Re: Abuja Investments Company And Fcta Utter Neglect Of A Goldmine :one Year Of Pains To Survive An Apparent Cover Up
My attention has been drawn to an article published by The Nigerian Voice on 30th July, 2018 by one Chris Okeke titled “Abuja Investments Company and FCTA Utter Neglect of a Goldmine”.
The Interim Management Team (IMT), for Abuja Investments Company Ltd, was inaugurated by the Honorable Minister FCT, Mr. Muhammad Musa Bello on 19th May 2017. It replaced the substantive management of the company all members of which were sent on compulsory leave pending outcome of investigations into allegations of financial impropriety. The terms of reference and scope of work for the IMT have been clearly defined.
The purpose of this write-up is to drive the point home that the appointment of the IMT was well intentioned. However, the good intentions were officially manipulated and set aside to degrade the IMT, expose it to humiliations and a good excuse to cover glaring acts of corruption and un-patriotism.
Our "friend" Mr. Musa Bello the Minister invited us on his own (none of us applied for this job) to come and serve as 7 member interim management 2 team to revitalize AICL. He deceived us to abandon our primary endeavors and take up this appointment on full-time basis. One of our members Dr. Garba Sani who lived in the UK for the last 33 years was deceived by the Minister to relocate and take up this job only to be humiliated and thrown away after one year. Another member was misadvised by the Minister to resign from a senior management position at Eco Bank and join the IMT only to suffer the same fate. The Minister did not fix remunerations of the IMT until 4 months after inauguration. In-between he scandalized the Interim Management as "salary fraudsters" which opened the way for the media to feed fat and sell very well.
Muhammed Bello never implemented any of the recommendations or reports of the IMT that would have eliminated wastage, saved costs and boosted image of the company and Nigeria at large. In this way he has proved himself to be very insincere and incompetent to hold such an exalted office of a Minister.
It has become necessary for members of the now defunct Interim Management Team to reach out and state the facts as they are. It can be concluded that the Minister Mr. Bello lured members of the IMT to do the work for him in order to cover up misdeeds of others who are his supposed cronies and sectarian kinsmen in the AICL group. Some examples are as follows;
(a) The IMT identified, investigated and sacked five fraudulent staff of AICL. The Minister Mr. Musa Bello for reasons best known to him directed that all these staff be reinstated and their files transferred to the Ministry for "further investigations". These files were lost in Muhammad Musa Bello's office, thus evidences and confessions were destroyed!!!
(b) Another most astonishing episode in the history of the IMT was a letter of query it wrote to the Acting Managing Director of a subsidiary, Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company (AUMTCO) Mr. Eddie Ajon on 20th February 2018. He was charged for violating directives of the Honorable Minister on the implementation of an audit report. In his response to the query dated January 21st Mr. Ajon described the Ministerial directive as an “illusion”. A copy of the query and his response were handed over to the Minister Mr. Musa Bello and he directed that the matter be kept in view. The Minister gave up his directives on the implementation of the audit report. AUMTCO still receives subsidies from the Ministry every month running into millions of naira.
(c) The National Assembly invited the IMT to explain how over N2 Billion Naira was stolen from a subsidiary the Abuja Markets Management Company Ltd and not remitted to the FCT in the last 10 years. The IMT in its response discovered that without taking it too far even in the last 3 years, one of its subsidiaries, the Abuja Markets Management Com 4 Ltd headed by one Mr. Abubakar Usman Faruk generated over N3 Billion Naira revenue from traders and market women which were never remitted to the FCT nor to Abuja Investment Company Ltd. The IMT obtained these facts from a cross-section of bank statements produced to it voluntarily by the Abuja Markets Management Company (AMML). The Company maintains over 22 illegal bank accounts including foreign currency accounts. The IMT discovered there were huge and regular transfers from these accounts to private accounts (probably FCT staff). The Minister prevented the IMT further investigations. Some officers of this subsidiary, AMML have held office for more than 9 years now. The IMT made a formal and detailed report to the Minister Musa Bello and recommended that officers of the company be suspended to pave way for further investigations. Mr Bello sat on the report, rebuffed and degraded the IMT vide a letter reference number PS/FCTA/387 dated 29th August, 2017 signed by one Hajiya Amina Abubakar. The Minister re-designated the IMT as a mere “ad-hoc, stop-gap management”. He stripped the IMT of all the powers earlier conferred on it and fixed a token as entitlements payable to the members. Copy of the letter is attached below.
