More facts emerged on Wednesday why President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the Managing Director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, Michael Akabogu.
“I am directed to inform you that Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari in the exercise of his powers under Section 8 of the NSITF Act has directed the removal from office of Dr. Michael Akabogu as the Managing Director/CE of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) with effect from Friday, 3rd February 2023.
“Subsequently, the Executive Director Administration of the Fund – Barr. (Mrs.) Maureen Allagoa has been directed to take charge of the affairs of the Fund.
“Furthermore, this information should be communicated to the staff of your various Departments/Units, Regions and Branches,” an internal memo signed by the Executive Director of Operations of the agency, Gabriel Iwelunmor read.
It was gathered that the sack is not unconnected with Akabogu’s controversial National Youth Service Corps discharge certificate.
The embattled NSITF boss, with the discharge certificate number: A030544, had been invited by the police after a criminal complaint against him was forwarded to the Nigeria police.
The NYSC, in a letter of response to the police with reference number: NYSC/CCD/VER/10/S.1/VOL/07, had disowned Akabogu’s discharged certificate.
The Point learnt that a whistleblower had in 2022 petitioned the police, alleging that the sacked NSITF boss was parading a fake NYSC discharge certificate with Number: A030544.
The police subsequently invited Akabogu for questioning after the authority of NYSC denied issuing the fake NYSC discharge certificate.
He had claimed he was mobilised for the compulsory one-year Service, vide NO. OG/ FUTO/ 91/23402 for the first Batch from October 4, 1991 to October 3, 1992.
Investigations however revealed that Akabogu’s discharge NYSC certificate bearing number A030544 was allegedly forged and the first batch of 1991 corps members were mobilised on September 16, 1991 and discharged/passed out on September 15, 1992 as against the claims of Akabogu that he was mobilised for the first batch from October 4, 1991 to 3 October 3, 1992.
The Point recalls that in August, 2022, during a probe of the NSITF by the Senate Public Account Committee scrutinizing the audit queries issued against NSITF as contained in the 2018 report of the Auditor General for the Federation to explain the spending of N17.158 billion in 2013, NSTIF could not justify the spending with required documents saying that some of the vouchers had been eaten up by termites and this scandal generated series of mixed reactions across the country.
A source who pleaded for anonymity had disclosed that the sacked Managing Director fraudulently gained a director level appointment some six years ago at NSITF and was subsequently appointed the substantive Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the agency in 2021 with an alleged forged NYSC discharge certificate bearing certificate number, A030544.
The spokesperson for the NSITF, Mrs. Ijeoma Oji-Okoronkwo could not be reached for comments on Wednesday as calls to her mobile indicated “Switched off”.
President Buhari had in June 2021 sacked the previous management of the NSITF over an alleged N3.4 billion fraud.
A newly reconstituted board was later inaugurated by Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, in Abuja.
Adebayo Somefun, NSITF former managing director, and members of past management were accused of spending the sum on “non-existent staff training”.
In a letter dated July 1, 2020, and addressed to Somefun, Ngige had said Buhari approved the suspension of the management.
However, the Somefun-led management rejected the suspension, saying Buhari did not give such a directive — the NSITF officials also denied any wrongdoing.
Ngige later set up a committee to probe the management and it indicted Somefun and other top NSITF officials.
In a statement, Charles Akpan, Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, said Buhari approved the appointment of Akabogu Michael as the new managing director.
“Messrs. Bayo Somefun, Jasper Azuatalam, Tijani Sulaiman and Mrs. Olukemi Nelson were therefore relieved of their appointments with effect from 1st July, 2020. Also relieved of their appointments were the nine top Management Officers on suspension with the MD and EDs who had their appointments terminated compulsorily with some to be retired after demotion in ranks from their present Ranks as recommended by the Panel.
“The MD and the three Executive Directors are to refund the NSITF Treasury the total sum of One Hundred and Eighty One Million, Fifty Six Thousand Naira (N181, 056,000) being illegal over payments in salaries, allowances such as overseas travels, leave allowances for self and spouses in overseas, house allowance, DSTV and club registration and extraneous allowances not approved by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
“Other nine top management staff whose appointments were terminated for various infractions and who have also benefited from the excess remuneration are to refund such overpayments to the Panel,” the statement had read.
Akpan added then that any official who fails to make a refund will be handed over to the anti-graft agencies.
Speaking at the inauguration of the new board, Ngige said there is a paradigm shift in the structural composition of the new management which must meet the huge expectations of positive shift in goal delivery.
“We must live down the past and lead a rewarding change in the fortunes of the NSITF. The years of the locust are now over. You can’t afford to take us back to Egypt. The era of looting of N48 billion without a single voucher is gone for good.
“The NSITF must be revitalised and repositioned to fulfill its mandate in accordance with the establishing Act.
“Instructively therefore, the new management should not indulge in the sins of the past, and must adhere to the statutory conditions of service and remunerations for board members approved by the minister as enshrined in the NSITF Act,” the Minister had said.
According to Ngige, the new nominal directors with the remaining directors and chairman will serve out the remaining period of their institutional representation ending May 2023.
Those inaugurated then were Akabogu Michael, managing director/chief executive; Temitope Akinwale, executive director, finance and investment, and Maureen Allagoa as executive director, administration.
Other nominal directors on the board are Lauretta Adogu, director, department of occupational safety and health, ministry of labour and employment; and Najeem Yasin, deputy president, Nigeria Labour Congress representative.