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INVESTIGATION

Isa Ibrahim Pantami: The IT sector’s anti-corruption czar

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By Lukman Oladokun
The recent ‘hurricane’ in the Nigerian political landscape which ushered in President Muhammadu Buhari as well as other prominent political leaders in the 2015 elections -which is still considered to be the most keenly contested election in the history of Nigeria, also cuts across all aspects of the government sector with the aim of injecting a new form of leadership whose vision is in agreement with the government of the day.
Accordingly, the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) was not spared in this transformation process.

Dr. Pantami and President Muhammadu Buhari

This is perhaps owed to the strategic roles which the Agency is expected to play in transforming Nigeria into a knowledge-based economy and also help in diversifying the nation’s economy from the monolithic economy; which is one of the cardinal points the current administration seeks to achieve which hitherto have suffered neglect.
It is based on this note that Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, FBCS, an Associate Professor of Computer Science was brought in to re-engineer the Agency in order to achieve the purpose of the agency’s establishment and thus make it more efficient, effective and responsive.

Dr. Pantami with EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu

Shortly after being appointed, Dr Pantami swung into action to drive home his views. It is however highly commendable how well articulated his plans for the Agency are. And as such he didn’t waste time to implement these plans for the Agency and Nigerians at large. At the topmost of his agenda to ensure the growth of the IT industry in Nigeria, is to reduce or eradicate the scourge of corruption in the sector.
In his inaugural address to the staff of the Agency, Dr. Pantami declared that, corruption is a hydra-headed monster Nigerians should strive to eradicate. He admonished the staff of the agency to step up their integrity level and work hand in hand with him to rid the nation of the menace especially in the IT sector. In his word “I am allergic to corruption and what can build your confidence in me is your professionalism, integrity, and dedication.”
The rate at which he strives to fight corruption in the IT sector is rare and thus applaudable. Asides from his prompt identification of corruption as the bane to development and problem to how IT projects are being used as a conduit pipe for siphoning public fund, Dr Pantami possesses a well-defined and feasible roadmap which he is following to achieve his zero tolerance for corruption.
The strategy which has proven to work well for him in his fight against corruption. He is however in collaboration with institutions which are saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring transparency in government procurements. Without being prejudice to National Assembly’s screening of MDAs’ budget proposals, Dr Pantami knows that little is being achieved from the legislative arms of government in their struggles to reduce corruption in the country, as the technicalities involved in scrutinizing IT projects might not be available.
His first place of call was the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because he knows the key role the Commission could play in this regard. For the war against corruption to be won, he enjoined on the management of the Commission the importance of partnering with NITDA in achieving its regulatory function.
As an ICT stakeholder, he has stressed the blatant disobedience shown to the section 6 of the NITDA act which empowers the Agency to be the clearing house of all government IT projects. He therefore appealed to the commission to always request for NITDA clearance from any MDAs that is under its investigation especially IT related cases. He said that “this strategy will reverse the trend of using IT as a cash cow by unscrupulous public officials. “Collaboration between our agencies would ensure accountability and professionalism within the industry; checkmate widespread corruption; save the country billions of naira and help tremendously in developing and promoting the IT local content policy.”
Seeing the wisdom in Dr Pantami’s initiative, the Ag. Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu pledged his support and went further to commence the enforcement of the act during the investigation of MDAs.
Magu declared that “this strategic partnership is timely and an indication that the current administration of NITDA is focused and determined. We will also comply immediately with all the guidelines in procuring IT products and services so we can practice what we preach”.
His anti-corruption acumen also led him to the office of Auditor General of the Federation where he requested for support of the “Audit House” in insisting on IT clearance while auditing the account records of government establishments. Pantami hinted that both organizations needed to collaborate while auditing the accounts of MDAs especially as regards IT projects. He stated that the purpose of insisting on clearance before procuring IT products and services for government is to review, justify and analyse the projects’ values for money and sustainability. “We want your office to always request for clearance obtained from NITDA by MDAs whenever you are auditing them.”
In his reaction to the request, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine gave instantaneous approval and pressed it upon his staff to henceforth commence requesting for NITDA clearance.
Dr Pantami’s insistence on MDAs to seek NITDA clearance has also saved the Country billions of naira. The Federal Executive Council has rejected several memoranda that failed to seek NITDA clearance.
In addition to this, he has been a lone voice in ensuring that IT infrastructure deployment is in accordance with the needs of the nation. He has never hidden his reservation for the mismanagement of public fund shrouded on the pretense of development like the case of the Close Circuit Television deployed to Abuja.
He holds the view that before deploying any technology, we must consider our peculiarity and identify the challenges that could inhibit the benefits accruable to such projects. He once remarked that failure to identify our IT challenges has impacted negatively on our IT development and it is the bane of moribund projects we have all around.
The prognostic consequence of this uncommon trait in fighting corruption comes with attendant effects. As expected, people whose toes have been stepped upon must fight back. You can’t block the means of “livelihood” of these unscrupulous elements and expect to go untouched.
Dr Pantami has been maligned by these sects of people who surfaced when the heat was more on them but he still remains unruffled. A faceless group accused him of “promoting unwholesome practices in the award of contract for 2017 budget an allegation they have failed to substantiate.
Dr Pantami is focused and determined. His steadfastness in ensuring that Nigerian commonwealth benefits all and sundry remains unshakable and he will not compromise. He is prepared for the battle ahead because according to him “anything that you do in the aspect of anti-corruption will surely elicit retaliation by perpetrators but as long as legal is made illegal and legitimate is made illegitimate, it is corruption and no effort must be spared to fight it.”
Lukman Oladokun is a Principal Executive Officer II with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA)
Edited & Published by: YBTCMEDIA
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INVESTIGATION

