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INVESTIGATION

PENCOM boss, Aisha Dahir-Umar accused of fraud, abuse of office

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Aggrieved staff of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), has accused the acting Director-General of the commission, Hajiya Aisha Dahiru-Umar of fraud, flagrant violation of procurement process and abuse of office.

In a petition sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by staff of PenCom under the aegis of Pension Reform Advocacy Group and signed by its coordinator, Isyaku Abduralman, the staff alleged that upon the resumption of duty of Dahiru-Umar, PenCom entered into a phase of tragic demise. The group further alleged that in the last one year, the commission have witnessed brazen financial recklessness, gross incompetence, nepotism and mismanagement of material and human resources.

  

READ THE FULL PETITION BELOW:

We, the concerned and aggrieved staff of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), are writing to inform and brief the Commission (EFCC) about the state of the PENCOM where we all work and contribute our quota to nation building, progress and development of our fatherland. You would recall, Sir, that there was a change of management of the Commission in 2017 where the PenCom Exco was removed and required to hand over to the most Senior Staff Member of the Commission. We are at a loss as how the person of Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Umar was saddled with the responsibility of leading the Commission in Acting Capacity since she ought to have retired since December 2016. Furthermore, she has spent all her time in the Commission in the facility management and lately in the CSR Department due to her severely limited intellect and as such lacks the regulatory competence required to head the Commission.

It is without doubt that the two previous Excos made remarkable progress in institutionalizing the Commission’s long term developmental strategy, especially in the core areas of daily operations, infrastructure and welfare enhancement of all staff. It was clear to all and sundry that Pencom was being directed to a glorious path evidenced by consistent factual milestones.

Unfortunately, however, upon the resumption of duty of Aisha Umar, Pencom entered into a phase of tragic demise. We have, in the last one year, witnessed brazen financial recklessness, gross incompetence, the most extreme form of nepotism and mismanagement of material and human resources. These ills have essentially engendered Staff disillusionment and a general feeling of helplessness and despondency. This is truly unfortunate Sir.

A chronicle of the fraud and insider dealings going on in the Commission shall follow in turn Sir.

 

  1.  CONTRACT SCAMS AND DEMAND FOR KICKBACKS

There is large scale financial impropriety and graft going on in the Commission at present. Contractors have been inundated with constant request for kickbacks from Aisha Umar during contract negotiations (Evidence Available), without which the said contracts are diverted and given to another company that is ‘willing to do business’. Legitimate contractors who have since fulfilled their deliverables are being owed and are told to come for “discussions” otherwise they will not be paid.

Most reprehensible is the malicious illegal stalling of the Pension Administration Project (PAS) for the simple reason that the American Company who have emerged the preferred bidders are not willing to engage in talks for kickbacks. Sir, contrary to the falsehood that is being peddled by her, we would like to bring it to your attention that the PAS project had been ongoing for over a year and the Commission has expended a lot of resources to document the steps required to fully automate its regulatory activities. The procurement process commenced with the issuance of a Request For Proposal (RFP) and culminated in the issuance of a no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement. We gathered that the no objection arrived in the Commission shortly before the management change. Since then, instead of Aisha Umar to move it forward, she and her evil cohorts have been trying to get the BPP to cancel the contract. Following a letter drafted by Sani Mohammed, the Commission Secretary/Legal Adviser (CSLA), the BPP in rejecting the request to cancel the contract, faulted the points raised by Mohammed Sani as lacking in legal merit reprimanded the Commission with a stern warning to immediately finalize the procurement process. This technology ought to have been installed since last year, without which the Micro-Pension initiative, a major milestone of the administration cannot take off.

A sinister group of Ekanem Aikhomu, Datti Mohammed, Sani Mohammed also unilaterally awarded contracts to whom they please and back it up with bogus evaluations which they instruct Mr. Bako Mohammed, a long time criminal associate of Aisha Dahir Umar, to process. Mr. Bako Mohammed who has been undergoing investigations for rent seeking activities, was returned to procurement to facilitate Aisha’s nefarious transactions.

Cases abound with proof of companies and contractors who were and are still unduly engaged without recourse to proper procurement and bidding processes. For instance, an actuary firm, RBA Limited who has close ties to Ekanem Aikhomu was paid N60 Million for nebulous services without due process being followed. This is in contravention of all procurement laws and due process. This group of individuals have continued to help themselves in a most wanton manner to the coffers of the Commission and have subjected those against their activities to frequent changes of their departments as a way of subjugating them so that they will not expose their clandestine activities. They reward the faithful with incessant trips out of the country sham “overseas training” to keep them loyal.

