RE: ON ALLEGATIONS AGAINST NABTEB’S REGISTRAR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE – PUTTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT:
My attention has been drawn to your online publication of June 24, 2018 title “NABTEB Board Confirms AFRICAN EXAMINER’s Story, Suspends Registrar Over Huge Contract Frauds”. As the ethics of journalism profession state, the alleged party should be given the right of response. Based on the above, here is the response of the Registrar/Chief Executive of NABTEB on the purported allegations. And they are as follows:
1.Ordinarily, we did not want to join issues with Prof. Leonard Kashima Shilgba, the former Chairman of the recently dissolved 9th Governing Board of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB), on his desperate attempts to twist the truth and malign the person of the Registrar/Chief Executive and Management of NABTEB with unfounded and malicious allegations.
2. We thought that since the Governing Board under his leadership has been dissolved for good reasons by the Federal Government, there was no need to wash his dirty linen in public. As a result, the Registrar had refused to honour several requests by the media to respond to these spurious allegations, since the relevant government authorities were in charge of the matter. Moreover, the Registrar and her management team needed to refocus and recover from the nightmare of operating under the bondage of a dictatorial, selfish and disruptive leader who, within the space of three months, almost destroyed the fabric that held NABTEB together, making it difficult for the Board to remain focused while his tenure lasted.
3. In view of Prof. Shilgba’s continued assault on the Registrar and NABTEB Management in the media, despite the dissolution of his Board by the Federal Government (in a brief statement signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education on the 26th, June, 2018, which has recently been followed up by a formal letter of dissolution of the Governing Board with effect from 26th of June, 2018), it has become necessary to put the records straight. The purpose of this clarification is to disabuse the minds of the general public in order to stop the former chairman from feeding the public with deliberate falsehood and to debunk his claims as an advocate of due process and anti-corruption. Simply put, his actions as NABTEB’s Governing Board Chairman within the few months of his tenure speak volume of his corrupt tendencies and inability to manage such a high position of authority.
4. We are, therefore, constrained to state publicly that the main reason Prof. Shilgba resolved to suspend and remove the Registrar/Chief Executive of NABTEB (whom he described as ‘an obstacle’) and some Directors of NABTEB, is that the Registrar/Chief Executive could not succumb to his sinister plan to loot or plunder NABTEB and enrich himself with the modest resources of the Board. The Directors also ‘offended’ him because they, as key members of the NABTEB Management, refused to cooperate with the former chairman in that regard; so to him, they (the Directors) also needed to be punished.
5. The Registrar, being the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Board, refused to accede to several corrupt demands made by the former Chairman, not because she was disrespectful, but because she did not want to violate extant rules of Government.
6. It is perhaps pertinent to mention a few instances of the former Chairman’s impunities here:
i. As far back as 2017 (more than six months before Prof. Shilgba was formally inaugurated as Chairman of NABTEB’s Governing Board), he had started harassing the Registrar/Chief Executive with demands for financial assistance from NABTEB which he stated were to enable him fulfil his personal obligations to his people.
ii. His ‘urgent’ demand for employment of six staff, including one that aspired to be engaged as a Deputy Director without cognate experience and another, a driver without a valid Driver’s Licence whom he presented as ‘Chairman’s Staff’ to an ad hoc meeting attended by only a handful of six out of fifteen Board members.
iii. The former Chairman followed up this demand with harassing emails in which he insisted that the employment of his nominees needed ‘urgent’ attention, and that Letters of Appointment must be issued with immediate effect.
The Registrar’s refusal, for good reason, to complete the employment process for the former Chairman’s staff infuriated him. He marked her down for a painful revenge from then on.
iiii. The former Chairman, contrary to his self-acclaimed love for due process, did not feel any qualms about flouting several Government regulations, thus:
a. For three months, the former Chairman called four informal and/or ad-hoc meetings attended by different sets of members of the Governing Board without convening a proper meeting of the Governing Board in line with the NABTEB Regulations governing such board meetings.
b. In furtherance of Prof Shilgba’s adverse agenda in NABTEB, he single-handedly introduced what he termed “Standing Orders” inconsistent with extant laws and regulations as follows:
• 15% of N10,000.00 enrolment fees (for NABTEB examinations), translating to N1,500.00 (per candidate) was to be appropriated for Governing Board members while 5% was appropriated for staff logistics.
• ‘Standing Order’ 15 provides that the Board Chairman is an ex-Officio of all Committees and therefore entitled to all financial benefits that are due to members of the various Committees (based on this, he instructed the Registrar to pay him as part of the ad hoc committee that investigated the Registrar/Chief Executive, even though he was not one of the five-member committee).