(d) The IMT during its only one year of operation was at various times dragged to the EFCC, ICPC, and even to the humble Code of Conduct Bureau on false and frivolous allegations of misconduct to divert it away from its duties and paint members black. Copies of the petitions were never made available to the IMT. 5 The same petitions were used to marline and castigate members of the IMT on the pages of newspapers and radio stations without any prior reference. Over 22 media houses at one time carried derogatory and malicious statements credited to anonymous individuals apparently sponsored or instigated from the Ministry of the FCT.
(e) Another episode worthy of mention is that the IMT reported an attempt to disrupt a Board meeting of AICL as it was being held on 13th April 2018 and assault the Board members. Armed policemen dispatched from the DSS FCT Command saved the situation. The IMT made a formal report on this incident to the Minister Muhammad Musa Bello on a file reference number AICL/HIMT/93/2018. Ring leaders of the botched attempt who incited the staff on false allegations that the Board was considering 80% retrenchment were identified. The Minister Mr. Bello refused to take any action not even to investigate the circumstances nor interrogate the ring leaders.
(f) The IMT in one of its reports has raised concern over criminal acts of AICL in tax evasion. It seeked for approvals from the Minister to remit these funds which he declined. Abuja Investments Company Ltd has for example deducted the sum of N425,947,208.74 (four hundred and twenty five million, nine hundred and forty seven thousand, two hundred and eight naira and seventy four kobo) as VAT and withholding tax from 6 contractors but not remitted to FIRS from 12th May 2013 to 19th May 2017. The Minister Mr. Bello did not consider this important enough. Probably on reading this article the Federal Inland Revenue Service may wish to wade in and recover this huge amount which has actually been stolen in a conspiracy.
(g) Many efforts by the IMT to save Abuja Investments Company from huge liabilities were suppressed by the Minister Mr. Muhammed Musa Bello. Some examples abound here;
• Efforts to make out of court settlements for long standing or critical litigations like the Embassy Gardens (whose contingent liability is over N3.5 billion naira); Savannah Suit in respect of World Trade Centre project outstanding consultancy fees; and Profond Company Ltd case involving refund of $100,000 US Dollars signature bonus on a failed project did not see the light of the day. In the case of land dispute at the Embassy Gardens, the IMT politely extracted a letter from the plaintiff’s counsel requesting for an out of court settlement, such a letter is the first of its kind in the history of the FCT. The case involved a piece of land which surrounds residence of the British High Commissioner in Nigeria at Maitama. The disputed land comprises of carcass of uncompleted buildings housing reptiles and rodents and constituting an eyesore to all. It is an irony when the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is 7 running in and out of the United Kingdom seeking for medical help and different types of “holidays” his FCT Minister is condoning a security risk around residence of the British Prime Minister in Nigeria which an amicable settlement could have cleared. The IMT has been worried about this act of insensitivity and diplomatic nepotism. •
The most recent is a crucial case where some individuals connived and attempted to mislead the judiciary in confiscating markets legitimately owned by Abuja Investments Company Ltd. Suit number CV/8665/2017 refers. In the above suit, the IMT kicked-out these individuals and groups thus saving Abuja Investments ownership of various markets worth over N200 Billion Naira without any support from the FCT Minister Mr. Musa Bello. Details of these cases have been well documented. The IMT requested the Minister to reinforce his legal team to tackle this case but he declined.