We appeal that a thorough investigation be carried out to unravel this reprehensible activity and secure the immediate return of all monies to the Commission as leaving this unchecked is antithetical to the anti-corruption stance of this noble administration. The ‘Kickback regime’ style now in Pencom which was NEVER the case essentially renders nugatory the efforts of our indefatigable President in curbing the menace of corruption in our body polity.

 

  1.  MEDIA SCAMS

Frequent singing off of huge public funds in the name of media and sensitization programmes, a large chunk which is usually pocketed by the Aisha Umar and two of her cronies; Mr. Peter Aghahowa,who is currently the head of Communications in Pencom and Mr. Tunde Philips who is the South West Regional Head, based in Lagos is now the order of the day. The office of the DG has a statutory approval limit of N2.5M, and Aisha Umar has continued to squander funds by signing multiple payment vouchers daily just under the capped limit thereby providing a slush fund for embezzlement by her and her cronies. Part of these funds are used to lobby various stakeholders in furtherance of her desperation to be confirmed as substantive DG. She has also used part of these funds to purchase two brand new 2018 fully loaded Lexus Jeep cars. This transaction was facilitated by Tunde Phillips who, again, with funds siphoned from “media enlightenment” arranged a door to door trucking delivery from Lagos to her residence in Stallion Court, Wuse 2, Abuja.

A cursory look at the books will reveal this fact. We do not believe in hearsays neither do we engage in wishful thinking, the facts are there. An investigation into the media and sensitization programmes in the Commission and the funds disbursed in the past year under the subhead will reveal dirty deals perpetrated by Aisha Umar in furtherance of her personal aggrandizement and a desperate bid to secure a confirmation as substantive Director General.

 

  1.  RECKLESS DIVERSION OF PUBLIC FUNDS

There is rather incestuous utilization of Government funds to settle the Acting DG’s personal expenses. Again, a cursory look into the TSA account of the Commission will reveal diversion of Government funds into personal business of Mrs. Umar under various guises. A most perfidious phenomenon on this score is the quest for collection of humongous travel allowances for seminars, courses, sensitization programmes and other ‘events’. She collects all the monies for the aforementioned – local and international – without making an appearance in any of them. This can be verified from local and international airlines and the events themselves. She is ALWAYS represented at functions for fear of her ignorance of the entire pension reform being exposed. She studiously avoids engaging with the public and yet she collects allowances for such appearances.

This is a gross violation of public service rules and regulations. Sadly, while President Buhari’s administration has made tremendous strides in cutting cost and entrenching improved service delivery, the reverse has been happening in Pencom for the past one year. We have evidence of phantom contract engagements which huge public funds have been appropriated for. It is disheartening that such level of graft is going unchecked and Aisha Umar has been boasting that she has ‘settled’ very important people and no one can investigate her. These are verifiable facts and we urge you to correct this wicked stance by conducting a full scale investigation so that Pencom can be cleansed, returned to its former glory and further be strengthened to achieve its laudable mandate. To allow the continuation of these crimes unchecked would send the wrong signals to the contributors and retirees alike whose interest we seek to preserve and protect.

 

  1.  300% INCREASE IN THE TERMINAL BENEFITS OF GENERAL MANAGERS

Aisha Dahir-Umar together with some General Managers have plunged the Commission into financial abyss by recommending and unilaterally appropriating a salary increase for all cardres of staff to gain support for the clueless and incompetent leadership of Aisha Dahir-Umar. What the staff are just finding out however is that she surreptitiously embarked on a 300% increase in the terminal benefits of GMs. Terminal benefits, as we are all aware, are paid at the end of service of a public servant. However, right now in Pencom under the machinations of Aisha Dahir-Umar, the GMs have started paying themselves upfront and enjoying terminal benefis while they are still receiving salaries!! This is a gross violation of public service rules and all known rules of engagement. The question is who approved the humongous package? At what point was the approval obtained? And by whom? Where are the supporting documents? It is quite obvious that the sinister group made up of Ekanem Aikhomu, Datti Mohammed, Sani Muhammad and Aisha Dahir-Umar have pushed for this unhealthy increase. With the active connivance of Sani Muhammed, the Commission Secretary and Legal Adviser who has been falsifying memos to mislead the Office of the SGF, Aisha Dahir Umar pulled off this heist to the detriment of the Commission. As a result, the Commission’s financial health is now at grave risk, staff are unable to pursue their regulatory activities because basic supplies like photocopying paper and ink cannot be provided as funds have been diverted by Aisha Dahir-Umar. As we write, terminal benefits payments are being disbursed in instalments so they would have received all illegally appropriated funds in the event of their eventual sack. We cannot continue like this if we hope to build a formidable system and process to drive the change we so desire.

