Dr. Michael C. Akabogu, former managing director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has blamed Chris Ngige, minister of Labour and Employment for encouraging corruption in the agency.
Akabogu alleged that the the corruption and financial mismanagement in the agency were deliberately encouraged by the minister.
He levelled the allegation in a petition sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).
The petition was dated 3rd March, 2023 and received by the EFCC on 25th April.
Akabogu was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 1, 2021 and removed on 3rd February 2023 over alleged forgery of his National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) Discharge Certificate.
However, in the petition, Akabogu alleged that prior to the approval of his appointment as the MD/CE of NSITF, Dr. Chris Ngige, who is the supervising minister for the NSITF, sometimes in May 2021, summoned him to his office to inform him about the impending appointment.
He said the information was passed to him with “with a subtle threat that I will be disgraced out of office as MD/CE, if I do not maintain a cordial working relationship with Mrs. Maureen Allagoa (the present MD/CE of NSITF/ then Executive Director (ED) Administration) and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo (the General Manager Corporate Affairs/ then Board Secretary).
“On the day of my inauguration as MD/CE and shortly after the said inauguration, while signing the appointment letter, the Hon. Minister handed me an undated resignation letter which he insisted I must sign, as a condition for my appointment. He asserted that the letter will guarantee my loyalty to him within the first four (4) year tenure of my appointment and that it is a requirement as directed by the Presidency.”
Dr Akabogu also alleged that the NSITF has been synonymous with financial impropriety and massive looting of the contributions made, and that effort to stem the tide had been frustrated by the minister through his cronies in the organisation.
He alleged that the minister’s cronies include Mrs. Joyce Akponor (the Deputy Director Procurement) and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo (General Manager Corporate Affairs) and one Mrs Maureen Allagoa.
“I made every effort to stem the tide and change the fortunes of the NSITF, by adhering to due process but my efforts were frustrated by the Hon. Minister and his foot soldiers for their selfish financial gains.
“From the date of my resumption of duty as the MD/CE, most administrative decisions regarding the day-to-day running/operation of the NSITF were being carried out as directed by the Hon. Minister, through Mrs. Maureen Allagoa and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo. Hardly did a day go by without a demand/request from the Hon. Minister bordering on contracts and payment to sundry contractors.
“In order to ensure compliance with these numerous demands/requests as aforestated, the Hon. Minister equally seconded a Procurement Officer from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, to take over the procurement processes of the NSITF. Such that all procurements and related matters were carried out by the Hon. Minister working in conjunction with Mrs. Joyce Akponor (the Deputy Director Procurement) and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo (General Manager Corporate Affairs/then Board Secretary),” he wrote.
The ex-MD explained that his disagreement with the minister started when he consistently expressed his displeasures about the obvious unethical and “sharp practices” being carried out within the NSITF by Mrs. Maureen Allagoa, Mrs. Joyce Akponor and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo.
“Each time I tried to express my reservation about the processes and procedure, the GM Corporate Affairs would threaten me with the possibility of sack, using the instrumentality of the undated resignation letter that I was forced to sign on my appointment,” he said.
He listed some of the areas where sharp practices were perpetrated by the minister and his cronies to include:
Automation of NSITF(E-NSITF):
He alleged that in 2022, the NSITF received the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval for the automation of its operation processes (“E-NSITF’) in the sum of N2,861,330,000.00 comprising of N1,495,034,000.00 for Infrastructure and N1,366,296,000.00 for Digitalization/Automation of the Activities, Processes and Enterprise Business Suite.
The vendor P2E Technologies Limited after applying for 30% mobilization for the infrastructure, provided an Advance Payment Guarantee (APG) from Anchor Insurance Co. Ltd.
However, the said APG proved to be a fake document upon confirmation by the Legal Department of the NSITF, as Anchor Insurance Co. Ltd. denied issuing the APG.
“In similar manner, the same vendor P2E Technologies Limited, provided a performance bond from Unity Bank PIc., claiming completion of the 30% of the job, which also turned out to be false.
“However, without my knowledge and consent as the MD/CE, Mrs. Joyce Akponor wrote to Unity Bank Pl. Confirming 45% completion of the project, and, further directed Unity Bank PIc: to release money to the contractor P2E Technologies Limited.
“The bank sent a re – confirmation letter to the office of the MD/CE, but this letter was intercepted by Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo (GM Corporate Affairs) in active connivance with Mrs. Joyce Akponor, who replied same and authorised the bank to release funds to the contractor,” Akabogu alleged.
He said when he discovered this, he queried both officers and copied the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, but neither Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo nor Mrs. Joyce Akponor responded to the query.
He added that: “Instead of receiving a response to the queries, the Hon. Minister summoned me and verbally warned that I should desist from sabotaging him.”
Akabogu also noted that: “Despite the non-complexion of the first phase of the E-NSITF, the Hon. Minister for reasons best known to him began to champion the second phase of the project which is riddled with corruption.
