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.
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.
Ecobank Nigeria partners Lagos govt to clean up waterfronts
Ecobank Nigeria is partnering with Lagos State Ministry of Environment on Waterfront Clean Up Program to enhance the preservation of marine Ecosystem and effectively facilitate socio-economic activities such as transportation, power generation, irrigation and habitat to aquatic life.
The exercise, tagged “Cleaner Waterfront Our Pride”, was flagged off on Thursday at the Lagos State Government, Ferry Jetty, Amuwo-Odofin.
In his comment, Engr. Joe Igbokwe, Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Drainage and Water Resources, said the project was dedicated to cleaning Lagos waterfronts and educating people on ways of disposing plastic waste properly rather than dumping them into the gutter and how to preserve the Ecosystem in general.
Igbokwe who profusely commended Ecobank for its continual support on environmental sustainability issues noted that each and every one of the citizens and corporate bodies are stakeholders and must be involved in helping to preserve the environment, as it is a call to action for all.
Also speaking, the Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan said the partnership to clear up Lagos waterfronts is part of the Pan African bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy to support environmental sustainability initiatives with a view to making the environment safer for living.
According to him, the partnership with Lagos State Government and other non- governmental organisations across the continent was in that direction.
He noted that the water bodies are priceless gifts of nature with huge aesthetic, tourism and economic values.
He lamented that these, however, had been subjected to all forms of abuse and degradation, including dumping and littering with solid wastes and all forms of debris.
The Managing Director who was represented by Tunde Dawodu, a General Manager in the bank, pointed out that there should be a culture change on the way we dispose of our garbage.
This he noted starts with every one of us. He noted that it was in recognition of this fact, that Ecobank in May this year launched a campaign tagged: ‘Plastic Bottle for Cash’ to pick up four million bottles from Lagos drainages.
Under the initiative, Lagos residents were informed and encouraged to exchange plastic bottles for cash at designated locations across the State.
Of the 4 million target set, over two million used plastic bottles have so far been removed from the streets as the project continues to the end of the year.
According to him, “this initiative is part of our sustainability week for 2019, designed to create awareness on environmental sustainability and to buttress the fact that as a bank, we take time in helping to protect the environment where we operate. Ecobank is an environmentally friendly and socially responsible entity in alignment with the expectation of the Nigeria Sustainability Banking Policy of Central Bank of Nigeria.”
He noted that the 2019 campaign centered on cleaning Lagos and its environs of used plastic bottles along streets, drainages and waterways by collecting and recycling four million plastic bottles. “We hope to reduce this menace affecting our ocean marine life and threatening the food chain. As a responsible corporate organization, the bank will do all it takes to check the trend to ensure a safer living environment for every one of us”.
Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema risks jail over money laundering, bank fraud
Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, the Chairman, CEO, and founder of Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
The Nigerian businessman was accused of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving “false documents” based on the purchase of airplanes.
Onyema was indicted alongside Ejiroghene Eghagha, the airline’s chief of administration and finance, who is said to have committed aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
In a statement issued by the district attorney’s office on Friday, Onyema and Eghagha were indicted on November 19, 2019, on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.
“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” Byung J, US attorney for the northern district of Georgia, was quoted in the statement.
“We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”
Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta field division, also said: “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the U.S. banking system, but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt.”
Robert Hammer, another special agent, accused Onyema of setting up “various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam”.
Onyema was said to have started travelling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9 million was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.
After he founded Air Peace in 2013, Onyema was said to have gone to the US to purchase aircraft and “over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.
“Beginning in approximately May 2016, Onyema, together with Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema. The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace. The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.
“However, the supporting documents were fake — Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business, never owned the aircraft, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist. Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager’s identity to further the fraud. After Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.”
The statement, however, added that Onyema and Eghagha are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
In September, Onyema was hailed by many for evacuating Nigerians stranded in South Africa at no cost. The house of representatives had subsequently also recommend him for national award.
Controversy trails emergence of Prof. Lilian Salami as UNIBEN new VC
The appointment of a substantive Vice Chancellor for University of Benin, UNIBEN is presently causing ripples at the institution as some concerned stakeholders have accused the management of allegedly working to impose an unpopular candidate on the school.
THE WITNESS reliably gathered that a Professor of Home Economics/Nutritional Education, Mrs. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami has emerged as the second female Vice Chancellor of the institution.
Her appointment came 28 years after Prof. (Mrs.) Alele William left as the first female Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN.
The Public Relations Officer of the University, Mr. Michael Osasuyi, confirmed the appointment in a statement on Friday in Benin.
She will take over from the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof. Faraday Osasere Orumwense, whose tenure ends in November.
Inside sources however revealed that the emergence of Professor Salami is a big shock, as she becomes the third person of Benin extraction in succession, to be named Vice Chancellor of the University.
Sources further disclosed that the new UNIBEN VC came second in the exam conducted for aspirants for the exalted position, after Prof. MacDonald Idu who scored the highest marks, while Prof. George Eriyamremu came third.
Professors Idu and Eremayanru are both from Delta State.
Born in Jos, Plateau State on August 8, 1956, Prof. Salami, (nee Emovon), hails from Benin.
Her early schooling started in Jos but was truncated by the Nigerian Civil War. She later completed her primary and secondary education in Edo State.
She obtained her West African School Certificate (O’ levels) from Baptist High School, Benin City.
She proceeded to the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point Campus, United States of America, in 1975. She had her summer schooling in the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. She later transferred to North Dakota State University, Fargo after she got married in 1977, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in 1979 in Home Economics and Master’s degree in Nutrition in 1982.
She returned to Nigeria in 1983 and enrolled to serve in the National Youth Service Corps in Benin City.
Upon completion of the national service, she made a brief start of her teaching career with the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
Between 1985 and 1994, she lectured Nutrition at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria.
This was interjected when she gained admission into University of Nigeria, Nsukka for a doctoral degree in Human Nutrition in 1989 which she obtained in 1991.