Interim investigation report in the case of Official Corruption involving Federal Ministry of Education and Members of the National Assembly
1. Professor Fabian Osuji
2. Senator Adolphus Wabara
3. Senator Chris Adighije
4. Senator John Azuta Mbata
5. Senator Ibrahim Abdulaziz
6 Hon. Dr. Shehu Matazu
7. Senator Badamasi Maccido
8. Senator Emmanuel Okpede
This report deals with the case of official corruption and diversion of public funds which is being investigated based on intelligence report gathered by the Commission from the beginning of 2005, thus, prompting detailed investigation.
Facts of the Case:
The Commission in its continuous effort to address and control all forms of economic and financial crimes including corruption has been gathering intelligence reports on incidence of fraudulent activities and one of such reports is an allegation of official corruption leveled against some Senators and the Minister in charge of Education in respect of the 2005 budget. The specific allegation of official corruption was that some members of the National Assembly demanded from the Minister of Education who in turn offered to the members of the National Assembly some amount of money in order to smoothen the process of passing the ministry's 2005 budget. The amount of money involved is the sum of N55 million.
As soon as the report was received, investigation commenced immediately. The following witnesses who mostly are staff of the Federal Ministry of Education were invited for interview and they volunteered statements. Subsequently, the principal suspects were invited for interrogation whereby they volunteered statements under words of caution. However, some of the principal suspects (Senator A. Ibrahim and Hon. Dr. Shehu Matazu) could not be reached for interrogation as they were said to be outside the country (in Malaysia).
Below are the statements of the witnesses and the suspects.
Prof. Peter Okebukola: He is 54 years. He is the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC). He stated that on December 3, 2004, he was invited by the Hon. Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji, along with some of his Directors including the Deputy Director, Accounts, Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Director, Inspectorate and the Director, Higher Education and Ag. Permanent Secretary, Dr. P.S. Abdu, (the Permanent Secretary was not around) to a meeting in the Hon. Minister's office. At the meeting, he was informed of the request by the National Assembly that the Federal Ministry of Education should contribute N50 million in order to facilitate the passing of the ministry's 2005 budget. He was informed that the money should be raised by the parastatals of the ministry. He indicated that the NUC had no such money but that a loan of N20 million can be given to the ministry. He then requested for an official directive/application for the loan. The Ministry applied for the loan vide its letter Ref: HME/FME/31/VI/189 dated 3rd December 2004. The NUC granted the loan as evidencd by payment voucher reference number NUC/URC/1132/12/04 and cheque number 31417062 dated 03/12/04 for N20 million.
Dr. P.S. Audu: He is 58 years. He is the Director, Higher Education and Acting Permanent Secretary. He stated that on December 3, 2004, he was invited to a meeting by the Minister along with the Director of Administration, Dr. B. Ibe, Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr O. Ilesanmi and the Acting Director, Finance. That the Minister told them that the leadership of the National Assembly demanded for N50 million to enable them pass the Ministry's 2005 budget. The Directors said that the amount of money was high and could not be raised from within the Ministry. It was then resolved that the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, a parastatal under the Ministry, be contacted. He later came and joined the meeting. That the Executive Secretary was told that the Ministry needed to raise some money. That the Executive Secretary said that he cannot release any amount of money without the consent of his management hence he demanded for a letter of request from the Ministry. He further stated that he was called out of his home at night around 9 pm by the Minister and was asked to direct the Finance department to release the sum N55 million to rescue Suleja Academy.
Mr Olu Ilesanmi: He is 57 years. He is the Director, Planning Research and Statistics. He stated that between Monday, November 29, and Friday, December 3, 2004, he attended a meeting presided by the Minister in the Minister's conference room. He said that the Director, Finance and Accounts or Deputy Director as well as the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, were in attendance. The Minister told them that he attended a political meeting the previous night and was told that the Ministry had not been doing PR as was expected and that unless the Ministry came up with N55 million, the Ministry's 2005 budget will be badly treated by the Senate. Therefore, the main purpose of the meeting was to ascertain how to raise the money and deliver it latest by noon the following Monday. Because of the large amount of money involved, it was all agreed that the only viable option was to get any of the buoyant revenue generating parastatals, NUC, JAMB, ETF, to raise the money. It was then that the Executive Secretary of NUC was invited to the meeting and he was sympathetic to the problem and offered to help.
Dr. B.B. Ibe: He is 52 years. He is the Director, Administration. He stated that a meeting was held in the conference room of the Minister on December 3, 2005, on how to get the National Assembly to pass the 2005 budget. He said that the amount of N50 million was needed to be given to the members of the National Assembly. He said that they were all saddened by this demand because the Ministry had been going through a lot of financial difficulties. As a result, the Executive Secretary of NUC was invited to assist and to lend the Ministry the sum of N20 million which is to be given to the Senate and House committees on Education.
