“There can be no faith in government if highest offices are excused from scrutiny – they should be setting the example of transparency.” – Edward Snowden
A dreadful stench of corruption has certainly engulfed the Cross River Basin Development Authority, CRBDA. The agency is just one of such as listed under the supervision of the ministry of water resources. Hundreds of such agencies litter around the landscape of Nigeria under the federal government ministries and parastetals. Only the president of the federal republic of Nigeria has the authority under the law to appoint persons who must be seen to be effectively running the mandates of such agencies of government. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari had selected Nigerians into different designations to serve the country under the CRBDA Governing Board.
Like what obtains of a fatal death, Nigerians were bewildered on October 8 over the breaking news in CRBDA. It was the dismissal of the Governing Board Chairman, Rt. Hon. Eseme Eyiboh. Many had to fact check whether the board was also completely dissolved. Fortunately, there was no dissolution of the council, even as a member of the five-man body, Engr Ademola Oyadare has been directed to take over the chairmanship of the board. The situation makes it interesting that many would wish to be sure that either the sacked Chairman had engaged in unethical practices, or that his strict adherence to known rules of engagements has become his ‘glorious weak point’, setting him up against those who would rather compound President Buhari’s corruption war than join hands in winning it.
Two days later, on Saturday, October 10, Eseme Eyiboh told the story of his anguish in the service of the nation under the CRBDA. Writing on the topic, “My Removal From Office As Chairman Of Cross River Basin Development Authority: My Reaction”, Eyiboh told the sad tails of what pondits have described as “the worst form of corruption under the nose of President Muhammadu Buhari. The long Essay was a conspicuous expatiation of ‘blended corruption’ between the offices of the CRBDA’s Managing Director and the Ministry of Water Resources.
“I have done my best to ensure that the vision of President Mohammadu Buhari of a corruption free society, where probity, accountability and good governance are enthroned, is achieved”, Eyiboh had said, while opening the story. The remaining part of his tale, told in about two thousand words, painstakingly exposed the unhindered pool of corruption in which both the minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu and the MD of CRBDA, Engr. Bassey Nkposong were apparently swimming in. Although Eyiboh did not directly say the minister and the MD were corrupt, the fact speaks for itself.
What are the issues in question? First was the “scandalous public auction of the Nation’s Commonwealth by the MD who is said to have been acting as a sole administrator. This, according to report, lasted unbearably long until the board set up an Ad-hoc committee on Core Mandate Implementation, Procurement, and Establishment Matters. The committee’s report said to have been presented before a meeting with the MD in attendance, revealed “misconducts bordering on serial contract splitting, unilateral and irregular award of contracts without board authorization, illegal recruitments, promotions and conversions, fraudulent endangering of government finances through spurious, illegal and misdirected Public/Private Partnership arrangements; inability to present a reliable financial records, and other malfeasance in the form of lack of transparency and due diligence in the execution of the Basin Authority’s mandate.”
According to Eyiboh, the board unanimously adopted the report and its recommendations, and further took vital decisions, including the invitation of the MD to make a formal written representation on indictment of his misconducts as contained in the report. The MD failed to appear before the panel 21 days later, as he had chosen for himself. Meanwhile all these developments were being formally communicated to the Minister, Engr Adamu. The board had to invoke Section 7(4) of the second schedule of the River Basins Development Authorities Act CAP R.9 LFN on July 20, 2020, issuing a query on the MD. The query came for the MD to explain the: “unauthorized recruitment of 75 persons in 2019, without recourse to the board in breach of section 6[a] of the River Basin Development Authority Act, CAP R.9 Laws of the Federation 2004; irregular conversion/absorption of 35 contract/casual staff in 2019, without the authority of the board; approval and execution of procurement contracts in excesses of the N250,000,000 threshold of the Authority; and unlawful extension of ‘Advance Payment Guarantees’, running into millions of naira contrary to financial regulations.”
Again, the query sought to question the MD’s abandonment of known practices as he “entered into foreign and local MOUs/contractual agreements in the guise of Public Private Partnership without the board’s consent, the supervising ministry, or even the Infrastructure Concessionary Regulatory Commission, ICRC, in line with the ICRC Act; deliberate truncation of all attempts by the board to oversight his activities; refusal to provide management financial Report of the Authority, and its investment arm, CRIBAS, since 2018; refusal to provide the board with establishment, financial, procurement, audited account, auditors report, and internally generated revenue, etc.; and blatant disregard to the board’s existence by reporting everything directly to the minister.
No need to reiterate that the Honourable Minister simply ignored all attempts by the board to investigate the various malpractices, open corruption, contract splitting and regrettable sidetracking of all known procurement requirements. Of course, the unfortunate developments propelled the board to formally suspend the MD on August 13, 2020, a decision formally conveyed to the minister who neither called for a meeting to ascertain situation of things, nor set up the requested administrative panel to ascertain the veracity of the boards findings. The office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation was also being kept abreast of all the developments, through a letter on July 23, 2020 with reference CRB/AD/C.32/S/VOL.XV/178. Surprisingly, instead of the water resources minister, Engr Suleiman Adamu to act on all the issues raised by the board, spanning over 12 months, he was seen swiftly denouncing the MD’s suspension by the board in August this year. Since then, he returned to the usual silence mood only to resurface with the Chairman’s removal in October.
Consequently, it is unambiguously inferred that Nigeria is irredeemably engrossed in corruption. There is even a presupposition that the MD is working hard to get his mandate renewed after it expires in December 2020. Having been a nominee of the immediate past Head of Federal Civil Service, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, a former colleague of the Water Resources Minister, it could be understood why Bassey Nkposong has diverted the CRBDA Board in two years. President Buhari is not known for condoning corruption by public servants. His corruption war does not know age, tribe, political party or religious affiliations. He is known to be ruthless at dismantling elements of corruption at all levels of government.
In fact, if the former Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun could simply be relieved of her duties for a case of forgery of NYSC certificate, Buhari should sack the Water Resources Minister now! If the then CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen could simply be dismissed over false assert declaration, Buhari must sack the Water Resources Minister now! If the immediate past Head of Federal Civil Service, a tight friend of Suleiman Adamu while they both served at the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, was sacked for allegedly siphoning government’s fund, Buhari must sack the Water Resources Minister now! If the then SGF Babachir Lawan was unceremoniously removed for traces of corruption, Buhari must sack the Water Resources Minister now! If the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ibrahim Maku could be arrested, furiously tried and removed from office on account of alleged criminal venture, why shouldn’t President Buhari sack Suleiman Adamu who has done everything to obstruct and disrupt rules of public service engagements?
From all the narratives, it is obvious that the MD of CRBDA, Engr Bassey Nkposong and the Minister, Adamu Suleiman have been deep in conspiratorially defrauding government of billions of naira. This conveniently explains why a man who seeks transparency in public administration is being unceremoniously removed from office. It is a revelation that President Buhari’s cabinet members are in contention with his good intentions for a corrupt-free Nigeria. The Federal Government would be self assessing to set up an independent panel to investigate the weighty corruption allegations hanging on the necks of the CRBDA MD and the Minister. Until then, the anti-Buhari conspirators in the CRBDA and the Water Resources Ministry will continue to feed fat on public funds, while plunging the nation into continuous payment of foreign debts.
Joseph Atainyang is an Uyo-based journalist. E-mail: email@example.com