Ex-staffers battle Diamond Bank over unpaid severance fee

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We are not owing them  – Diamond Bank

 

Diamond Bank Plc. led by Uzoma Dozie is now at war with the 370 workers that were sacked by the bank with no severance entitlements.

This newspaper learnt that the management of Diamond Bank on 27th of May 2016 at about 5:30am sent an electronic mail to 370 of their member staff to notify them of termination of their appointment, without stating any objective reason. Most of the workers who didn’t receive the termination mail before leaving home to work were caught off guard as they couldn’t access their various work stations and were only able to find out about the termination of their appointment after renting their friend’s phone.

We gathered that the workers took their case to the National Assembly Committee on Public Petitions and the bank’s MD/CEO, Uzoma Dozie was summoned to appear before the committee on January 18th, 2018. Instead of showing up, he sent the Head Human Capital Management of the bank, Mr. Gabriel Nwokeafor to represent him.

Sources said that Mr. Gabriel Nwokeafor told the House Committee that the bank was ready to settle the matter and a meeting was held to that effect at Reiz Hotel, Abuja on January 19th, 2018 between Diamond Bank, its lawyer and seven representatives of the sacked workers alongside their lawyer and the bank agreed to pay the severance/redundancy benefits as computed but on the condition that the loans collected by the ex-workers will be deducted and the balance paid to them.

Be that as it may, we were told that the bank had reneged on that agreement. Besides, Mr. Gabriel on 28th March, 2018 refused to appear before the House Committee instead he sent two lawyers who refuted the agreements he made with the ex-workers and their lawyer on January 19th, 2018 on the ground that the case was still in Court and the sacked workers were asked to withdraw their case from the court.

The ex-workers not fully aware of the implication of their next action, subsequently withdrew the case from Court.

Sources added that Mr. Gabriel on April 24th, 2018 said that he cannot deny knowledge of the agreement he signed with the ex-workers and their lawyer, and the withdrawal of the case in court that there is no way the decision he reached with the sacked workers could be wholly binding as the CEO/MD of the bank was not present at the time. He added that he did not know that the entire decisions at the meeting was been recorded.

But in a statement made available to THE WITNESS on Thursday July 19, 2018, Diamond Bank however denied the allegations.

The statement reads in part “At Diamond Bank, we understand the value of strong governance principles that protect and places a premium on the welfare of our people.”

“The exit of the staff was in line with best practice and complied to all regulations.”

“Out of the 370 persons who left the employment of our bank, 274 of them voluntarily resigned their appointments and several of them have requested and have been issued with favourable references.”

“They were paid all their terminal benefits as stipulated under their contracts of employment.”

“Presently, we are not indebted to any of them. However, a number of them are indebted to the Bank over loan facilities they obtained and failed to repay.”

“We wish to state that this issue has been reported and deliberated upon by the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as Federal Legislative bodies.” The lender stressed.

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INVESTIGATION

Fresh crisis hits Wema Bank

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Ademola Adebise, Managing Director, Wema Bank Plc.

 

One of the third tier financial institutions in Nigeria, Wema Bank Plc is in crisis. This newspaper gathered that the new Managing Director, Ademola Adebise has clampdown on ex-Managing Director, Olusegun Oloketuyi’s loyalist.

Insiders at the bank squealed to us that the new MD is plotting to remove some top bank employees loyal to the former MD and install his own loyalists in their place.

We were told that Ademola Adebise who came to power few weeks ago has already sacked five managers loyal to Olusegun Oloketuyi.

Our sources told us that the new MD is bent on flushing out all those who came from Skye Bank with the former MD.

