NAN director, other key officers under probe over multi-million naira scam

Posted by News Express | 24 March 2015 | 4,444 times

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The Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Ima Niboro, may have opened a discreet investigation of key officers of the agency who allegedly took advantage of the ill health of the immediate past CEO, late Dame Oluremi Oyo, to pillage the assets and resources of the organisation.

Reliable sources close to NAN said Niboro swung into action and ordered the probe when he was showed evidence of large-scale fraud allegedly perpetrated by a director of the agency, Joe Bankole, who was the Special Assistant to the late Dame Oyo.

With many members of NAN’s senior management having no access to the ailing former MD, Bankole was said to have exploited the vacuum to feather his own nest to the detriment of the agency and the sterling reputation of Oyo.

He is accused of appropriating all the statutory roles of public procurement and taking personal charge of award of contracts in NAN and its subsidiary, Bizcom. He is further accused of falsely using the name of his principal to award multi-million naira contracts to himself, out of which he reportedly bought an opulent home in the high brow Maitama district of Abuja, while his senior colleagues lived in near squalor in Lugbe, Mararaba, and other satellite towns of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

For instance, the multi-million naira NAN multimedia project initiated by Mrs. Oyo was said to have been taken over by Bankole, who proceeded to award a series of fake and non-existent contracts for the purchase of a wide range of multi-media equipment.

This ranged from digital video and still cameras to multi-media studio equipment, ultra modern smart TV sets and remote mobile broadcast equipment, the bulk of which were never supplied to the agency.

Documents revealed that the most brazen of the scams was the cannibalisation of the NAN satellite infrastructure system, which was the most prized possession of the agency. The system was stripped and sold off in bits and pieces to pave the way for the introduction of a private internet software consultant who became the tool by which the agency was subsequently fleeced of millions of naira. In the end, NAN suffered a loss of a sum in excess of N600 million committed to the satellite system upgrade by the Federal Government under the stewardship of former Managing Director, Akin Osuntokun.

News Express learnt that before Niboro’s arrival, there was no procurement unit in NAN. As a result, these contracts were allegedly awarded with brazen stealing in mind.

One of the first actions of the new management therefore was the setting up of that unit under an assistant director who, with his core staff, were seconded to NAN by the Bureau of Public Procurement.

This new unit has unearthed even more mind boggling scams, which forced the ongoing investigation.

Sensing that the present management was about to open up an investigation into his sordid past, Bankole was said to have authored a series of fictitious and anonymous petitions containing infantile allegations.

Such allegations included one that Niboro’s personal car that he bought in 2011 and which he actually drove to NAN when he resumed as MD on February 7, 2014 was bought for him by the agency in November last year. 

Seeking to use the strategy of false alarm to divert attention from the ongoing investigation, Bankole further spuriously claimed that the renovation of NAN’s run-down and derelict houses in New York, United States of America and Johannesburg in South Africa were untendered for, in spite of the fact that the management sought and received a certificate of no objection for selective tendering since the companies involved were foreign firms. 

A source said: “Any clear-minded staff of NAN will recall that on 7th February, 2014, the very first day the MD came to NAN premises following his appointment, he drove into NAN in that particular car. He has often come to work with the car as with his other personal cars.”

To the claim in the petition that the Managing Director was dismantling the structures of NAN, the source said: “There is hardly anywhere that reform initiatives are mooted that entrenched interests do not take up arms against such steps.

“But on this matter, it is not about staff of NAN taking a stand against our reforms. It is about faceless characters scared of losing their deposits as the age-old structure they have deployed to pillage and bring the agency down to its knees over the years are systematically dismantled.

“Based on the objectives of the reform initiative, the present management envisioned a news agency that had to re-engineer its operations by fully embracing the opportunities inherent in today’s digital technology, and we would pursue these objectives no matter whose ox is gored.

“Part of this initiative was the setting up of a Procurement Unit for the first time in NAN, in accordance with extant statutes. The resultant redeployment of management personnel followed the adoption of that initiative.

“The state of the Editorial Department that ought to be the driving inspiration of the agency was marked by a total loss of control and direction. Issues of in-fighting, contention and building of cliques became paramount among editors, controllers and reporters.

“It became so bad that professional conduct and moral integrity were readily thrown overboard in place of profane affinities. Senior editors were practically not in talking terms with one another in the newsrooms.

“The new CEO had to take action and he did, decisively too. But over-pampered yesterday’s henchmen do not look at such awful, scary indicators. They instead focus irreversibly on what they consider to be their personal entitlements which indeed are the commonwealth of the agency.”

The source commended the new management for ruling against the use of permanent IT consultants and insisting on a build, operate and transfer model for the agency’s current IT infrastructure. 

He also stated that the renovation of New York and Johannesburg properties, which were under the threat of foreclosure by local county authorities, has improved NAN and the nation’s image abroad.

He also said the ongoing renovation and cladding of NAN corporate headquarters, which the petitioner falsely claimed had been fully paid, is another major milestone of the present management, as it had transformed the corporate environment of NAN.

His words: “When the present MD took over, there was not one serviceable vehicle in the agency as all the vehicles were old and wobbly and had since passed their statutory shelf life for government utility vehicles.

“Our new MD, against the tradition of past managements, refused to award contracts to middle men for supply of vehicles and instead awarded supply contracts directly to the vehicles’ accredited suppliers.

“With this strategy he saved NAN millions of naira and successfully procured over 30 brand new cars and buses under the first phase of NAN’s comprehensive fleet renewal.”

News Express was unable to reach either Niboro or Bankole for comments last night but a source close to Niboro indicated that he would not like to be drawn into discussing NAN’s internal issues.

Source: News Express

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