Disquiets and condemnations continued to pervade as President Muhammadu Buhari amid corruption allegations and financial irregularities re-appoint the Managing Director of Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority, Abubakar Mu’azu for the second tenure.
Mu’azu tenure had elapsed on June 6, 2020 and there was tension in the agency, following the MD’s refusal to vacate office weeks after the expiration of his tenure, instead, he continued to award contracts.
The Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority is a federal agency in Adamawa State and is under the ministry of water resources.
However, in a letter signed by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF) dated 29th June 2020 titled: ‘’RENEWAL OF APPOINTMENT AS MANAGING DIRECTOR, UPPER BENUE RIVER BASIN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY’’ the renewal will is with effect from June 6, 2020, for a second and final term of four years.
The letter further stated that: ‘’ I am pleased to inform you that Muhammadu Buhari, President , Federal Republic of Nigeria has approved the renewal of your appointment as the Managing Director, Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority for a second and final term of four (4) years.
‘’ 2. This appointment is with effect from 6th June 2020, and your emoluments and other conditions of service shall be as provided under ‘’ The certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) (Amendment Act, 2008.’’
‘’ 3. Please accept my congratulations and best wishes on your appointment.’’
However, despite this renewal protests continued to trail within and outside the agency with whistleblowers alleging that, ‘’ Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is mere rhetoric and only on paper.’’
A whistleblower who has been tracking activities in the agency, Usman Jibrin Bobi , wondered how Buhari renewed the MD’s tenure amid corruption allegations.
‘’We thought this government is serious in fighting corruption, but with this renewal is so glaring that the so-called Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is mere rhetoric and on paper.
‘’ So, there is no need for stripping Magu of his position as EFCC acting chairman!’’ He exclaimed.
Bobi recalled that Mu’azu had from June 7, 2020, a day after the vacuum was created in his office, allegedly awarded several contracts and approved payments, running into hundreds of millions of naira.
‘’It was further alleged that even before the end of his tenure, the MD had awarded over N2 billion contracts, laced with irregularities and fraud,’’ said he.
A whistleblower had revealed that those contracts were awarded and payments effected without any recourse to the tenders board as he was accused of bypassing the management board in taking decisions.
It could be recalled that in a petition addressed to the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission, 39 point corruption allegations were raised against him.
The petition reads in parts: “Fraudulent awards of contracts without advertisement as required by the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
“Numan Irrigation Project: The Authority does not have this project, it is nonexistent, yet, on yearly basis, provision was fraudulently made and monies siphoned by the MD and his cronies, to the tune of over N200 million.
“Ledde-Zenge dam: This is a practical show of shame with no engineering design, standard bills and genuine contractor, engineer, supervisor. This is the mother of all impunity. The alleged structure is not close to being a dam, and yet N250 million was spent with no known contractor, supervisor, and so on.
“Dukku erosion control: The assumed financier and contractor of this project are unknown and yet the colossal sum of money in the excess of N200 million has so far been spent with sustainable provisions being made under the same project name.
“Under the name of dredging and maintenance of the unlined area of the canal, about N500 million has been spent within four years with continuous spending and yet, no lasting solution other than the continuation of resource wastage.”
Not only that, Muazu was said to have appointed a seconded Grade Level 10 officer with no knowledge of procurement to serve as the Head of the Authority’s Procurement Unit.
Muazu, it was further gathered, sidelined a chartered Grade Level 17 staff, and made a Grade Level 14 Officer to be the Head of Finance and Accounts of the Authority.
Bobi had further alleged that Mu’azu was being shielded by the Minister of Water Resources, Adamu Suleiman.
To this end, the whistleblower vowed that they will continue to expose rots in the agency, and therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to do what is necessary by reversing the renewal as he urged ICPC and other anti-graft agencies to investigate the issues raised.
‘’We will not relent in exposing the frauds and corruption in Upper Benue River Basin, so we are appealing that President Buhari whom I believe was ill-informed to do what is required and reverse his approval.
‘’Our investigations revealed that the embattled MD was being shielded by the Minister of Water Resources, Adamu Suleiman and Buhari’s aide.
‘’ If really the government is fighting corruption, ICPC and other anti-graft agencies should investigate the issues raised,’’ he urges.
Also reacting, the National Youth Council of Nigeria decried President Buhari’s renewal of the tenure amid protests and allegations.
A spokesperson for NYCN, Shehu Kamile, said they were issuing a 7-day ultimatum for the president to do what is required and remove Mu’azu to face prosecution, failure of which would lead to protests.
He said, “We demand that President Buhari should reverse Mu’azu’s renewal,” urging anti-graft agencies to investigate corruption allegations against Mu’azu, running into billions of naira.
Investigation revealed that Mu’azu, who seems untouchable, was backed by ‘’powerful godfathers ‘’ within the presidency, to remain in office.
It was gathered that the president’s Assistant on Domestic Affairs, Sarki Abba, and Minister of Water Resources, Adamu Suleiman, were the forces backing Mu’azu’s stay in office.
Water Resources Minister Suleiman, who is President Buhari’s nephew, was alleged to have some vested interest in Songhai modelled farm; a project set up by the President to stimulate agricultural growth.
Songhai modeled farm is one of the multi-billion naira water projects being executed by the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority.
An inside source said, “Notwithstanding, there has never been any activity on the project site. Songhai modelled farm has gulped the following budgetary allocations in the past three years:2018….N510,000,000; 2019….N378,000,000; 2020….N114,000,000.
“Also Mu’azu was grilled by ICPC investigators last year and he implicated the Minister of Water Resource, who was subsequently invited for questioning.
“What remains to be seen for now is whether President Buhari will heed the public outcry and wade into the matter; else corruption will continue to rubbish the administration’s claim of fighting corruption,” an inside source decried.
When contacted on phone the agency’s spokesman Ahmad Isa Mbamba declined to comment saying that, ‘’ only Oga MD will talk on this weighty allegations, so you can wait for him; he traveled to Abuja.’’
So also, when contacted, the Managing Director told reporters in an SMS text,’’ Presently I am on an official trip in Abuja. I will prefer we discuss in Yola when I return.”