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INVESTIGATION

CORRUPTION: NIRSAL boils as MD, Abdulhammed allegedly turns agency into family business

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–      Appoints son major contractor, brother as TA in-charge of procurement

–      As fresh N342m financial scandal rocks agency

 

Fresh crisis is currently rocking the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture Lending (NIRSAL) over allegations of corruption, fraud and lack of transparency by its managing director, Mr. Aliyu Abbati Abdulhammed.

NIRSAL, an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Bankers Committee (BC) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMA&RD), incorporated as a public limited liability company (PLC) and licensed as a non-bank financial institution (NBFI) is tasked with the primary mandate of facilitating the flow of credit to agribusiness value chain players and collaborating with stakeholders to fix broken agricultural value chains in Nigeria.

As against the mandate of NIRSAL, the managing director, Mr. Abdulhammed is said to have turned the agency into his family business favouring his family members and friends. He is alleged to have appointed his younger brother, Babangida Abdulhammed as his technical assistant, handling all procurement related matters, effectively usurping the functions of the procurement department of NIRSAL. Sources alleged that Babangida singlehandedly decides how contracts are awarded at NIRSAL and who gets them.

As if that was not enough, the son of the managing director, Imran Abdulhammed, is the sole supplier of office equipment including desktop computers, laptops, etc. at exorbitant prices.

Investigations also revealed that the managing director circumvents the usual routes in procurement. A staff of the apex bank, who is one of his relatives, has been fingered in some wild infractions including backdating of documentations for several monies that had been spent to secure board approvals. It was further learnt that Mr. Abdulhammed singlehandedly appoints contractors who work with the company. Nextzone, Blue Accord, Global Knowledge consulting are some of the firms allegedly linked to him by sources.

The lack of transparency in the workings of the NIRSAL leaves much to be desired. Besides the fact that it makes nonsense of the president’s anti-corruption crusade, it further exposes the current government’s inability to adequately monitor public officers. For instance, contrary to government’s directive placing ban on foreign trainings, NIRSAL had sent some staff on trainings abroad, including a particular one in South Africa, described as jamboree by a member of staff who was part of the training.

“It was a shabby exercise and a total waste of public resources,” the staff said. He is also accused of flying in first class on foreign airlines. Amongst other things, the managing director was accused of not keeping adequate records of financial transactions and commitments relating to inflow, expenditure and disbursements. NIRSAL has accumulated bad credit guarantees running into billions of naira, while the farmers are yet to benefit.

Another issue causing ripples in the agency is how the managing director allegedly misappropriated a princely N342 million released to NIRSAL by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under its Anchor Borrowers’ programme (ABP) for a Southwest maize farmers’ cooperative, Hope Concept Investment Cooperatives and Credit Union.

The fund, which was approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria and released in July last year to NIRSAL, for onward disbursement to about 1,800 small holders’ farmers that make up the union, was for preparation of land and planting of maize during the rainy season.

The CBN had reportedly credited NIRSAL on July 18 and 19, 2018 with a first tranche of N246,523,120:00 but instead of NIRSAL to remit the fund to the bona fide farmers who were registered with and approved by the CBN as beneficiaries, Abdulhammed directed that the fund be transferred to NIRSAL’s operations office in Abeokuta.

It was learnt that Abdulhammed tweaked the mandate of NIRSAL from risk management to operating as a commercial bank. The concerned farmers were asked to apply afresh for the fund as a loan, a development they kicked against.

The concerned maize farmers/beneficiaries were subsequently subjected to a long delay that NIRSAL masterminded through a series of unnecessary meetings, trainings and workshops while the fund was idle in NIRSAL’s account, attracting huge interest. Sources familiar with the development hinted that many weeks, which the farmers would have used to deploy in the farms were lost, a development that disrupted timelines for cultivation and harvest of maize for off-taking by companies that make use of maize in the production of their goods.

The off-takers, the biggest of them being the Flour Mills Plc had to source for maize (raw materials) from other farmers when the beneficiary farmers under the aegis of Hope Concept Investment Cooperatives and Credit Union could not meet up with the timelines for supply of maize.

Investigations further revealed that while the concerned southwest farmers waited in vain for their respective accounts to be credited with the funds, officials of NIRSAL asked the farmers to part with some of the funds before disbursing.

Due to the alleged corrupt practices of the NIRSAL officials, the farmers lost over N600 million, excluding funds spent on clearing the lands, interest on loans and other costs. Upon approval of Hope Concept’s request, the group also fulfilled the payment of a requisite N16 million equity counterpart funding, which is five per cent of the financing.

We gathered that the farmers were supposed to supply about 6,000 MT of maize to Flour Mills Plc. One of the concerned southwest maize farmers alleged ethnic bias and deliberate promotion of a northern economic expansionist agenda against Abdulhammed who hails from Adamawa State and whose appointment was said to have been influenced by the first lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari.

