was not feasible to release additional funding to the contractors without bringing the work at par with the earlier disbursements.
The auditors therefore advised the supervising department in the Bank to direct the contractors to bring the level work to the satisfactory position required before they (auditors) could consent to the release of additional funding.
Then the second issue began! It was becoming obvious for the auditors that (the management) team had contempt for obeying internal procedures, policies and laws of the federation regulating the operations of FMBN (which is classified as MDA). It was also becoming clearer that the auditors were not ready to partake in the fraudulent transactions of those entrusted with authority in the Bank. Thus, (the) team decided to devise another means that will see Internal Audit Group consenting to the transfer of its statutory functions to a newly created department called Internal Control & Compliance Group. A committee was set up and Internal Audit Group was forcefully drafted into it by the acting management team.
The mandate of the committee was to recommend to management the roles and duties of Internal Audit Group that should be ceded to that new department in an apparent move that will see the circumvention of the existing rules and policies of the Bank. The auditors raised their concerns that the work of Internal Audit in public service is governed by Chapter 17 of the Financial Regulations 2009 and as such without the approval from the Federal Ministry of Finance which is the custodian of the law, there is no way they could simply authorise that such functions be moved to that newly created Group/Department. The auditors therefore documented their views in a memo to the committee chairman with a copy to the Ag. MD/CE ….detailing their reasons why the necessary approvals must be sought from the Office of the Accountant Gen of the Federation, Central Bank of Nigeria and our Supervising Ministry. This, the auditors believed was necessary before they could concur with the management decision of transferring the said functions to the newly established group/dept.
Instead of (the chief executive) to listen to the professional advice of the auditors, he took offence and began to threaten them through intimidation and verbal assault. On a few occasions, the auditors averred that he boasted that he was well connected in the Ministry and can ensure that the auditors were sacked if they failed to accede to his fraudulent requests. The auditor said they felt this was unnecessary since they have already documented their views officially on the matter in a memo to both the committee chairman and the Ag. MD/CE and all that was required is for the Ag MD/CE to override our professional advice and take the responsibility of that decision.
The last but not the least was the issue of the fictitious Half-Year profit of the sum of N423 million declared by the Bank. The whistle-blower narrated how the auditors were directed to pass a favourable comment on the false profit purportedly declared by Finance & Accounts Group which in the opinion of the auditors was nothing but a ruse. The auditors resisted that move because they believed that it was against the ethics of audit profession to declare unrealistic profit the intention of which was nothing but to curry undeserved favours and to mislead the public. It was also part of the bigger plot aimed at ensuring that (the MD/CE) was retained as the substantive Managing Director of the Bank said the whistle-blower. He continued to narrate that it was successful in a way as the Honorouble Minister Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola was quoted in one of the sponsored programs of the Bank singing praises on the Ag MD/CE for achieving the half-year profit feat which he was misled into believing it was true. The implication of this is (that he) has intentionally deceived a minister of the Federal Republic in his quest to fraudulently be confirmed as a substantive MD/CE.
Meanwhile, the recent CBN Examiners exit briefing that was at the Bank to investigate the allegations against the relived management team have clearly established that there was no such profit rather it was a whooping loss position in the sum of N7Billion as at the year end. By this time, the phantom profit in the books of the bank had increased to the sum of N2.7Billion naira.
All these three instances mentioned by the Whistle-Blower were supported by documentary evidence to substantiate the allegations.
Persecution and Intimidation
In November 2016, Mr. Anibaba Teslim was illegally replaced as the Head of Internal Audit. Subsequently, all other unit heads and other staff numbering about nine were transferred out of the Group as a punishment for their perceived roles in the past.
Subsequently, Internal Audit head and the whistle-blower were singled out for intimidation, victimisation and persecution.
Several queries were issued to them both under flimsy and spurious grounds to pave way for their dismissal from the services of the Bank. All the allegations were spurious and the queries were responded to by the duo satisfactorily, but that still did not make (the) management team drop their quest for taking revenge against the auditors.
When the victimisation was becoming unbearable, (one of them) decided to take the bull by the horn by writing a letter of complaint on his victimisation and persecution to the Hon Minister, Power, Works and Housing on the 19th January 2017. This was after a query was issued to him while he was officially on leave and the query was delivered to his wife in which a demand was made that he should respond before his resumption from leave. He said even though the letter was acknowledged at the minister’s office, there is yet to be any response from the Honourable Minister on the matter.
When he got tired of waiting for response from the minster in respect of the first letter, the whistle-blower wrote yet another letter date 13th February 2017 indicating clearly that his job and that of some other team members were on the line but still there was no response from the minister!
To the consternation of the whistle-blower, the other agencies that were only copied in the letters to the minister (i.e. CBN, EFCC and the Office Auditor General of the Federation) have since mobilised their investigation teams to the Bank fully to investigate all the allegations and the counter allegations but not the ministry.
Finally, when there was no help coming from the side of the ministry to stop the victimisation of the whistle-blower, the former management team set-up a kangaroo Management Disciplinary Committee and populated its membership with its kitchen cabinet …. The whistle-blower averred that almost all the members of Disciplinary Committee had been indicted at one time or the other by various audit reports of the dissolved Internal Audit Group. Another indication that the committee was set-up to do a hatchet job was the selection of only six members instead of inaugurating alldepartmental heads numbering about 23 as prescribed by Section 30 of the Bank’s Staff Condition of Service to serve as committee members.
In their defence before the kangaroo Disciplinary Committee which were copied to the Management team … the victimised auditors objected to the biased composition of the committee (clearly a breach of section 30 of the Staff Handbook) as well as the inclusion of some members who have been active participants in the matters brought before the committee. The defence was documented and copies circulated to all the committee members present.
In spite of these objections, the committee continued to deliberate and passed a skewed judgement of guilty on both (men) and recommended summary dismissal of (Internal Audit head)..
Dissolution of the Management Team and the Appointment of New Ones
On April 14th 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari relieved the interim management team…and appointed a substantive one under the leadership of Arc. Ahmed Dangiwa.
This angered (management team head) according to the whistle-blower who boasted that he will use all his connections in the Ministry to ensure that both (men) are dismissed. He passionately holds the duo responsible for the termination of his appointment as the chief executive officer of the Bank and for exposing his (alleged) corrupt practices.
Immediately, and about the same time the new management team was inaugurated by the presidency, an approval to dismiss the duo was hurriedly sought from the ministry that was hitherto incommunicado on the two different letters addressed to it by the whistle-blower. One of such dismissal letters was later served to the whistle-blower….
The whistle-blower recounts how the new executive management led by Arc. Ahmed Dangiwa were helpless as the process to sack the auditors was something that predated their arrival in FMBN and even worrisome is the fact that is a directive that was received from the Ministry for immediate implementation.
In view of the foregoing, we write to demand for an immediate investigation into the allegations of the dismissed officer of the FMBN and to ensure that justice is served accordingly.