Buhari reappoints alleged ₦1 billion thief as NISER director-general

Despite numerous protests against the running of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Ibadan, by its director-general, President Muhammadu Buhari has reappointed him.

The DG and management of the institution have been at logger heads over alleged misappropriation and wastage of funds.

NISER DG, Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, was alleged to have mismanaged over ₦1.5 billion during his four-year tenure, with little to show for the funds allocated to the centre.

In a five-page petition signed by the chairmen of three unions of the institute, under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee (JAC), the union alleged that the DG was appointed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo without due process, which according to them contravenes the research institute’s Rules.

The three chairmen who conducted Sahara Reporters round the institute to see the infrastructural damages in the institute are Babatimehin Muyiwa, (ASURI) Tubi O. Theophilus (NASU) and Matthew Olagunju (SSAUTHRIAI).

The chairmen alleged that the DG has continued to stay at luxury hotels and guest houses in Ibadan for 4 years at government expense in clear breach of Financial Regulations and Public Service Rules, while the DG guest house was abandoned.

In their prayers, the unions demanded complete impartial investigation and full prosecution of anyone found guilty, asking the federal government not to reappoint him.

Sahara Reporters who went round the institute, reports that some facilities claimed to have been renovated by the DG with the money released for capital are an eyesore.

Its correspondent observed that some part of the compound has been turned to a refuse dump while the road leading to the staff quaters was not motorable. Rodents and snakes have taken over a duplex meant for DG quaters and about two acres of land are wasting away.

The three in-house workers unions also accused Gbadebo-Smith whose tenure elapses on 27th of May, 2021.

They alleged that the DG is unqualified ab-initio to hold the position, being a dentist with no research degree.

Other allegations include flagrant abuse of Financial Regulations (FR) and Public Service Rules (PSR); consistent contract splitting to bye-pass Governing Council approval, living large at exclusive hotels and guest houses in Ibadan for the duration of his four-year tenure at (NISER) government expense, against stipulated first 28 days.

Others are contract inflation and fraud leading to grand, systemic embezzlement; general administrative gross incompetence; extended and consistent absenteeism, abscondment and abandonment of primary duty post at Ibadan headquarters in favour of his private firms in Lagos; and running NISER by proxy.

According to them, Gbadebo-Smith, who in his four-year tenure, has hardly, if ever, spent 4 days at a stretch at the institute’s headquarters in Ibadan, was also accused of withholding IT gadgets like iPads & laptops, which were donated to the institute by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to be shared amongst staff members.

The union also accused the DG of building a non-functional gatehouse with remote-controlled gates.

JAC also said over ₦30 million was spent on the project but that it never worked for a day before or after commissioning.

The unions further alleged that a contract for the renovation of the institute’s administrative building, comprising works like remodelling of restrooms and extra conference room, and worth over ₦350 million was not approved by Governing Council as stipulated by procurement rules.

They however added that the contract was split into smaller units and presented to Tenders Board for approval, to give the appearance of having followed due process.

In separate interviews with SaharaReporters, the leadership of the unions said it is incontestable that financial Infractions were committed by the DG.

One of them said, “Contract splitting is indefensible. For example, a ₦53 million payment that should have Governing Council’s approval but was split and paid in first instalment of ₦40 million (representing 75 per cent) and given Tenders Board approval has not met Due Process requirement! He merely split the payment to evade Governing Council approval and it is illegal!

“To further compound the atrocious behaviour, most of these payments were made without payment vouchers being prepared and where prepared in some instances, the vouchers were not allowed to pass through all internal checks like internal audit and others.”

The union further said Gbadebo-Smith was able to get away with all the alleged financial atrocities by whittling down and systemically dismantling long established federal government system checks and balances, including de-staffing the Finance and Accounts Department as well as the Internal Audit.

According to them, the latter has now been reduced to only two staff members.

The unions therefore urged NISER Governing Council and the supervising ministry, National Planning Commission under the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, to institute an urgent panel of inquiry to thoroughly investigate the claims and take appropriate actions.

Advising the federal government, the unions said, “Gbadebo-Smith was also accused of being an absentee DG for the duration of his tenure, hence, the unions demand he is permanently suspended and made to refund all his remuneration if the claims are substantiated and found to be true by the independent panel of enquiry.”

According to the unions, the problem was compounded when the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) gave the institute more than enough tablets (iPads) to be shared amongst NISER’s staff members.

“As a matter of fact, they gave in excess and free of charge! This DG collected all, (in two batches) shared to a select few and decided to hoard the remaining! Can you fathom that? Does he want to sell them or take them to his portfolio business to share there?”

The unions who indicted the Minister of State for Budget and Planning, Prince Clement Agba, for dissolving the governing council said, “Surprisingly, rather than allow governing council to thoroughly investigate the matter, Prince Clement Agba, through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and Planning, dissolved the Institute’s Governing Council overnight.”

But despite the allegations, the Federal Goverment on Monday reappointed, Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith as Director General of the institute.

Sahara Reporters learnt that in a letter that emanated from the office of the Minister of State for Budget and Planning, Agba, the reappointment of the DG has been renewed for another four years.

A source in NISER told Sahara Reporters, “Yes, it is true. He has been reappointed. But I know our people won’t take it easy with him this time around. He cannot enjoy the next four years,” he said.

Sahara Reporters

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