“This second phase as proposed will gulp a whooping N5 Billion from NSITF and another N9.8 Bilion as unspecified infrastructure support from the contractor Messrs P2E Technologies Limited, to be recuperated by the contractor over certain number of years, to the tune of over N100 Billion.
“In a bid to kick start phase two of the “E-NSITF”, the Hon. Minister through his secretary, Mrs. Okechukwu directed me to see him in his office on Tuesday, 29th November, 2022, with copies of my official letter headed paper as the MD/CE.
“On arrival at the Hon. Minister’s office, he handed me an unknown document which he directed was to be printed and signed. The content of this document was to the effect that I make a formal request for the Hon. Minister’s approval for the commencement of the second phase of the “E-NSITF” through Public Private Partnership (PPP).
“I declined signing the document, as I considered this second phase unethical, fraudulent and simply a means for the contractor and his cohorts to continue draining the NSITF. I questioned the directive of the Hon. Minister on the grounds that there was no visible outcome of the acclaimed first phase of the project, which was costing the NSITF N2,861,330,000.00 and equally because there was no budget for the second phase. My refusal infuriated the Hon. Minister and added to my list of infractions against him.”
Purchase Of Property For NSITE:
The former MD alleged that he received a draft memo from the Hon. Minister, through Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo on the purchase of a property behind NSITF Corporate Headquarters.
According to him the legal search conducted on the property by Mrs. Adaku Onwudiwe (Ag. Head Legal) at the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) revealed that the property belonged to Royal Exchange Assurance Nigeria Plc.
“However, the draft Memo to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) indicated that payment for the property should be made to Wedgewood Integrated Investment Ltd. Due to prior submissions from the supposed Vendor of the property Messrs Sparkles Interior Ltd.
“I called the attention of the Hon. Minister through a WhatsApp message to this obvious infraction of extant rules on procurement. The Hon. Minister’s response was that there was an-ongoing transaction between the two companies i.e. Wedgewood Integrated Investment Ltd and Royal Exchange Assurance Nigeria PIc. Knowing that this procedure is unethical and has imprints of corruption and money laundering, I refused to finalise and endorse the Memo as requested by the Hon. Minister.
“Notwithstanding my refusal to endorse the said Memo, on the 19th day of October, 2022, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment – Ms. Kachollom Daju, Mni., brought to my attention a FEC Memo purportedly written by my humble self, as the MD/CE of NSITF,” he explained.
According to him, this said Memo made Messrs Pyrich Group Limited the new beneficiary of the payment for the same property, different from Messrs Wedgewood Integrated Investment Ltd earlier submitted as beneficiary, which he had objected to.
Torture And Threat To Life:
The former MD said: “On Sunday the 28th day of August, 2022, the Hon. Minister invited me to his residence to sign procurement documents for the purchase of a property for the NSITF.
“I refused to sign the said documents and insisted that the procurement of the property should go through proper procurement channels, and, immediately after my refusal the Hon. Minister pounced on me, physically assaulted me and in the process dug his nails into my forearm.
“I managed to escape from the clutches of the Hon. Minister, while he was threatening to kill me and disgrace me if I believe I can go against him. The Hon. Minister further said to me that whatever evidence I believe I have against him is worthless, and, that as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria he has enough connections to deal ruthlessly with me and ensurethat I rot in prison.”
Unlawful Removal From Office As MD/CE:
Dr Akabogu said prior to his removal in office, he was working towards fighting corruption in the trust fund, “until the unfortunate meddlesomeness of the Hon. Minister started to impact negatively on the progress we were making. Hence, the attack on my person and my eventual unlawful removal from office without any justifiable reason.
“All done in order to allow the Hon. Minister and his cohorts who parade themselves as contractors and their collaborators inside the NSITF representing the Hon. Minister, who are bitter that I stood in their way, to continue the looting.
“As I write, Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo has been reappointed Board Secretary of NSITF and board member of the ProHealth HMO an institution NSITF has majority share; Mrs. Maureen Allagoa who makes payment to the Hon. Minister’s contractors against the MD/CE directive is the new MD/CE. The new Board Chairman is one of the Hon. Minister’s contractors – Messrs Jeff and Kirss and Messrs Zitacom: the Ag. Head Legal Mrs. Adaku Onwudive, has been transferred to branch to enable the Hon. Minister and his cohorts perpetuate all their procurement shenanigans, including actualising the second phase of the E-NSITF designed to defraud the organisation, and provide monthly income to the Hon. Minister after his tenure,” he also alleged.
Attempts by THE WHISTLER to speak with Akabogu did not succeed as the former MD did not answer his phone calls and did not reply the text message sent to him.
Spokesman of the EFCC , Wilson Uwujaren, could not confirm to THE WHISTLER if any of those indicted by the petition had been invited by the anti-graft agency.
“There’s no way I would know about such things because petitions don’t come to my office. I will not know who has sent petitions,” he said when our correspondent called him on Monday.