The National Agency for Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) was again in the news last week with claims that a Level Four female officer in the agency was showered with N1.3 million estacode purportedly for training in Dubai and China under curious circumstances. The said amount of estacode was said to be reserved for Level 15 officers (directors). NAPEP’s Head of Publicity, Danladi Hassan Kobi, who reacted to the report, was quoted as saying that it was not possible for a Level Four officer to benefit the same value of estacode as a director for foreign training. Some senior officers of NAPEP who were in Dubai and China recently for the training were said to have been thoroughly embarrassed by the development, but could not speak up for the fear of possible victimization, following the suspicion that the lady earned her ‘pay’ through a randy top official who wanted her to make the trip.
Nothing, absolutely, may be wrong with NAPEP embarking on the capacity building of its staff abroad. On the contrary, the alleged reckless waste of public funds on one’s mistress, passed off as official expenditure, is unacceptable. It is a reminder of the claim that a female National Youth Corps member earned N1 million instead of N11,000 under former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nasir El-Rufai, a man very critical of bad leadership today as always. A more recent version of it is the Oyo lawmakers’ wives’ recent jamboree in London for socalled husband support training; where in roughly eight days, about 32 of them squandered N50 million on what critics called a shopping spree.
Sadly, it is unlikely that many public officers would easily splash as much as the amount in question on their mistresses from their legitimate earnings. NAPEP is the Federal Government outfit charged with the reduction of the pangs of poverty, hardship and misery in the land. If corruption has festered in the agency to the extent that one of its top officials boldly ‘eradicated’ the poverty of his in-house mistress with as much as N1.3 million, it follows that NAPEP has turned a notorious rat-infested tunnel plugged with precious bagfuls of fish. The full stories of the culprit are untold as yet.
Even if NAPEP is selling each of its ‘keke’ tricycles for N330,000 as alleged by critics, instead of the FG’s subsidized rate of N295,804, the N1.3 million allegedly used by the yet unknown NAPEP official to pacify his colleague and mistress would be enough to purchase three tricycles, with N310,000 remaining. In today’s Nigeria, many unemployed and distressed graduates would jump at just one tricycle to make ends meet. That a NAPEP boss could dip his hands into public funds and literally use such an amount to thank his mistress for her services is, indeed, an exceptional test case for any serious attempt to sanitize the nation’s congenitally corrupt public service if found to be true. The officer should be quickly identified, prosecuted and punished. He also deserves the boot from his high office in NAPEP after all said and done.
Still fresh in the memory is the Keke NAPEP scam involving millions of naira. Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, had in April last year, petitioned the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, among others, and called for the prosecution of NAPEP officials and leaders of the Keke NAPEP Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (KORAN) for allegedly conniving to steal the sum of N417 million from Keke NAPEP proceeds. The petition, which Agbakoba wrote on behalf of his client, Autobahn Techniques Limited, alleged that the Keke NAPEP project, which recorded huge success in 2002 and 2003, ran into hitches subsequently because of KORAN’s internal strife which was exploited by one of its factional leaders and some NAPEP officials to perpetrate the fraud.
The Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation which investigated NAPEP’s activities in 2009 also came out with a report not too different from the content of Agbakoba’s petition. The committee report, for instance, alleged that “the collection and distribution of the assembled tricycles were surrounded by lots of shoddy manipulations between NAPEP, the Initiative for Peace, Empowerment and Tolerance International (IPET) and KORAN”; as well as diversion of funds, among others against NAPEP. Senior Special Assistant to the President and National Coordinator of NAPEP, Dr. Magnus L. Kpakol, had since denied involvement in any misdeed. It would seem, however, that the current allegation of N1.3 million undeserved ‘gift’ to a Level Four female officer by whoever has presented yet another fresh opportunity for the relevant authorities to take a more penetrating look at the goings on in NAPEP.