By Bukola Kayode
The crisis rocking the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust has assumed another dimension with the immediate past CEO of the agency Michael Akabogu accusing the minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige of corruption and highhandedness.
Akabogu further accused the Labour minister of sacking and replacing him with his goddaughter over his refusal to allow corruption to thrive in the agency.
The former NSITF helmsman alleged in a petition sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) the e-NSITF platform for which about N2.8 billion is to be spent is a white elephant project through which the minister will syphon funds.
The aggrieved former NSITF boss also alluded to the minister running the agency like his personal estate deploying some his trusted allies.
On the minister’s highhandedness, Akabogu claimed the minister prepared a resignation letter along with his appointment letter in order to ensure his loyalty during his four year tenure.
“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”, he stated in the petition.
Akabogu added: “Recall, that the NSITF has been synonymous with financial impropriety and massive looting of the contributions made to the NSITF. After my assumption of office as MD/CE, 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”.
Akabogu’s allegations of fraud comes just as staff of the agency have complained of unauthorised deductions from their salaries after they had been owed for two months.
The staff allege that the deductions from their salaries is a punishment from the minister over the protest by their union for salary increase. This is not the first time NSITF staff are accusing the minister of arbitrariness .
Read full petition bellow:
RE: CORRUPTION, CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY, FORGERY IMPERSONATION, GROSS VIOLATION OF PROCUREMENT ACT, TORTURE AND THREAT TO LIFE AGAINST DR. CHRIS NGIGE, MRS.MAUREEN ALLAGOA, MRS. IJEOMA OKORONKWO AND MRS. JOYCE AKPONOR AND THE REAL REASONS FOR THE UNLAWFUL REMOVAL OF DR. MICHAEL AKABOGU FROM OFFICE AS THE MANAGING DIRECTOR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE (MD/CE) OF NIGERIA SOCIAL INSURANCE TRUST FUND (NSITF)
On June 1, 2021, His Excellency, President Muhammad Buhari GCFR graciously approved my appointment as the Managing Director/Chief Executive (MD/CE) of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). This appointment was after due diligence was conducted on my person and character by relevant government agencies, including the Directorate of
State Services (DSS), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Prior to the approval of my appointment as the MD/CE NSITF, the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Dr. Chris Ngige, OON, who is the supervising Minister for the NSITF, had sometimes in May 2021, summoned me to his office, where he informed me of my impending appointment; 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.
ABUSE OF OFFICE AND CORRUPTION:
Recall, that the NSITF has been synonymous with financial impropriety and massive looting of the contributions made to the NSITF. After my assumption of office as MD/CE, 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 (as named above and to
be named hereafter) 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).
After the withdrawal of Mrs. Joyce Akponor by the Director – General of the Bureau of Public Procurement following my complaint on her activities, the Hon. Minister forced Mr. Akinkahunsi Pius Adewole a retired procurement officer from the Federal Ministry of Labour & Employment on the NSITF, as a contract staff, and, subsequently, within few months and without my knowledge, directed his promotion to the rank of General Manager, for a two (2) year tenure to continue doing the Hon. Minister’s biddings, from where Mrs. Joyce Akponor stopped. (Find copy attached as Appendix I),
The meddlesomeness and interference of the Hon. Minister in the affairs of the NSITF especially as it relates to contracts, procurements and payments for phantom contracts led to series of disagreements between me and the Hon. Minister, as I could not yield to his desires and his demands to disregard the procurement procedure in the management of the funds of the NSITF.
Suffice it to say that my disagreement with the Hon. Minister started when I consistently expressed my displeasures about the obvious unethical and sharp practices being carried out within the NSITF by Mrs. Maureen Allagoa,
Mrs. Joyce Akponor, Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo and the Hon. Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, who aided and abetted the corruption in the NSITF.
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. I have outlined below a few of the numerous instances of the sleaze being
perpetrated within the NSITF by the Hon. Minister and his cohorts.
AUTOMATION OF NSITF(E-NSITF):
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. (Find copy attached as Appendix II). 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. (Find copy attached as Appendix III). 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 (Deputy Director Procurement) 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. When I discovered what had happened, I queried both officers and copied the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Neither Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo nor Mrs. Joyce Akponor responded to the query. Instead of receiving a response to the queries, the Hon. Minister
summoned me and verbally warned that I should desist from sabotaging him, In furtherance to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval for the automation of the operation processes of NSITF i.e the “E-NSITF” as stated above, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) vide a letter addressed to the MD/CE NSITF dated 19th January, 2023, appointed and introduced
Messrs Rutnan Techniques Ltd as the consultant to review the E-NSITF. (Find copy attached as Appendix IV).
In response to the monitoring exercise by the BPP, the Head ICT at the NSITF, wrote in his report of January 2023 that the Scope of Work on the E-NSITF Electronic Business Suite will automate the entire business processes of the NSITF across all the Branches, Regions, and Head Office in a phase. However, the report included a disclaimer that the percentage level of completion for this project cannot be ascertained, contrary to the unlawful & written communication dated 27th and 30th September, 2022, respectively, by Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo and Mrs. Joyce Akponor to Unity Bank Plc., authorising the bank to release funds in respect of the said project to the contractor Messrs P2E Technologies Limited based on performance. (Find
copy attached as Appendix V) 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 reauest 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 (Find copy attached as Appendix VI).