It is worthy to note that the level of ineptitude and incompetence displayed in her absolute lack of capacity to manage a blue chip organization like PenCom is responsible for the numerous major policy somersaults in the Commission today. For example, the Commission has witnessed more than three reshufflement exercises in less than one year in order to “silence” perceived dissenting voices. In addition, she has been engaged in running battle with the management of the Creche. We understand that she is bitter at the transformation of the Creche which was a cesspool when it was under her watch and wants to shut it down. It took the intervention of a high ranking official in the Presidency for her to pay the backlog owed. She was overheard furiously exclaiming that the high ranking official cannot command her and only paid a portion of the amount owed. She issued a termination letter to the Creche providers and shortly afterwards (no doubt following outcry by staff) hurriedly retrieved it and issued another letter of appointment but still wickedly slashing their engagement fees.

She has recklessly promoted staff to the General Manager cadre, bringing the number to seventeen (17!) from 10 last year. These General Managers, some of whose job functions are unclear (a GM is heading a protocol unit hitherto manned by a staff seven notches below the grade of a GM) and whose wages and allowances are now exceeding the emoluments of the highest paying multinational companies in the country. The question Sir, is what hope do we as employees have for career progression if the General Managers are seeking to perpetuate themselves in office? According to the staff policy, GMs are promoted based on availability of space and funds and several existing GMs ought to have retired before any promotion was done, but this was ignored as Aisha Umar claims to be above all rules and regulations.

 

  1.  RESUMPTION OF NEWLY EMPLOYED STAFF

Last but not the least, Sir, is the clandestine recruitment that is being carried out by Aisha Dahir-Umar to supplant 43 persons who had been issued letters of employment since March 2017 for resumption in May/June 2017. These people were verbally directed by Mrs. H, Oniyangi not to resume work on the instructions of Aisha Dahir-Umar. No reasons were given to these 43 staff, most of whom had resigned from their previous employment and are now unemployed as a result of the Aisha Umar’s reluctance to absorb them despite appeals from all and sundry.

Upon their several petitions to the Office of the SGF, again, as is in consonance with her criminal character, she has lied copiously to the SGF, citing abnormalities and need for time to provide requisite infrastructure. An enquiring mind should ask: what infrastructure is required for a new staff besides a desk, chair and a computer? Provisions were already in process for this in March 2017, hence their resumption in two batches of May and June. What abnormality? There were requisite approvals by EXCO based on the memoranda from both finance and HR (Sani Muhammed is in custody of the excerpts and MUST produce them from where he has been directed to hide them by Aisha Dahir Umar) and following oral and written interviews, successful candidates were forwarded to the Federal Character Commission for a no objection. This was granted and it was based on this that the employment letters were issued by Mrs. Oniyangi.

We have since discovered that the real reason for preventing the resumption of staff is because a secret employment is being undertaken by Aisha Dahir-Umar to swap the 43 positions with her own candidates. Sources claim that in her greedy fraudulent quest for money, she is charging each candidate N2M per slot! We are all aware of the grave implications this would have on the society at large. These newly employed young men and women have families who depend on them and have been made to remain in limbo for the past 13 months. We believe strongly that the candidates have the right to resume work having been issued  valid letters of employment and shoul not be subjected to the inordinate greed and criminality of Aisha Umar.

Notwithstanding the foregoing; the illegality of her position is glaring. In accordance with the Commission’s approved staff policy, she ought to have retired from the Commission since December 2016. She, therefore, could not have been the most senior person in the Commission as at April 2017 following the disengagement of the EXCO. Flowing from this, she has no legal basis to occupy the seat, award contracts, employ new staff and increase allowances and pay herself double salaries – salary of a DG and a GM. This may well be the basis for brazen impunity in siphoning public funds – there is no career to protect.

We implore the Commission (EFCC) to urgently intervene and thoroughly investigate the financial frauds being perpetrated by Aisha Umar and her cohorts who are bent on destroying the gains of Pension Reform over the past decade.

