By Mary BASSEY, Senior Investigation Correspondent, Lagos/
THE recent appointment of Brigadier-Generall Buba Mar’wa (retd) as replacement for Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah as the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement agency NDLEA has been hailed by personnel of the nation’s anti-narcotic agency who described the sacked chairman as indolent and grossly incompetent to hold any political office such as NDLEA. A statement signed by one of the senior narcotic officers Musa Ahmed Yusuf and made available to CrimeWorld magazine online conveying the agency’s commendation of the new chairman on one hand and condemnation of the sack embattled chairman on the other, wants the incoming helmsman described as highly cerebral and innovative to be circumspect as he settles down to re-write the narrative of the almost moribund erstwhile nation’s darling drug agency. The statement which chronicled the dismal 5 year grueling tenure of Abdallah to his daring guts days after he was axed out of the agency and mandated to hand over to the Secretary and vacate office by going ahead with the suspended recruitment of new candidates calls for due scrutiny and probe by the incoming administration. The statement reads: “The sad events of Abdallah’s last forty-eight hours in office have further opened up a can of worms on how terrible the Agency was mismanaged under his watch. Some of the issues that contributed in rolling back the wheel of progress in the anti-drug Agency include, age falsification and transfer of Service manipulation by top ranking officers, stagnation of officers career progression amidst monumental corruption and misappropriation of funds. In a desperate attempt to cover up the financial misappropriation, indiscriminate awards of marks to applicants and unprecedented manipulation, Abdallah blatantly disobeyed the directive of the Attorney General and Honourable Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN to stay action on the recruitment exercise. The Minister’s order was flouted by the director of Training, Mrs. Chinyere Obijuru, the director of Administration and Finance, Mr. Epeso E. Ngale and the director of Prosecution, Mr. Joseph Nbona Sunday because of their blind loyalty to Abdallah. If as directors, they do not understand that the Minister’s directive is superior to that of Abdallah; it is obvious why the agency has remained comatose under their watch.”
In the area of age falsification, the statement noted,
“A massive age falsification fraud and transfer of Service manipulation by some very top ranking officers was discovered in the Agency. While the age fraud was allegedly perpetrated during the Federal Government shift to the Integrated Personnel Payroll Integration System (IPPIS); the transfer of Service manipulation was done at the point of entry. The scandal was blown open by a petition to the President. Consequently, Abdallah was directed by the Presidency to act accordingly. Unfortunately because the former director of Administration and Finance, Mr. Yohanna-Sila Mshelia was involved with other directors, Abdallah could not carry out a comprehensive and non biased investigation. Yohanna-Sila was employed on August 21, 1998 with a bachelor of law degree (LLB) on grade level 14. This was how most of the directors were unduly elevated contrary to the Civil Service regulations. Abdallah corruptly covered up for most of the directors affected in this scandal. In a display of selective justice, Abdallah only asked Dr. Opara Lawrence and Bala Fage to go on retirement. There are many top ranking Officers that manipulated their age as well as entry procedures under the guise of transfer of Service that ought to have retired but are still in Service. All such individuals must be shown the way out of the Agency. This is in addition to the inconclusive recruitment by Abdallah which did not follow the minimum selection standard in the Agency. Also, the process contravenes the principles of federal character. Usually a committee is constituted by drawing Officers from Administration, Personnel and Training. However, Abdallah completely allowed such a sensitive process to be handled by Em-Plug ICT firm. This is sad and unfortunate as requirements like age, height; certificate and medical fitness were compromised.” The statement also decried the non-participation of staff at the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies NIPSS stressing, “The Agency has been sending officers to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Jos, Plateau State. However, under Abdallah, the Agency lost its slots and the aspirations of officers becoming fellows of the Institute with their colleagues in the military and paramilitary organizations was dashed by Abdallah’s refusal to pay the required course fees. This is even as Abdallah stopped the payment of monthly running cost to commanders since 2016. His hobby is to collect foreign travel allowances even if there is no justification for the trip. When he could no longer travel out of the country due to the Covid 19 pandemic, he started collecting money under the guise of local travels that never took place on monthly basis. An estimated 2.8 billion naira monthly allocation to the Agency is said to have been misappropriated by Abdallah during his tenure. Added to all these is the fact that officers are in deep pain, frustration and disenchantment over their career stagnation. How do you expect an officer with three promotion arrears to be committed to the job? The NDLEA officer is one of the least paid among paramilitary personnel in the country. There are no allowances to justify the hazards of the job. When officers are attacked or die on the line of duty, it is Officers that contribute from their meagre salaries in support of such colleagues.
The most recent case is the Hung attack in October 2020 where an officer Samuel Abba was burnt to death and Tope Omopu was left in a critical state. Abdallah did nothing to the family of the dead and Tope Omopu that is still battling for survival at the hospital. We are psychologically tortured daily by the economic hardship confronting officers.
Even when the Edo State Command headquarters in Benin City, Orlu in Imo and Nnewi in Anambra were destroyed during the End-SARS protest in October, 2020, Abdallah never visited the affected commands. As if he was determined to cripple NDLEA, Abdallah sold the official quarters for the Chairman at George Street Ikoyi, Lagos. He also sold part of the Shaw Road, Ikoyi Lagos premises of the Agency. This is a man who never acquired a property for the Agency yet he had the audacity to sell what he met. Major General Musa Baimayi of blessed memory that is credited with acquiring property for the Agency across the country never sold one. And in the face of this, Abdallah never released money for the funding of operational activities. This has denied the Agency of spectacular seizures leading to the dismantling of drug trafficking cartels. Concerned Officers discovered that Abdallah only directed the payment of operational cost last week and backdated it for the month of December 2020. What happened to the monthly allowances since 2016?”
The stamen therefore, recommended that, “The Agency has suffered so much under Abdallah and the following steps should be taken to rectify the abnormalities. The directorate of Administration should be separated from Finance. Finance directorate should be headed by a qualified financial expert. There should be proper placement of officers to address the lack of promotion and low morale.
Provision of medical care to Officers in serious challenge like Tope Omopu that was recently attacked and others requiring intensive medical attention. There is the need to fill-up Command appointment vacancies and transfer officers and commanders that have overstayed in one beat. Investigation of age fraud and transfer of Service by high ranking officers who manipulated their way to the top and that they be shown the way out. Improvement of the salary and provision of operational logistics, reversal of the sold Chairman’s quarters and part of Shaw road official premises; restoration of the Agency’s quota at National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies NIPSS. Investigate the allegations of abnormalities regarding the Abdallah led recruitment and conduct a fresh exercise to be supervised by the Agency staff thereby giving Nigerians a level playing ground and construction of State Command headquarters and Drug Rehabilitation center across the country. While all these are being pursued, there should be a comprehensive probe of Abdallah’s tenure and a change of key account personnel guilty of unethical conduct.”
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