Source: Top Celebrities

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INVESTIGATION

EFCC to probe Delta Gov. Okowa’s N736m substandard road project

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…..As Community Youths Protest Low Standard Job

 


 

Information reaching The Witness has revealed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), are set to take over the lingering case of the ongoing substandard road contract awarded to PORTPLUS limited, a marine service company, at the sum of N736, 404, 555.60 by the Delta State government.

It would be recalled that in March, 2017, Delta state governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, had awarded to Portplus Limited, the contract to construct a three kilometers concrete pavement road with both sides drainages at Ikpide-Irri, a riverine community, Isoko South local government area of Delta state.

The substandard collapsed culvert.

The contract which is said to be a ‘kola-nut’ from the governor to the chairman of Portplus Limited, Mr. Immanuel Omoefe, an indigene of the community is already generating controversy following the substandard work and usage of low quality materials by the contractor, resulting to protest by the locals.

Speaking with our reporter, an EFCC official who does not want his name mentioned confided that, “Please don’t quote me, but I can tell you that the commission has been following stories from online media concerning the contract. We saw in the whole contract elements of fraud especially in the area of execution. We are very must interested in the issue”

One of the culverts being constructed with 10mm rods as against the specified 16mm on the BOQ

According to pur EFCC source, “As we talk, we are talking with the lawyer to the concerned indigenes of the community who petitioned governor Ifeanyi Okowa on the substandard work and he is cooperating with us.

“Once we receive the petitions been expected, our Benin city office in Edo state will swing into action and all names that will be mentioned especially the contractor would be invited for questioning. A colleague of mine in the ICPC told me too they are interested and will also step into the matter.”, Our EFCC source disclosed.

The concerned indigenes of the community through a petition addressed to governor Okowa last week and signed by their counsel, Mr. Chuks. F. Ebu, had raised the alarm of substandard job by the contractor saying that instead of construction of both sides drainages, using of rods and other materials specified in the Bill Of Quantity, (BOQ), the contractor went for substandard materials.

The 10mm used to construct one of the culverts.

The petition which was made available to tbis medium, copied the Commissioner of Police, state commissioner for works, member representing constituency 1 in the state house of Assembly, Orezi Esievo, State Director, SSS, Chairman, Isoko South local government area, all branch chairmen of Ikpide-Irri unions, President General, Isoko Development Union, (IDU) and others.

According to the petition with the title “Re:Construction Of Ikpide-Irri Township Roads: Protest Against The Substandard Job And Call For Strict Adherence To The Bill Of Quantity.”, failure by the contractor to adhere strictly to the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation, ( BEME), the BOQ and other contract papers, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies would be invited into the contract.

“That the culverts should be reconstructed because the converts construction was not met as rods used was 10mm at interval of 300mm instead of 16mm at interval of 150mm spacing specified in the drawings and the original Bill Of Quantity (BOQ) and concrete mixed was very poor. Also the size specified in the drawings was not professionally followed.”

Our correspondent reliably gathered that few days ago one of the controversial culverts carrying 10mm rods as against the specified 16mm collapsed during a visit by some persons from the Ministry of works.

Meanwhile, the community youths on Sunday staged a peaceful protest in the community and called on the contractor to as a matter of urgency and importance follow standards in the execution of the contract or be ready to face the music of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

Speaking during the protest, the leader of the protest, an activist and indigene of the community who doubles as the President of Isoko Monitoring Group, (IMG), a Pan Isoko group known for championing of development in Isoko, Delta and beyond, Mr. Sebastine Agbefe, lamented the substandard work by Portplus limited and called on the contractor to immediately destroy and reconstruct all the culverts in the community that were done with 10mm instead of 16mm according to the BOQ.

“This is a fraud of the highest order, this is pure wickedness and we can no longer folds our arms and watch one man shortchange us because of his personal greed and selfishness. We are warning the contractor to destroy all the culverts done with 10mm and reconstruct same with 16mm according to the BOQ.

“The contractor should also make sure that both sides drainages are constructed on the road and must use standard materials specified on the BOQ. And again, Portplus must adhere strictly to the specifications on the BOQ and any attempt to compromise standards as far as this contract is concerned, Portplus will be made to face EFCC and ICPC.”, Mr. Agbefe stated.

The IMG president, however enjoined indigenes of the community, especially the youths not to take the laws into their hands even as he challenge all communities in Isoko nation to be involved in the monitoring of execution government projects in their various domains.

It was gathered that some of the youths and other indigenes who came out enmass were scared away from the protest by parents and relatives for fear of been victimized by power that be in the community that is already compromised by the contractor.

Our correspondent reliably learnt that video clips and photographs of the substandard work taken during the protest will be sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as requested.

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