Thank you.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Isyaku Abduralman

For: Pension Reform Advocacy Group

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INVESTIGATION

Publication threats: Billionaire bank debtors​ lobby CBN Gov to save faces​

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  • Our decision meant to avert another banking crisis – DMBs

 

Fresh information reaching The Witness has revealed that some top Nigerian billionaires are currently lobbying the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele to save their heads following threats by chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The Witness reliably gathered from inside sources that since the disclosure of the decision by the bank CEOs, some top moneybags have continued to pressure the apex bank and its head honcho to intervene in the decision of the lender to give them time to clear up their debts.

Aside from this development affecting their businesses, bank debtors are more uncomfortable with the idea of making their names public, especially at a trying time like this. They are deeply afraid that the policy may throw them out of business, especially for those of them who need foreign exchange to operate.

Chronic debtors, analysts say, are those debtors who are unwilling to repay their loans to the banks.

The decision which the DMB’s are ready to implement to the letter, is aimed at forestalling the growing amount of non-performing loans NPLs, in the books of financial institutions to avert another banking crisis in the country.

Recall, CEOs of DMBs across the country recently agreed to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The bankers made this known after a meeting held to discuss how some debtors have been allegedly using law enforcement agencies to harass and criminalize bank CEOs.

In a statement, the group said the affected debtors are not ready to repay their loans. The group spoke in Lagos after reviewing what it called the “harassment and criminalization of banks’ CEOs by law enforcement agencies.” It noted that chronic bank debtors were now in the habit of enlisting law enforcement agencies including police, judiciary and state security to harass and criminalize bank CEOs, saying this was unacceptable. “Notably, these loan defaulters are known to have abused court processes as well as using social media to propagate their smear campaign against the banks,” the group said.

A communique issued following the meeting noted that these activities by the law enforcement agencies and the bank debt defaulters were capable of adversely affecting the banking system vis-à-vis the CEOs’ reputation amongst international banks, destroy the economy, and called for these to be checked and managed.

In order to tackle what they see as an emerging threat to banking business in Nigeria, the committee outlined a five-step resolution of actions that banks would need to take. The resolutions and planned actions were arrived at after members discussed and considered different options for dealing with the issue.

Specifically, the banks’ CEOs said there was an urgent need for all banks to cooperate and collaborate to identify and ex-communicate chronic debt defaulters, noting that this goes beyond “publishing names of such defaulters in national media (which is inevitable), but involves all banks speaking with ‘one voice’ and sharing information about those entities, and refusing to do further business with them until they settle their obligations.”

To avoid the kind of crisis that rocked the banking sector 10 years ago, the CEOs urged all agencies and stakeholders to step up and help fight the inherent menace of chronic loan defaulters.

According to the CEOs, the banking industry is the backbone of the Nigerian economy, therefore, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders – regulators, police, judiciary, corporate organizations and media to help save it from activities of delinquent debtors.

Besides, the group resolved that all cases of defaults would be presented and passed through the Bankers’ Committee Ethics Committee just as it intends to work with legal councils and come up with ways and strategies to manage related cases effectively without disrupting businesses and the system.

In a recent publication, Access Bank had threatened to publish the names of customers refusing to settle their debts in national dailies.

In a statement, the bank had said it is acting in line with a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“All Access Bank Plc (including former Diamond Bank Plc) debtors are directed to pay up their past due obligations in order to avoid punitive actions being taken against them,” the bank said.

The statement added, “Please note that we shall publish our debtors’ names in newspapers in two weeks.

“Similarly, in the event that these obligations are not fulfilled, we shall take such further actions against such delinquent individuals and companies as we may consider necessary and shall relentlessly pursue full recovery of all our debts.”

While experts appear to condemn the act of borrowing and refusing to repay the loans, they are more afraid of the bad implication it could have on the macro economy.

Managing director/CEO at BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, in a chat with newsmen believes that since the CBN has autonomy it can take decisions in the best interest of the economy.

He, however, said the idea was good for the banks, but advised that caution should be applied in order to publish only names of those who actually owe.

”The autonomy of the Central Bank should have instrument autonomy which implies that the Central Bank should have unhindered freedom to decide on how best to achieve its mandate without any dictation from any quarters. If the Bankers’ Committee which the CBN chairs decides to publish the names of debtors, so be it.

“We just hope that in embarking on this name-and-shame approach, due care is exercised so that the names of actual debtors are published.

”We had an experience during the immediate past administration when a deluge of rebuttals and retractions followed an attempt to embark on similar exercise. We must avoid such embarrassments this time around.

“If names are to be published, due care must be exercised to ensure the names of only those culpable are published. It is embarrassing and unfair otherwise considering the potential damage to reputation such a move will occasion. It is not good for the creditors for their names to so published as most of these recalcitrant debtors are the juggernauts in our midst; the movers and shakers; the financiers of electoral campaigns who often think that because of their access to the powers that be they remain beyond the law.