Mr Frank Ike: He is 58 years. He is Deputy Director, Finance. He stated that he attended a meeting in the Minister's conference room where the Minister, other directors and Acting Permanent Secretary were in attendance. They were told that the Ministry needed N55 million to lobby the National Assembly committee. He was directed to source money from any place as this was an emergency situation. Having had a bad experience with the staff on salary shortfall, he had no option than to look for money in order to avert the ugly situation. He was informed that the NUC had agreed to give a loan of N20 million to the Ministry and had to source the balance of N35 million. Subsequently, the following day he collected a cheque for N20 million from NUC and cashed it and also cashed the cheque for N35 million from the Ministry. The money was brought to the Minister's conference room and was later taken to Senator Adighije's house at Apo legislative quarters in the company of the Minister. The Minister then called Ngozi Obichere, the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Education. At that point he left the Minister and Secretary of the Senate Committee with the money.
Mr. Andrew Ugwu: He is 43 years. He is the head messenger in the Ministry. He stated that in December 2004, he was invited by Mrs. Mohammed, Assistant Chief Accountant, Central Pay Office (CPO), to the Minister's office where they were asked to assist in removing some bags of Ghana must go containing some money which they loaded into the CPO's office vehicle. Thereafter, himself, the Deputy Director, Finance, one Mr. Njoku, one Benson and the bus driver drove in the bus behind the Minister in his own jeep and proceeded to a house located at Apo legislative quarters, as he later discovered. They offloaded the money under the supervision of Deputy Director, Finance, inside the house where they met the Minister already seated. They then drove back to the office leaving the Minister behind.
Mr. Njoku F. Ejike: He is 40 years. He is a staff of CPO working under Mrs. Mohammed. He stated that sometime in December 2004, between 6 and 7 pm, Hajiya Mohammed requested him to join some other staff to carry some money to the Minister's office in company of the Deputy Director, Finance. "We then carried the money into the Ministry's bus and went to Apo Legislators quarters where the Deputy Director, Finance asked us to offload the money into the house." Thereafter, they went back to the office leaving the Minister behind.
Ngozi Obichere: She is 40 years. She is Senior Legislative Officer and Secretary, Senate Committee on Education. She is also the Administrative Officer of the Committee. She stated that on December 3, 2004, she was instructed by her Chairman, Senator Ibrahim, to proceed to Senator Adighije's house where she met her Chairman and the Minister of Education where they discussed the budget which the House and Senate Committee on Education were handling. That the Minister sought the committee's understanding in the processing of the Ministrys 2005 budget and brought some amount of money. Then her Chairman requested that she should call the Chairman of House Committee on Education, Dr. Shehu Matazu, Senator Okpede and Senator Maccido to come to Senator Adighijes residence. During the budget session, there was a disagreement as to whether or not to see the Minister over making presentation as to what improvement they want in their 2005 budget. This led to his making a promise to do something about bringing some money to the committee which he did on December 3, 2004. As the meeting was going on, he said that since he had fulfilled his promise, he hopes the committee will take another look at the Ministrys budget. She further stated that sometimes during committee discussion, the secretary will be requested to step outside the room when certain matters are discussed especially when it has to do with finances/welfare packages. "To this extent, ones knowledge of all that transpired will be limited to what one is allowed to be part of." She was then directed to work on the Ministrys budget after the Minister brought some money to them on December 3, 2004 that she was given N1 million only by the Chairman, which she shared, with some of her staff.
Hajiya Hafsat Mohammed: She is 41 years. She is the Acting Chief Accountant of the Ministry. She stated that in the first week of December 2004, the Deputy Director, Finance, called her in his office and said that they should go to NUC and collect a cheque. At the NUC, he signed a payment voucher and a cheque of N20 million was given to him, they proceeded to Wema Bank and cashed the cheque and took the money to the Ministers office.
Mrs. Paulina I. Olaniye: She is 48 years. She is the cashier of the Ministry. She stated that in the first week of December 2004, Mrs. Mohammed gave her a cheque of N35 million written in her name to cash it at Equitorial Trust Bank, Abuja. Mrs. Mohammed told her to take the money to the Ministers office.
