According to a report by SaharaReporters, Mr. Murtala Aliyu Ibrahim, Unit Head, ICT/Process Audit and Special Investigation Unit at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), paid with his job for exposing corruption in the bank.
Documents exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters showed that Mr. Ibrahim, in his position Unit Head ICT/Process Audit and Special Investigation, walked into trouble just for doing his job diligently.
His troubles began in August 2016, when he was assigned by the Head of Internal Group Audit to visit Maman Kontagora House and report on the renovation contracts awarded by the FMBN. The contracts were awarded to many contractors at an aggregate cost of N2.3billion.
According to documents, the former Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Richard Esin, pressured the Internal Audit Group to release the sum of N180,668, 525 monthly, as proposed the Special Services Group supervising the renovation contracts.
Mr. Ibrahim and his colleague, Mr. Taslim Anibaba, refused to certify the payment unless a job completion certificate presented. Their refusal led to a meeting at Mr. Esin’s office, where it was decided that Mr. Ibrahim should represent the Internal Audit Group and visit the Maman Kontagora House together with a staff of the Special Services Group to evaluate the work done and enable them jointly sign the job completion certificate, as stipulated by the terms of the contracts.
The Special Services Group, documents showed, could only produce three out of six valuation reports at the time of the visit. Even in two of the three valuations, it was discovered that the percentage of work done was incommensurate with the amounts of money paid out to contractors.
A series of reports co-produced by Mr. Ibrahim and Taslim Anibaba, Group Head, Internal Audit, was, expectedly, not well received by the FMBN management.
One of such, dated 19 August 2016, was titled “Summary Report On The Proposed Renovation/Rehabilitation Works On The 15 -Storey Mamman Kontagora House.
The memo identified a series of financial regulation breaches, including contract splitting. The decision to renovate the Mamman Kontagora House was taken at the 180th meeting of the FMBN Board in November 2013.
The memo authored by the Internal Audit Group, of which Mr. Ibrahim was Unit Head, delivered very damaging assessments of the procedures adopted for the award and execution of the contracts.
In the section headed “Internal Audit Professional Opinion”, the memo stated that due process was not followed from inception, while public procurement approval thresholds were not adhered to in some of the contracts.
“Though there was an attempt to correct some anomalies, especially on contracts that exceeded the Board’s approval threshold of the sum of N250million (i.e by obtaining Minister’s ratification on the contracts above N250million threshold earlier approved by the erstwhile FMBN Board), but that still did not suffice as the then Minister categorically stated in the letter addressed by the Bank to the Minister on ratification of approvals,” stated the memo.
The Minister, according to the letter referenced, wrote: “MD (FMBN): Ratified but please proceed in line with all extant procurement laws and financial regulations.”
The memo also said the Internal Audit Group observed contract splitting in the award of jobs of renovating the building could have been assigned to a single contractor with requisite experience and capacity for execution.
“This would have resulted to lower cost savings and efficiency in the execution of the contract,” the Audit Group noted.
It equally observed that there was no cash flow projection to support the sources of the funding for the project, one which was considered a long-term infrastructural spending.
“The project, at commencement, was expected to gulp more than N2billion. We expected that since FMBN was undercapitalized with negative equity arising from the burden of non-performing loans, the then Board/Management ought to have analyzed the funding options for the project even if it was not to be financed from the National Housing Fund (NHF) pool,” the unit stated.
It was its recommendations that must have got the FMBN Board and management red-eyed. The memo recommended that the FMBN management the Group Head, Special Services, to immediately collate the valuation reports for each contract and forward such to the Internal Audit Unit for certification in line with due process and the Ministerial approval referenced.
It equally recommended that all milestone payments/disbursements to contractors should be with their contract terms engagements as specified in their letters.
The audit report also recommended that the fuelling of the bank’s 500KVA generator should be handled in line with due process and procurement by the Office of the National Coordinator in Lagos, saying this amounts to a variation of original contract terms. It also prescribed that the FMBN should report all identified corrupt practices and breaches of public procurement regulations to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
Mr. Ibrahim told SaharaReporters that another reason they moved against him was the refusal of the Internal Audit Group to endorse the bank’s 2016 Half-Year Income Validation Report. According to him, the Finance and Accounts Group reported a surplus of income over expenditure of the sum of N423,653, 187.00. But when the Internal Audit Group was directed by the management to validate the Finance Group’s submission, it found that it was actually a loss and not profit.