(h) The Minister Mr. Musa Bello refused to recognize the need to nurse AICL investments to the level of viability and profitability, one of such is a case of Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Market with a company called All Purpose Shelter Ltd. The Company developed the famous Wuye UltraModern Market. It is the most distinguished of all the markets developed by Abuja Investments Company Ltd. The market was commissioned by the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan a few months before he left 8 office. Due to lapses, inefficiencies and corrupt practices from the FCTA the Wuye Market has been rendered inoperational. So many illegal plot allottees threatened the market on flimsy grounds that they have been allotted stalls in the market by the FCT at a paltry sum of five thousand naira per stall. The IMT made several reports to the Minister drawing his attention to the fact that unless this market is operating, Abuja Investments Company will never recoup its investment. Moreover, the developers should not be expected to make good any part of their obligations if the market is not operating. The bottlenecks making the market inoperative can be resolved by simple administrative action of revalidating those “stalls allocation”. For reasons best known to the Minister, he never acted on these recommendations. The IMT further warned that this market was partially built with a loan from a commercial bank in the event that the loan is not paid the bank will be forced to foreclose the facility and sell-off the market at a giveaway price. This is also going to be a huge loss to Abuja Investments Company because the loan facility was mortgaged on C of O belonging to AICL. The value of this land (not the market) as at 22nd May 2018 is estimated to be over N4.5 Billion Naira.
(i) In another letter signed by Hajiya Amina Abubakar reference number PS/FCTA/387 dated 7th February 2018, the Ministry embarked on selective reinstatement of AICL management staff on compulsory leave. One Mr. Ibrahim A. Aliyu was singled out and reinstated without reference to the Interim Management Team. The FCT Ministry claimed that Mr. 9 Ibrahim Aliyu was not under any investigation which the IMT refuted. It provided evidence to the Ministry that Mr. Aliyu is under multiple investigations ranging from fraudulent sale of houses at Apo-Dutse Green Acres Estate to unretired cash advances of over N96 Million Naira. Moreover the IMT also reported that Mr. Aliyu has flatly refused to report to the appropriate department he was assigned to claiming that he can only accept to be a head of department.
Reinstatement of Mr. Ibrahim Aliyu generated stiff resistance from other members of the management staff on compulsory leave who petitioned the House of Representatives. At a public hearing held on Monday 30th April 2018 signatory of the reinstatement letter Hajiya Amina Abubakar was asked under oath to provide evidence that Mr. Ibrahim Aliyu has been cleared of any criminal investigations and she confessed there was no evidence. Meanwhile, the said Ibrahim Aliyu who has been earning salary of over N700,000.00 Nair per month from AICL without doing any work in the eyes of the Minister Muhammad Musa Bello.
The Interim Management Team of AICL was constrained, restrained, maligned and sacrificed to manifest the level of administrative incompetencies in the Ministry and cover up sacred cows. All these happened on behalf of our esteemed President Muhammadu Buhari whom Nigerians voted to “fight corruption”. 10 I have personally discussed all these points with the Minister Muhammad Bello a few times. Even as he terminated our appointment I drew his attention to the fact that he was proving himself as incompetent and very unfair to the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari to which all of us are stakeholders. He shyed away and personally offered to compensate members of the IMT by allocating pieces of land to each one of us in Abuja. Such an offer is naive and not acceptable. The IMT demands for an apology from the Minister Muhammad Musa Bello for the deception and taking the good people of Nigeria for a ride.
We also seek refuge in Allah because we did our best in the circumstance to serve the nation, we did not do anything wrong and we have suffered humiliations and fatigue in the hands of the FCT Minister Muhammad Musa Bello who would have loved for Nigeria what he loves for himself.
Dr. Bashir Isyaku Head, IMT Abuja Investments Company Ltd
(19Th May 2017 to 22nd May 2018)