Consequently, it became difficult for senior officials in the apex bank to rein in on Abdulhammed over his questionable act and other impunities including misappropriation of funds and abuse of processes in the contract awards.

Meanwhile, the farmers are demanding compensation for time lost, funds spent on clearing the lands, other financial costs including the counterpart funding and interest on loans. NIRSAL under the current leadership has huge reputational problems as it has also been accused of withholding a N1 billion intervention fund in Owerri, Imo State and another in Delta State. At a public event recently in Abuja, farmers from Kojoli Farms in Jada, Adamawa, called for the overhauling of NIRSAL, citing large-scale corruption in the running of the affairs of the organization. The lack of transparency in the workings of the NIRSAL leaves much to be desired. Besides the fact that it makes nonsense of the president’s anti-corruption crusade, it further exposes the current government’s inability to adequately monitor public officers.

 

NIRSAL REACTS, DECLINES COMMENTS ON ALLEGATIONS

In our fact-finding mission, The Witness contacted the managing director of NIRSAL, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhammed for his and the agency’s angle to the allegations.

In a statement sent to The Witness by the agency’s Head of Corporate Communications, Anne Ihugba, the managing director reeled out the mandate of NIRSAL but declined comment on the allegations raised by our reporter.

Read the full statement below:

Over the past few weeks, there has been an intensification of longstanding attacks against NIRSAL and its current management by entrenched interests and other hostile elements who do not mean well for the country.

The obvious objective of the campaign is to halt the momentum of progress that NIRSAL, working with public and private sector partners, is making in transforming the Nigerian agricultural economy in order to boost productivity, food security and the welfare of the teeming millions of smallholder farmers around the country. We are certain that they will fail.

The attacks are also characterized by desperate efforts to distort and misrepresent NIRSAL’s mandate, role and achievements. For the avoidance of doubt, NIRSAL is a policy tool of the Central Bank of Nigeria deliberately designed as a self-sustaining company with the sole aim of achieving the public good by catalyzing and guaranteeing private finance and investment to the agricultural sector.

NIRSAL’s operations are characterized by the highest standards of good governance and professionalism and these are delivering solid dividends to the agricultural sector and the national economy as can be seen below:

NIRSAL is an investee company of the CBN, a going concern incorporated under the Companies & Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and governed by all standard governance and reporting rules of public liability companies applicable nationally and globally.

Following from the above, NIRSAL files its annual financials every year at the CAC as required by the Companies and Allied Matters Act. Therefore, NIRSAL operates by the highest standards of corporate governance rules coupled with capital preservation and capital growth objectives in order to maintain a robust balance sheet against which it issues its guarantees, provides technical assistance and builds capacities and incentivizes borrowers and lenders in the agriculture finance space.

NIRSAL’s accounts are prepared in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards and audited by Board-approved independent auditors.

NIRSAL’s Board comprises a broad spectrum of respected high profile professionals representing the CBN, Bankers Committee (CEOs of DMBs in Nigeria), the Organized Private Sector (OPS), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Department (FMARD).

NIRSAL’s operations are solely funded from earnings derived from its meticulously invested seed capital. And, as a result of astute management of its finite resources by its Management, NIRSAL has not only retained its original investment capital but has also more than doubled its balance sheet while

paying its staff salaries and covering its operating expenditures without recourse to any external source of funding. This is a testament to the prudence exercised by the current leadership of NIRSAL.

It’s also to the credit of NIRSAL’s Management that it has maintained a very healthy crystallized Guarantee ratio of about one percent on its Credit Risk Guarantees against the financial industry average that at a point reached 17%.

The bottom line is that NIRSAL is doing justice to its core mandate of serving the public good 100% while preserving and growing its balance sheet.

It is incontrovertible that in just three years, with the robust support of the CBN, NIRSAL has set up strong processes and structures including offices across the country and global partnerships, facilitated significant funding to the agricultural sector and made measurable impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of beneficiary farmers and other players along the various agricultural value chains.

NIRSAL has made measurable progress in reducing the risks to financing institutions while granting agricultural loans by building the capacities of both banks & investors and agricultural value chain actors on good practices in agricultural production, financing, loans/investment utilization and repayment.

NIRSAL has facilitated funds in excess of N85.5 billion for various agriculture sector projects from various sources as at Q3 2018.

Broken down, this translates to the following investments: Agricultural Inputs: N43.8 Billion; Mechanization: N1.7 Billion; Primary Production: N19 Billion; Processing: N20.9 Billion.

Interms of broad impact, this translates to 373,752 direct jobs and 1.8 Million indirect jobs facilitated by NIRSAL.