”This is a last resort desperate measure meant to stem the wind of distress overtaking the banks leading to a harvest of bank failures. It is good for the banks generally as it has the effect of sanitizing the banks to restore them to sound health to continue to provide banking services, sustain the going concern and continue to return dividends to their many shareholders and stakeholders,” he concluded.

It would be recalled that the immediate-past CBN governor, now Emir Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had published names of those indebted to some of the banks that failed the second phase of the apex bank’s stress test in 2009.

Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON had in 2013 called a governorship candidate in one of the South-south states of Nigeria a chronic debtor for his unwillingness to liquidate his debt to some banks.

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INVESTIGATION

Homeowners accuse CMB Building Company, its CEO Mbagwu of fraud, petition EFCC

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The residents of Pearl Garden Estate and Pearl Nuga Park Estate located at Sangotedo in Lekki/Ajah area of Lagos State have petitioned against the CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Ltd to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraudulent mortgage of some of their homes to secure unapproved bank loans.

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred representatives of CMB, a building and maintenance firm owned by Kelechukwu Mbagwu from maintaining the homes at Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The separate petitions dated May 28, 2019 and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, were signed by Mr Patrick Olowokere, the President of Pearl Nuga Estate and Reverend Adesola Adebawo, President of Pearl Garden Estate respectively.

According to the petitioners, CMB obtained a mortgage from Wema Bank Plc using the affected homes at Pearl Nuga Estate as collateral without the knowledge or consent of the affected homeowners.

Image: Repossessed property at Pearl Gardens Estate from fraudulently-obtained bank loan

“The affected homeowners, namely; Bridget Eko, Osagie Aimiehnoho Jude, Mr Akinola Alabi, Mrs Oluwadara Alabi, Nosakhare Igbinobi and Amos Gaga, paid CMB for those houses to be built and had taken possession of their houses from CMB at different times.

“CMB and Mr Mbagwu fraudulently withheld the title deeds of the houses from the affected homeowners as it withheld those of several other homeowners within the estate,” they alleged in a petition duly acknowledged and signed by the EFCC, copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

However, the bank has begun a recovery of the six houses within the estate following the failure of CMB, the property developer, to repay the loan, according to the petitioners.

Similarly, Pearl Garden Estate also accused CMB of using the homes of four of their members — Mr and Mrs Michael Bassey, Mr Oyeleke Jegede, Mr Larry Amaraibi and one Mr Felix — who had already paid in full to allegedly obtain a N10 million loan from Diamond Bank (now Access Bank).

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred staff or representatives of CMB from Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The petitioners said, “We have no other choice but to believe that other houses of our members and homeowners within the estates may be the subject of similar fraudulent mortgages.’’

Another resident, Mr A. Akeredolu, said: “Some of us have waited endlessly for the commencement of the ‘fictitious’ Pearl Royale Scheme, Pearl Garden Extension and Pearl Nuga Park.

“We paid for these in full since 2010 but have yet to be shown the location of our purchases, let alone the allocations.

“We know projects fail, but they have yet to make any official statement or promise of refund. These people are so bold and fearless, one wonders who is backing them!”

All efforts by our reporter to reach Mr. Mbagwu for his angle to the allegations proved futile as calls and text messages placed to his mobile line were not responded to as at press time.

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INVESTIGATION

Presidential panel probes Delta Senator, Peter Nwaoboshi over corruption allegations

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Senator Peter Nwaoboshi is in hot soup as the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has referred him to the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Etsu Umar, for prosecution.

In its letter signed on behalf of the chairman of the panel, Okoi Obono-Obla, by Dr. Celsus Ukpong, urged the DPP to prosecute the senator on charges bordering on his failure to declare his assets before the panel in violation of section 3(i)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004.

The letter stated that the violation was punishable by the same provision of the Act.

It stated that it had forwarded draft charges to the DPP.

Accompanying the letter dated June 7, 2019, and received by the DPP office on June 10, 2019, were documents contained in the case file forwarded to the Ministry of Justice.

The letter read, “I am directed to you above-named case file for further action.

“The above suspect is under investigation before us for possession of suspicious assets far and beyond his legitimate earnings.

“He has refused to declare his assets before the panel after lawful demand by the special presidential investigation panel.

“This refusal is contrary to and punishable under section 3(i)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004. It shall be appreciated if a charge is brought against him for his offence pending the conclusion of the investigation.”

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