• ‘Standing Order’ 18 provides that all contracts for supply of goods and services above N2,500,000.00 and all works contracts from N5,000,000.00 and above shall receive the final approval of the Governing Board.
• ‘Standing Order’ 19 provides that NABTEB Tenders Board shall not be the final approving authority but the Governing Board, for contracts and expenditure that the Management of NABTEB enters into.
• Accordingly, all approvals of NABTEB shall be forwarded to the Governing Board for consideration and approval.
All these were done by the former Chairman to falsely enrich himself. Indeed, that made him a sole administrator of NABTEB.
v. As part-time Chairman, the former Chairman was not entitled to a permanent office, but he directed the Registrar and insisted on being provided with an office, as well as for his assistants, in the NABTEB Liaison Office in Abuja. The office was furnished according to his dictates, thereby depriving the Zonal Office of the space needed for control of “examination materials” which is a major activity of the examination process.
vi. The former Chairman requested for an official passport for himself. Subsequently, he issued a Governing Board policy that will ensure that he – as the Chairman – and his close associates in the Board will be attending the conferences of International Associations on Assessment on behalf of NABTEB instead of NABTEB staff who need to attend the conferences to present research papers and for their capacity building thereby denying staff the opportunity of developing their research and assessment skills.
vii. The former Chairman, sent a letter of suspension to the Registrar without waiting for the approval of the Federal Ministry of Education; and he immediately started implementing his long-term planned agenda to remove the Registrar. One wonders how defensible it is for the Chairman of a Governing Board to act so swiftly without waiting for approval by the Federal Government. He sent a letter suspending the Registrar, and immediately, gave a directive that the Registrar’s driver should abandon the Registrar/Chief Executive and bring the official vehicle to him while in Abuja.
viii. Instead of playing the advisory and supervisory role as stipulated in the NABTEB regulations via the Act establishing the Board, Prof. Shilgba took over the functions and office of the Registrar/Chief Executive. The former Chairman even went the extra mile to humiliate the Registrar by instructing the security officers to deny the Registrar access into the office premises.
ix. Without submission by Management and advertisement in Federal Government Tenders Journal and two other National Dailies as required by the Procurement Act, Prof. Shilgba brought vendors to bid for the contract of online service providers.
x. Without consultation with the Registrar/Chief Executive, Governing Board meetings were scheduled singlehandedly by the former Chairman and agenda for such meetings were drawn by him alone.
xi. Indeed, the climax of Prof. Shilgba’s overzealousness and disregard for due process and rule of law was demonstrated in his desperate and reckless attempt to change the signatories of the NABTEB TSA accounts at the Office of the Accountant General. He had actually directed the NABTEB Director of Administration to send letters to the Office of Accountant General of the Federation execute this plan in Abuja, thus he instructed that other names be introduced to replace the names of the Registrar and the Director of Finance; however his plan did not succeed.
xii. Up till now, in spite of the Federal Government’s order of dissolution of the Governing Board under the Chairmanship of Prof. Shilgba since 26th June, 2018, he still makes media statements, sends circulars to people with NABTEB letterhead which he signs as ‘Chairman, NABTEB’. Just recently, on July 7, about two weeks after the dissolution of the Governing Board by the Federal government, he sent letters to all members of the dissolved Governing Board calling for an emergency meeting. All these attest to his disrespect for constituted authority and rule of law.
xiii. It is, therefore, difficult to understand how someone who is so reckless and has no respect for orderly procedures would engage Nigerians for almost a month on the pages of newspapers and online/other social media, misrepresenting his true self and parading himself as a victim rather than the oppressor and offender that he is.
xiiii. Indeed, an official vehicle, which the Registrar sent with an official driver to provide comfortable transportation for the former Chairman during the inauguration on 22nd March, 2018 in Abuja, is yet to be returned to NABTEB. He has seized the vehicle and continued to use the Government-owned vehicle without official and authorized driver. He sent back the NABTEB official driver that drove the vehicle to him and kept the vehicle, which is an act unbecoming of a Public Officer.
xv. To say the least, arising from the Registrar/Chief Executive’s disposition over the former Chairman’s immoderations, he shied away from dealing with the Registrar directly, instead he gave directives to staff that he could readily intimidate.
7. It should be noted that most of the queries and accusations of the former Chairman against the Registrar stemmed from the former Chairman’s tenacious hold on the wrong idea that it is the Governing Board, rather than the Tenders Board of NABTEB, that is in charge of procurement irrespective of the threshold.
8. The truth of the matter is that NABTEB Tenders Board approved, as always, some of the contracts the former Chairman is parading in the media which are within its threshold, while the others above its threshold, necessary approvals were obtained from the Ministry.