The response of the FMBN Executive Management Committee (EMC) was to move against Mr. Ibrahim. This was done in a memo dated 8 December 2016. Mr. Ibrahim, at the time, was on an officially approved vacation in Malaysia, where he was undergoing a self-funded Ph.D. program, something known to and approved by his employers. He was informed of the memo on 7 December 2016 by a phone call from his office. The memo announced that he had been transferred to Taraba State of the FMBN.
“The memo directed that I report to with immediate effect at the new station. The transfer was not mindful of the fact that I was on leave and that I was attending my contact hours for the self-funded PhD program at University Utara, Malaysia. It is also on record that I have a prior management approval to undergo the Ph.D. program in Finance and Banking, with specialization in Credit Risk Management,” he told SaharaReporters.
In a letter to the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Mr. Ibrahim said he had no problem with being transferred but was of the view that the transfer he was ordered to proceed on was done to punish him for exposing malfeasance. Mr. Ibrahim, in the letter dated 9 January 2017, wrote: “I can say without mincing words that I am the most qualified professional accountant with relevant academic and professional qualifications in the whole of the Federal Mortgage Bank as at today. There is no any other staff with a first class degree in accounting or any other finance-related course throughout FMBN. Besides, aside from my MSc in Finance and professional qualifications in Accounting/Auditing both in Nigeria and the UK, I am also currently a PhD student (by research) at the University of Utara, Malaysia under self-sponsorship,” he wrote. He also wrote that his job appraisal records show that he never scored below 89 %.
He wondered why the EMC would transfer him out the Head Office where his expertise his most needed and wanted the Minister to find out who authorized the transfer. The EMC had stated in the memo that Mr. Ibrahim was transferred to Taraba State in line with the new FMBN organogram approved by the Minister. However, Mr. Ibrahim said any staff of the Internal Audit Group who insisted on due process was transferred from the Head Office as punishment and warning to others not to acquire the habit of transparency. Those who suffered this fate included Messrs. Anibaba Taslim, Ale Ahmed, Shaba Etsu, Banaebi Okubokeme, Siaka Omagbogu, Nasir Mohammed and two women, Mrs. Amina Mohammed and Salima Bello.
In another letter to the Housing Minister, Mr. Ibrahim said a plan was being implemented by the management of the FMBN to completely break up the Audit Group and make it limp. Dated 13 February 2017, Ibrahim informed the minister of schemes of the management, designed to continue the rampant corruption, and more importantly that National Housing Fund contributions. FMBN’s mainstay was being used for recurrent expenditure. Mr. Ibrahim also informed the Minister that had been serially queried for raising valid inquiries about the way the FMBN was being run and claimed that the EMC was working to wrongly accuse him of corruption and terminate his appointment and that of other upright staff of the bank. In addition, Mr. Ibrahim told the Minister that the N2.7billion unaudited profit for 2016 declared by FMBN could not have been a realistic figure, as the Internal Audit Group report for the review of an unaudited half-year profit of N423million indicated.
Despite bringing the mess in the bank and his own personal plight to the attention of Mr. Fashola, no intervention came from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. Mr. Ibrahim was eventually dismissed from service. However, the whistleblower is ready to legally challenge his dismissal. In a letter to the incumbent FMBN Managing Director, Mr. Ahmed Dangiwa, Mr. Ibrahim made a plea that his dismissal is reversed. In the letter dated 27 May 2017, Mr. Ibrahim wrote: “The decision of the outgone management to team to dismiss me, just like the entire disciplinary process, was lacking in merit and is a breach of all known rules of natural justice, fairness and equity. The decision is also without any legal backing, as the law that established the bank (FMBN Act 2003) is explicit on where the powers and dismissal (other conditions of service) reside.” He maintained that the EMC has no power to fire him without recourse to the Minister or the FMBN Board. Mr. Ibrahim said what he did in exposing malfeasance at the bank was legal and is in line with the whistle-blowing policy of the Federal Government.