Having completed our corporate establishment phase within the last 3 years, the agriculture finance space, from 2019 and beyond, should see a rapid scale out of NIRSAL’s interventions on 15 Industrial, Export, Domestic Consumer, Youth-specific and Livestock Agricultural Commodity value chains in Nigeria.

Our core inspiration continues to be the Federal Government’s focus on the agricultural sector and the targets set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and the Agriculture Promotion Policy.

We also owe our accomplishments, sound fundamentals and rigorous processes to the leadership provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria under Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

While there is still a lot to be done, there is no doubt that we have made definite progress in delivering our core mandate to enable the flow of affordable financing and investments to all players across entire agricultural value chains.

Our focus on improving community and individual lives along the many agricultural value chains that we are working on remains strong. And we will keep working — harder – with all partner organizations to deliver more measurable results.

That is our pledge and our commitment.

Signed: Management

 

-Additional report by Per Second News

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BUSINESS

Wema Bank, Dana Airline in alleged money laundering scandal

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One of the nation’s topflight banking institutions, Wema Bank and Dana Air, owners of Sri Sai Vandana Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) have been fingered in a money laundering crime and may be prosecuted by the anti-graft agency.

According to a source, the airline’s inflight donation collected between 2014 and 2018 without following due process is the bane of contention.

“The EFCC will take it up. We will investigate and prosecute the crime element once prima facie is established,” the acting spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Tony Orilade said.

Dana started Nigeria’s Sri Sai Vandana Foundation in 1995 and commenced the inflight donation in partnership with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria. But after the airline suffered a major crash in Lagos in 2012 in which 153 persons died, it ceased the collaboration, ‘re-strategised’, and solely ran the inflight donations.

Reports also reveal how Dana through Sri Sai Vandana Foundation, got the inflight donations between January 2014 and October 2018, raking in millions of naira deposited into the Wema Bank account number 0121291839 without due registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), a prerequisite for complying with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) regulations.

The EFCC official stated that the company will be sanctioned and that when there is a vacuum that is when we will lift the veil.

He further explained that by ‘lifting the veil’ he simply means “The company cannot run without humans. So, it is when everyone denies being members of the company that we go after the individuals.”

In line with the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, it is mandatory every Designated Non – Financial Institution, DNFI, to register with SCUML in order to legally operate in Nigeria.

Contravening the SCUML guidelines have some specific penalties, including “suspension or revocation of license, fines or imprisonment or both,” according to Sections 15 to 17 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).

It stipulates a maximum of 14 years jail term for an individual but, in the case of a corporate organisation, the law says such organisation would pay “a fine of not less than 100 percent of the funds and properties acquired as a result of the offense committed” and would also have its license withdrawn.

Precisely, the law defines the unlawful act listed in subsection (2) of the Act to include “corruption, bribery, fraud, counterfeiting, and piracy of products…or any other criminal act specified in this Act or any other law in Nigeria.”

As such, Wema Bank officials involved in Dana’s account opening process may as well be prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, as soon as SCUML forwards its findings to the EFCC.

Source: ICIR

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INVESTIGATION

Sanwo-Olu’s Chief of Staff, Tayo Ayinde dumps wife, …Marries millionaire’s sister

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Barely one year after the crash of his marriage, popular Lagos politician, Mr. Tayo Akinmade Ayinde has found love again. He is romantically involved with Doyin Ojora, a popular society lady. Ayinde, who presently serves as the Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state, was the Director-General of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu Independent Campaign Group between 2018 and 2019.

This newspaper gathered that Ayinde ended his marriage to his first wife, Titilola, shortly before Sanwo-Olu’s gubernatorial project kicked off. Sources disclosed that Ayinde decided to end the marriage to Titilola and send her packing, for the flimsiest of excuses, which continue to elude the couple’s close friends. Not satisfied with his decision to call it quit with his first wife, Ayinde, reportedly, denied her access to their children.

Close sources disclosed that Ayinde’s decision to end his marriage with Titilola, has refused to sit well with his close friend. They can’t seem to fathom why he would dump the woman, who started from the scratch and made a lot of sacrifices to make him what he is today.

Sources revealed  that Titilola almost went into a state of depression when all efforts she made to reconcile with her family was frustrated by her estranged husband. Left with little or no option, the 49-year old lady left Nigeria and relocated to the United States, where she currently resides.

Meanwhile, Ayinde has since found love in the bosom of Doyin Ojora, a party-loving society girl. The two have since consummated the affair and now carry on as husband and wife. Doyin is in her late 30’s, and she is the niece of Otunba Adekunle Ojora, the boardroom businessman. She once worked with Ayodeji Joseph, during his tenure as Chairman of Apapa Local Government. Later, she was appointed as a caretaker of Apapa Local Council.

