*Wants Refugee Commission Boss, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim Suspended, Probed
Concerned staff of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), has petitioned the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, calling for the suspension and probe of the Honourable Federal Commissioner (HFC) and chief executive officer of the Commission, Mrs. Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim over alleged corruption and misgovernance of the agency, which they say could lead to the imminent collapse of the agency.
The letter dated November 26, 2021, which receipt was also acknowledged by the Office of the Minister on the same day was equally copied to the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa; Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Awasanoye; and the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Ojukwu.
Entitled “Urgent Need to Rescue National Commission for Refigees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons from Imminent Collapse”, the petition allege that “This agency is currently bedeviled by series of challenges basically emanating from maladministration, high handedness, incompetence and corruption” under the leadership of Mrs. Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim.
The concerned staff cited alleged abuse of administrative procedures, contravention of public procurement laws, misapplication of meager resources, illegal appointment of Central Pay Officer (CPO), consistent inflation of travel costs, lack of transparency in the implementation of Project Zero Hunger, inhuman treatment of Persons of Concern (PoCs), and incompetence and lack of understanding of the Commission’s mandate.
On alleged contravention of public procurement laws by Mrs. Sulaiman-Ibrahim, the concerned staff alleged: “There is lack of transparency in procurement matters. The HFC bullied Procurement Tenders Board (PTB) members and ensured anticipatory approvals were done during two PTB meetings held since she assumed office. PTB members that raised concerns over illegality of anticipatory approvals were talked down harshly and intimidated by the HFC.
“In one of the PTB meetings, she ordered printing of contract award letters of capital jobs immediately without even the financial opening for Capital jobs.
“As it is, except for her lackeys, the Director of Finance and Accounts, Usman Abubakar, and the Assistant Director, Procurement, Mr. Obadiah Rimamamsomte, none of the PTB members have a complete picture of how all the funds allocated to the Commission have been spent by the HFC.
“She deployed the Deputy Director, Procurement out of Procurement Unit to Training and a new Director of Procurement, Mr. Adeoye, was posted to the Commission from Bureau of Public Procurement.
“After the PTB meeting of 5th November, 2021, the Commission awarded contract contravening Procurement Act.
“This Assistant Director, Procurement, practically superintends the procurement processes of Commission even as he has no mandate in the Commission. This is a precursor to financial fraud, which portrays the Commission in very bad light.”
They further accused Mrs. Sulaiman-Ibrahim of appointing a Central Pay Officer (CPO), who has never been an employee of government, but who nevertheless signs official financial documents allegedly in breach of financial regulations.
“This is why we strongly believe that she (the HFC) connives with the CPO, who is not a public servant and cannot be disciplined by our laws, to mismanage the Commission’s funds”, the petition reads.
On travel costs, the petitioners alleged: “The HCF inflates travel costs to the detriment of the Commission. Sometimes, she goes on a day trip and collects Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) for 5 days. She mostly uses Air Force jets to travel, but collects ticket fares”.
The petitioners further decried the alleged “misapplication of meager resources”, averring: “The HCF, during her first PTB meeting, appropriated overt N32 million for the renovation and high-end luxurious furnishing of her office at the the Annex and Federal Secretariat.
“This is gross abuse of power and misapplication of funds considering that the Annex office was brand new when she took over and Federal Secretariat office was recently renovated and furnished by her predecessor. This is unconscionable for a head of an agency grappling with millions of hungry, homeless, and jobless Persons of Concerns (refugees, IDPs, etc.).
Regarding alleged “inhuman treatment of Persons of Concern, the aggrieved workers cited an incident where refugees from the Central African Republic had to travel from Kano to Abuja for documentation that should have been done in Kano had the HFC approved.
“Under her supervision, some refugees from Kano were compelled to visit Commission headquarters, Abuja for some documentation. These PoCs, who are clearly indigents, were made to travel through Kano-Kaduna-Abuja road that faces serious security challenges. These refugees travelled on 23rd November 2021 and came to the office on 24th November 2021. Even as they complained of lack of any place to pass the night, they were chased away from the Commission premises in very inhuman manner. This portrays the Commission, which carries out a humanitarian activity in a bad light”, they complained.
They accused Mrs. Sulaiman-Ibrahim of unilaterally replacing the usual distribution of foodstuffs and household items with Project Zero Hunger, which financing they said is shrouded in secrecy.
“The HFC unilaterally initiated a project tagged Zero Hunger with Defence and Police Officers Wives Association (DEPOWA) to replace the conventional food distribution model. It was done in hast, poorly conceptualised and executed, and shrouded in secrecy, as the management if the Commission is ignorant of the financial contribution of the Commission towards the project”, they stated.
They equally accused the HFC of singlehandedly including members and families of the Armed Forces in the Commission’s mandate without recourse to the extant laws or amendment of the law establishment the agency.
The pointed out: “While we hold members of our Armed Forces and their families in the highest esteem and grateful for their sacrifices, their welfare is not part of the Commission’s mandate. The HFC has unilaterally included soldiers and widows of our fallen heroes as pir PoCs while not addressing the most basic needs of our own IDPs and refugees”.
They accused the HFC of harassing and intimidating staff, who raise voice against her administrative style, alleging that she engages the services of spy agents to spy the staff.
“The is sinister moves to intimidate and harass members of staff of the Commission like us that have openly expressed our sincere concerns over the ongoing aberrations.
“We learnt from a reliable source that the current HFC has employed the covert services of even some security operatives to stifle our efforts to sustain your (Honourable Minister’s) legacy in the Commission.
“But since we made this appeal in good faith, as we know that one day we shall be made to account for our deeds here and in the hereafter, we therefore pledge to physically testify to all our complaints in the petition in the Honourable Minister would facilitate our protection”, they added.
Continuing, the aggrieved staff alleged “the corruption-laden lifestyle of this HFC is clearly at variance with the campaign mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the mission and vision of the Honourable Minister”.
“We therefore appeal for you to kindly use your good offices to restore the glory of the Commission in order to maintain the anti-corruption posture of the federal government”, they urged the Minister.
In their two-point prayers, they called for the “Immediate suspension of the HFC to prevent cover-ups and harassments of staff and order for full investigation leveled against her, including an audit of the procurement and financial activities since her assumption of office”.
They also want the Minister to “Direct the HFC to return to the Commission resources spent on these unnecessary, wasteful, and self-serving ventures”.