PURCHASE OF PROPERTY FOR THE NSITE:
I received a draft memo from the Hon. Minister, through Mrs. Tieoma Okoronkwo on the purchase of a property behind NSITF Corporate Headquarters. 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. (Find copy attached as Appendix VII). 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. This said Memo now 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 I had objected to. It is worthy to men or w a thared rub/Ge of NSiTf was not privy to the sald FEC Memo allegedly authored by me, and, that the search conducted on the property by the NSITF revealed Royal Exchange Assurance Nigeria Plc. as the owner of the property. I communicated my reservations to the
Hon. Minister in writing and requested for his further directives, but he declined treating the Memo (Find copy attached as Appendix VIII). On my return from an official engagement outside the country, I was shocked to discover that despite the fact that there was no approval from the Federal Executive Council for the purchase of the property, an award letter was issued by Mrs. Joyce Akponor working with Mrs. Maureen Allagoa who was overseeing the office of the MD/CE in my absence, to Sparkle Interiors Ltd (a sister company to Pyrich Group Limited & P2E Technologies Limited) in the sum of N188 Million as vendor fee for the purchase of the property valued at N1.88 Billion. My query to the DD Procurement – Mrs. Joyce Akponor (Find copy attached as Appendix IX) added to my list of sins against the wish of the Hon. Minister.
VIOLATION OF PROCUREMENT RULE (PROCURING WITHOUT CASH BACKING):
The NIT debt stock while procurement process was domiciled at the Ministry under the Hon. Minister’s control stands at N9,080,910,747.40; Cash requirement for Administration from August to December 31, 2022 stands at N7,935,243,220.37; Cash balance after January to August 2022 expenditure stands at N3,338,463,288.70 only. This means that the Fund required
N13,677,690,679.07 to maintain solvency and meet obligations for the year ending December, 2022. Despite the above financial strait in the sum of N13,677,690,679.07; the Hon. Minister gave a verbal directive to me through Mrs. Maureen Allagoa (current MD/CE/then ED Administration) and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo (GM Corporate Affairs/then Board Secretary) to conduct a Parastatal Tenders Board (PTB) for 2021 procurement of Goods and Services in the sum of about N6.0 Billion.
The MD/C as the Chief Accounting Officer is required to ensure prudence and transparency. Therefore, I quickly communicated the current financial status of NSITF showing an over exposure level, arising from contracts awarded under the guise of strategic repositioning by the Hon. Minister, which eroded the capital base of NSITF. This was also seen as going against the wish of the Hon. Minister. pressure was mounted on me by the Hon. Minister to conduct the PTB on the condition that “No Award Letters” will be issued until notable change in financial position of NSITF. However, despite my written and verbal
communication, the agreement was flouted by Mrs. Joyce Akponor (DD procurement), who went ahead to issue award letters.
I queried her, but she refused to answer. Instead, in her WhatsApp communication with DGM Procurement – Mr. Sample Ogbonna, she texted that the directive to issue award letter was from my boss, the Hon. Minister who gave me job, except I wish to expose him, I should continue. To her, “Loyalty” is the language (Find copy attached as Appendix X).
PRODUCTION OF PROSTHESIS:
The former Board of the NSITF at its 72nd meeting resolved on action points 32 and 33 that “Production of prosthesis to be handled by the Hospital to reduce cost of procurement process”. The Executive Director Operation – Mr. Modu Gana was directed by the Board to ensure proper compliance with this Board Resolution. The Hon. Minister through DD Procurement and GM Corporate Affairs (Mrs. Joyce Akponor and Mrs. Ijeoma Okoronkwo) sought “No Objection/Selective Tendering” for the project and handed the production of the prosthesis to two of the companies which the Hon. Minister uses for various contracts execution namely Ampresh Services Limited and EB-Electrical Engineering Services Ltd. These two companies went to same manufacturer Messrs Suntech for the production of the prosthesis. Regardless of all concerns on the over bloated cost of the production, while I was on leave and despite a standing instruction that every payment must be approved by me prior to release, the Hon. Minister through his ally, Mrs. Maureen Allagoa made the final payment in the sum of N132,326,938.10 and N73,370,555.44 to Ampresh Services Limited and EB-Electrical Engineering Services Ltd (Find copy attached as Appendix XI) TORTURE AND THREAT TO LIFE: 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.
(Find copy of the photographs showing the nail marks attached as Appendix XII)
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 ensure
that I rot in prison.
UNLAWFUL REMOVAL AS MD/CE:
In the performance of my duties as MD/CE, I was guided by Mr. President’s unwavering stance against corruption and the need to change the negative perception that has trailed the NSITF over the years. The two key objectives on my assumption of duty at NSITF were to turn around the fortunes of the premier social insurance institution and rid the NSITF of financial infractions and fictitious contracts to deferred the NSITF. We were on course to achieve these set objectives, 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 a result of my stance on the malfeasance being perpetrated by the Hon. Minister and his cohorts within the NSITF, I received a letter with Reference No.: MLHMO/LAB/126/IV/421, dated February 03, 2023 from the Hon. Minister of Labour & Employment, purportedly removing me from office as the MD/CE of the NSITF.
As I write, Mrs. Leoma 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.
I respectfully invite you to use your good offices to direct a full investigation of these allegations and to prosecute any person who is found culpable. I am willing to make myself available for any further statements and also to
produce the documents in my possession in aid of your investigations. Please accept my profound thanks and the assurances of my highest regards and sincere best wishes always.
Michael C. Akabogu, PhD.