Prof. Fabian Osuji: He is 63 years. He is the Minister of Education. He volunteered his statement under words of caution. That in December 2004, the Senate and House Committee on Education had practically completed action on the Presidents budget as it related to Education for 2005. He was informed that the Committee did not intend to invite him although they had invited all
the heads of parastatals and agreed with them on what to do. He became alarmed because in September 2004, and earlier, he had serious problem with the salaries of staff in the ministry and the unity schools who had in fact embarked on various forms of action against the administration because of unpaid salaries and advances. This is because the 2004 budget as submitted by Mr. President had been seriously modified to the disadvantage of the Ministry but in favour of the parastatals. This is because his ministry had not done any PR for the committees, in spite of their approval of over N100 billion appropriations for the Ministry. They were determined to get even with his ministry this time around. Through the assistance of Senator Adighije, a meeting was held with the Chairman of the Senate and House Committees on Education as well as the Appropriations chairman in the residence of the Senate President to try and resolve the impasse. At the meeting, he was made aware that the committees had jointly resolved not to approve the Education budget unless some PR was done for the committee. The Senate President himself emphasized the need for the Ministry of Education to come forward with necessary PR or risk its budget not being passed as proposed by Mr. President. This was on a Thursday and the Ministry was given up to Monday at 2 pm to come up with a proper PR or forget the budget. The next morning he summoned a meeting of his acting Permanent Secretary, Ag. Director of Finance and Director, Planning, Research and Statistics and put the problem before them. There and then, they informed him that he was in fact blamed for the shortfall of the year, as he did not authorise any form of PR for the Senate and House committees. The Directors subsequently agreed amongst themselves to source funds from outside the Ministry for some PR for the committees. That he was aware that the NUC had volunteered to provide some loan for the purpose. The following Monday, the money, N55 million, was delivered to the Senate and House Committees at the residence of Senator Adighije. The Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Ibrahim, the House Committee Chairman, Dr. Matazu and the Appropriation Chairman, Senator Mbata were all present. Following which the PR the issue were resolved.
Senator Adolphus Wabara: He is 56 years. He is a Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District and President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He said that sometime in December 2004, Senator Chris Adighije went to see him in his house. Senator Adighije told him that Minister of Education is having problems with the Senate and House Committees on Education and members refused to grant audience to the Minister to defend the 2005 budget. Senator Adighije gave a number of reasons why members of the two committees are at odds with the Minister. Senator Adighije pleaded with him to intervene on behalf of the Minister. He agreed to intervene and summoned a meeting of the two committees. The meeting was held in his official residence at the Apo legislators quarters on the agreed date. The leadership of the two committees as well as the Minister in the company of Senator Adighije and Senator Mbata were in the meeting. The leadership of the two committees expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Minister during their oversight visit to the Ministry shortly after the year 2005 budget was presented to the National Assembly. He pleaded with the leadership of the two committees to grant the Minister audience to defend his budget. He said that at no time during the meeting was any form of monetary demand made from the Minister. So also, that no money was given to him or in fact anybody by the Minister.
Senator John Azuta-Mbata: He is 45 years. He is a second term Senator representing Rivers East Senatorial District, Rivers State. He is also the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation and Finance. He stated that on December 3, 2004, he stumbled into a meeting at the Senate Presidents house. He was not invited but admitted into the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to make peace between the chairmen of the Education Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on the one hand and the Minister of Education on the other. There were some complaints arising from certain committee oversight observations about the Ministry of Education. Having listened to both sides, the Senate President admonished them to co-operate and pleaded for understanding between them. There was no discussion of financial benefit of any type neither was any money given to him subsequently.
Senator Chris Adighije: He is 60 years. He is a Senator representing Abia Central and a member of the Senate Committee on Education. He stated that about mid November 2004, after attending several of the joint meetings of the Senate and House Committees, he realised that the Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji, was not in the good books of the two committees. He called the attention of the Senate President who intervened to smoothen the soured relationship. The Senate President invited Prof. Osuji for a meeting with the Education Committee members in his (Senate Presidents) residence on a Thursday night, possibly November30, 2004. Those present at the meeting were the chairman Senate Committee on Education, the Chairman, House Committee on Education, the Chairman, Appropriation Committee, Senator Mbata, The Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, Senator Emmanuel Okpede, Senator Badamasi Maccido and himself. Also present was the Secretary, Senate Committee, Mrs. Ngozi Obichere. At the meeting, the committee chairman narrated how difficult the Minister had been and had neglected to do PR for the Committee right from the preparation of the 2004 budget. Accordingly the committee was not going to invite the Minister to defend the 2005 budget. At the end of the deliberation, the Senate President clearly asked the minister to honour any promises he had made to the joint committee which they claimed was N50 million. The senate president also advised the minister to try and raise the money by Monday, December 3, 2004. By the evening of 3rd December, 2004, Prof. Osuji called him to say that he had assembled the money and that he would like to take it to his house. He also requested him to inform the committee. He did so and the two chairmen, Senators Okpede and Maccido and the Secretary, Senate Committee, assembled in his house before the Ministers arrival with the money. The money was handed over to the chairman, Senator committee who immediately disbursed it. He admitted receiving N4,750,000.00. He did not know exactly how the rest was shared but he knew that the Senate President was given N10 million, Senator Mbata got N8 million. He was requested to hand over their share to them since they were not at the meeting. When the matter came up last week, the Senate President insisted that the whole money be returned and to lie about everything in order to protect the image of the Senate. Last Sunday, the Senate President assembled the entire money, N55 million and sent it to his house in jute bags. This is same money that was handed over to the EFCC.