Ayinde, who hails from Ikorodu, Lagos State was born on the 24th of August, 1964 at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. He is an alumnus of Havard Business School, Boston, USA and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Ayinde is a former security and intelligence personnel. He had previously served as chief security detail to the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from 1999 to 2007.

A source close to the chief of staff, however disclosed that he and his estranged wife have been separated for about 3 years and they finally divorced last year. “It was as a result of irreconcilable differences, he’s a good man who has right to live well.

This was one of the issues that counted against him when he contemplated contesting for the governorship, Aswaju told him that “koni yawo nile,( he doesn’t have a wife) so, if he decides to do that now,is it wrong? The source said.

SOURCE: First Weekly Magazine

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INVESTIGATION

Crisis rocks Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as D-G refuses to leave after tenure

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There is apprehension in the Abuja head office of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as a result of the decision of the Director-General (D-G), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, to remain in office after the expiration of his tenure.

Despite the order from the Permanent Secretary of the federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Abdullahi, who is the overall boss of the ministry in the absence of a minister, that Ihekweazu should vacate office based on the content of his appointment letter dated August 1, 2016, he has bluntly refused to obey the instruction.

A presidency source, who is in the know of what is going on in the agency, declared that the Permanent Secretary has made an official complaint against the D-G to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.

The presidency source said: “There is a complete loss of confidence in the D-G and the top officials no longer hold meetings with him”.

Aside the fact that this action may affect the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, it may also affect the mandate of the agency to effectively respond to the challenges of public health emergencies.

NCDC Memo

The source declared that the Presidency is already shopping for a replacement “and this will be announced soon”.

The top four directors in the agency are Dr. Joshua Obasanya, Mrs. Olubunmi Ojo, Mrs. Nwando Mba and Mr. Y.Y. Abdullahi. Of these four, Obasanya is the most senior.

There are also Deputy Directors such as, Dr. John Oladejo, Mrs. Elsie Ilori, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, Dr. Chinwe Ochu and Dr. Olufemi Ayoola “and I can tell you for free that these top officials don’t see eye to eye with the D-G again”.

One of the junior officials in the ministry declared: “Our D-G has vehemently refused to vacate office, despite the instruction from the Permanent Secretary”.

He said Ihekweazu assumed office on August 1, 2016 based on a letter signed by the then SGF, Babachir David Lawal.

With Ref. No. SGF.6/XXI/356 and entitled APPOINTMENT OF NATIONAL COORDINATOR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (NCDC), the letter reads:
“I am pleased to inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved your appointment as National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the National Office for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).

“The appointment took effect from 25th July, 2016 and your emoluments and other conditions of service are as provided under Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008.

“I am to add that your tenure terminates at the end of this Administration unless otherwise decided by Mr. President.

“Please accept my congratulations and best wishes on your appointment”.

The source declared that Ihekweazu “pressed all the buttons” to ensure a renewal of his tenure in May and April but a fresh letter was not given to him.

“He should have left office since May 29 but he has been using delay tactics. I can tell you that the morale is down in our office. All our ogas (directors) don’t attend meeting with Dr. Ihekweazu again.

“I remember the last meeting they had with him was about two days after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for another term on May 29.

“The D-G should have left office on May 28 but he told them that he would leave office Tuesday of the following week. Twenty four hours to the day, he called them again and announced that he would leave office the following Thursday. All of a sudden, the next thing we saw was a letter from the D-G, informing all directors, heads of departments and members of staff that he would go on one-week leave from June 13 to 21”.

The letter, dated June 11, 2019, reads:
“Dear Colleagues, I will be proceeding on annual leave from the 13th to 21st of June, 2019.

“During this period, Dr. Joshua Obasanya will act in my capacity as Director-General.

“I am very grateful for the hard work and support from you all in the first half of this year. It has been an extremely busy period but with a lot of success and remarkable achievements.

“The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey.

“Once again colleagues, thank you very much for your support.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu”

The source said the paragraph ‘The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey’ is already causing ripples in the agency as it is believed that Ihekweazu does not want to vacate office, despite the expiration of his tenure.

The source alleged that the D-G “is still signing cheques and awarding contracts, backdating them to May 27”.

“There is a serious lacuna in our office. The sit-tight syndrome is already affecting our operations here. There is also the allegation of nepotism against the D-G. Since the D-G resumed from the one-week leave, I have not seen our ogas (directors) in his office. Now, we hear all kinds of rumours.

“There is tension everywhere. One of the ogas (directors) told me that they will not have any meeting with him. Honestly, since the Permanent Secretary advised the D-G to leave, I wonder what he is still doing in the office”.

Established in 2011, the core functions of NCDC include prevention, detection and control of diseases of public health importance.

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