9. It is unfortunate that despite both verbal and written candid explanations of the Registrar in response to the several queries of the former Chairman, he still holds firmly to his erroneous belief that contracts were awarded hurriedly before the Governing Board was inaugurated to avoid due process. One wonders what due process he was referring to since whether or not the Governing Board was in place, the approving authority was still going to be either the NABTEB Tenders Board or the Ministerial Tenders Board.
10. The conclusion of the former Governing Board of NABTEB led by Prof. Shilgba on alleged contract splitting was erroneously reached because, neither the Chairman nor the ill-constituted Investigative Committee that indicted the Registrar and some Directors had the patience and good will to find out the true procedure adopted in the procurement of the items queried. The Registrar, who is the Accounting Officer, was neither interviewed by the committee nor given the opportunity to defend herself contrary to the rules of fair hearing as entrenched in the 1999 Constitution.
She was only called in briefly after the committee had presented its concocted report during the first board meeting and was mandated to answer Yes or No as to whether she was guilty of the former Chairman’s accusations or not. And when she asked for opportunity to explain, the Chairman overruled and her request was denied.
11. For the avoidance of doubt, all the allegations of inflated contract units and debts that could not be explained are false. Since the former Chairman continued to misunderstand the written submissions made to him, we considered it necessary to meet and explain issues personally. But, it was clear that the former Chairman and his team had already made up their minds to accomplish their sinister plan against the Registrar, hence, all attempts made by the Registrar to meet with the former Chairman to which he initially agreed to were eventually rebuffed by him.
12. It is important to note that the so called Investigative Committee which presented its report to the First Governing Board Meeting, on the basis of which the former Chairman suspended the Registrar, was not properly constituted as it did not meet the criteria stipulated in the NABTEB Regulations: Eight members of the Board are to call for the meeting, which also should be a regular meeting. The reverse was the case in this instance, as the former chairman personally called for the meeting and even refused to listen to a member who tried to draw his attention to the misnomer.
The committee was appointed during one of the several ad hoc meetings called by the former Chairman mainly for the purpose of dealing with the Registrar who had not acceded to his several selfish demands. The committee was made up of essentially the Chairman’s clique who also seemed to have their own vested interest. The inclusion of the representative of the Federal Ministry of Education by the former chairman as those who produced the report was falsehood as she was absent and did not participate in any of their meetings. Her name was only included as a strategy to garner credibility.
13. What else could be expected from a committee that was hand-picked by the former Chairman at an ad hoc meeting that was attended by a few members, even before the first regular meeting of the Governing Board? The former chairman by this singular act made himself both the accuser and the judge against the Registrar contrary to the principles of fair hearing.
14. To avoid conflicts on several issues concerning the roles of the Board and Chief Executive Officers, the Federal Ministry of Education organized a retreat/workshop where the roles of Chairmen of Boards and Chief Executives were carefully explained; and, a representative of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), among other officials explained the procurement process. Even at the first meeting of the NABTEB Governing Board, when some members tried to enlighten the former Chairman about the role of the Governing Board on procurement matters, he was not willing to listen to suggestions and overruled everyone as if he was a sole administrator.
15. On the issue of illegal recruitment, the former Chairman in one of his queries had accused the Registrar of recruiting more than thirty staff. The Registrar explained that the Board did not recruit thirty staff, rather only fifteen staff who hail from five Geopolitical Zones were employed to replace exited staff. Approval was obtained from the supervising Ministry as far back as July 2017, and due process was followed, hence the process took long and was only completed in December, 2017 which was long before the Governing Board’s inauguration by the end of March, 2018.
16. The Registrar had informed the former Chairman about this and hinted that NABTEB was still short-staffed, therefore, there was need for both the Governing Board and NABTEB Management to join hands and articulate current staff needs so that proposal could be made to relevant authorities for approval of staff recruitment. However, rather than listen and settle down and work with the Registrar, and seek constructive ways of moving the Board forward, the former Chairman continued to search for troubles everywhere, meddling in the day to day running of NABTEB, especially, causing confusion among staff with his publications in the social media, thereby rendering the entire period of his tenure unproductive and turbulent.
17. The foregoing is just a few illustrations to show that the former Chairman in all his dealings with the Registrar/Chief Executive, right from the very beginning, was driven by avarice and greed, and was simply looking for ways of obtaining his ‘pound of flesh’ for the refusal of the Registrar/Chief Executive and the Directors to succumb to his whims and caprices. Therefore, the report of his ill-constituted Investigative Committee which indicted the Registrar as well as other accusations of the former Chairman cannot be said to be objective or tenable, thus, should be discountenanced by all.
Professor (Mrs) Ifeoma Mercy Isiugo – Abanihe