Investigation so far conducted based on the statements obtained and evidence gathered, the following facts were established.
That the 2005 budget proposals submitted by Mr. President to the National Assembly was the main subject of the corrupt practice that led to this investigation.
That the Senate and House Committees on Education, chaired by Senator A. Ibrahim and Hon. Dr. Shehu Matazu, did not want to favourably consider the budget proposal of the Federal Ministry of Education
That the Hon. Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji, got wind of the fact that his ministry's budget proposal would not be treated fairly hence he decided to get in touch with Senator Chris Adighije, a member of the Senate Committee on Education.
That a meeting was organized between the Hon. Minister, Prof. Osuji and the SENATE PRESIDENT, Senator Adolphus Wabara with Senator Azuta-Mbata, Senator Adighije, Senator A. Ibrahim and Hon. Dr. Shehu Matazu in attendance.
That the Senate and House Committees on Education demanded for PR before they would grant audience to the Hon. Minister of Education, Prof. Osuji, to defend the ministry's 2005 budget.
That the SENATE PRESIDENT equally emphasized on the need for PR to be made available to the National Assembly otherwise the budget proposal of the Federal Ministry of Education would not be favourably considered.
That the Hon. Minister took the request to his ministry, called a meeting with all his principal officers, including, the Ag. Permanent Secretary, Dr. P.S. Abdu; the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr Olu Ilesanmi; the Director, Administration, Dr. B.B. Ibe, the Deputy Director, Finance, Mr. Frank Ike; with the Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof. Peter Okebukola, in attendance. He informed them that the ministry must raise N55 million immediately and deliver to the National Assembly to avoid being treated unfairly.
That the Executive Secreatry, NUC, Prof. Okebukola, sympathized with the ministry and offered them N20 million as loan.
That the meeting also agreed to take raise N35 million.
That the Deputy Director, Finance, Mr.Ike, together with the Assistant Chief Accountant, CPO, Hafsat Mohammed, went and collected the N20 million cheque from NUC and cashed it at Wema Bank, Abuja, while another cheque for N35 million was issued in the name of the cashier of the ministry, Mrs. Paulina Olaniyi, which she cashed at Equitorial Trust Bank, Abuja.
That the entire amount of N55 million was first taken to the minister's conference room at the Federal Secretariat and and thereafter conveyed to the residence of Senator Chris Adighije at Apo legislators' quarters. The team was led by the Hon. Minister, Prof. Osuji, his aides including the Deputy Director, Finance, Mr. Ike, the Head Messenger in the office of DDF, Mr. Andrew Ugwu and Mr. Njoku F. Ejike, a staff of CPO in the Assitant Chief Accountant's office.
That the entire amount of N55 million delivered to the house of Senator Adighije was in the presence of Senator A. Ibrahim, Hon. Dr. Matazu and Senator Mbata.
That the entire amount of N55 million has been recovered and is with the Commission.
That the Secretary, Senate Committee on Education, Mrs. Ngozi Obichere, admitted being given the sum of N1 million which she shared with her staff.
In the light of the foregoing, particularly the statements of Prof. Fabian Osuji, Senator Chris Adighije and Ngozi Obichere, it is clear that a case of bribery and corruption has been established against THE SENATE PRESIDENT, Hon. Minister of Education, Senator Dr. Chris Adighije, Senator Okpede, Senator Ibrahim A. Abdulahi, Senator John Azuta-Mbata and Hon. Dr. Shehu Matazu. The entire amount has been recovered.
The civil servants mentioned including the Ag. Permanent Secretary, Dr. Abdu, DD Finance, Mr Ike, Director Administration, Mr Ilesanmi, Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr. Ibe and the Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof. Okebukola, did aid and abet the Minister in taking public funds to give to members of the National Assembly as bribe. So also Ngozi Obichere, the Secretary of the Committee, who admitted collecting N1 million.
Efforts are being intensified to conclude investigation and take all necessary steps to bring the culprits to justice.
Executive Chairman, EFCC.