How embattled Radio Nigeria DG, Ladan Salihu, sacked staff who exposed his corruption

Ladan Salihu

Two senior staff of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, who exposed corrupt practices at the corporation, leading to the indictment of its current head, Ladan Salihu, were controversially dismissed by the latter, PREMIUM TIMES investigations have shown.

Abubakar Abdulrahman, a former general manager of Pride FM, Gusau – a subsidiary of FRCN – and Ibrahim Falalu, then Assistant Chief Internal Auditor of Kaduna Zonal Office of the corporation, were dismissed by Mr. Salihu after he was appointed Director General of the public radio organ by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Although Mr. Falalu was sacked in 2014, he and other staff of the federal government-owned radio station believe his travails started five years earlier when he dared to expose the shady deals of the then Zonal Director of Radio Nigeria, Kaduna, Mr. Salihu.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how in 2009, as Zonal Director of Radio Nigeria, Kaduna, Mr. Salihu was recommended for sack after being placed on half salary by the then DG of FRCN, Yusuf Nuhu, following discovery of his alleged corrupt practices by the audit unit of the zonal office.

The shady deals in the Kaduna zone, which included counterfeiting of receipt was discovered by Mr. Falalu, who promptly submitted an internal audit report to Mr. Nuhu.

The latter set up a panel of inquiry. Based on the panel’s findings, Mr. Nuhu suspended him from work, placed him on half pay and wrote to the board of the corporation recommending his sack.

Some of the findings of the panel was that the FRCN receipts number 15051 in the sum of N5,620,000; number 2433 in the sum of N500,000; and number 25581 for N3,500,000 to Katsina State Government for airing of different programmes were forged.

The N5,620,000 was paid with regard to “Gaba dai gaba dai jihar Katsina”, a sponsored programme by Katsina State Government which aired on Sundays and Thursdays at the time.

According to an FRCN Board Paper number 2/2010, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, efforts to untie the knot surrounding the forgery were frustrated by Mr. Salihu who challenged the competence of the inquiry panel, and refused them access to key documents and relevant staff such as the head of the marketing unit at the station.

However, the government of the day did not implement the recommendations – even though that was the second time the accused was indicted for graft – due to what many staff believe was the closeness of Mr Salihu to influential politicians.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, a seemingly unhappy Mr. Nuhu, lamented how an officer with records of graft would become head of the same organisation from which he had stolen.

The former FRCN Director General said while he recommended the termination of Mr. Salihu’s appointment, it was beyond his powers to enforce same, saying the government owns the radio corporation.

Serving and retired officials of radio corporation told PREMIUM TIMES how Mr. Salihu boasts of his connections to any and every government in power and so believes he is untouchable and above discipline.

More exposures

Like Mr. Falalu, Mr. Abdulrahman, then General Manager of Radio Nigeria Pride FM, Gusau, Zamfara State, also suspected that Mr. Salihu was mismanaging the finances of FRCN subsidiaries under his control.

Records show Mr. Abdulrahman stopped lodging commercial revenues of the Gusau station into a joint account with the Kaduna zonal station on the grounds that Mr. Salihu’s office was diverting the deposits.

In a letter dated April 3, 2013, Mr. Abdulrahman wrote the accountant of the Gusau station saying the issue of lodging their commercial revenue into an account opened for them by the Zonal Headquarters in Kaduna was questionable.

An August 16, 2012 letter, with reference number DG400/VOL.V11O5, from the then DG of the corporation, Nuhu Yusuf, had directed that an account be opened for lodging of commercial revenue, whose signatories were to be the Zonal Director – Mr. Salihu; the General Manager of the Gusau Station – Mr. Abdulrahman; and the accountant at Radio Nigeria Pride FM, Gusau.

But in the April 3 letter, the Gusau FM boss wrote the accountant that “no sooner had we begun lodging our commercial earnings into that account no. 1013153118 named Pride FM Gusau-Kaduna National Station, than we realised that the form we filled and signed was ineffective” as they were not, in reality, made co-signatories.

“We were puzzled at discovering how money was being withdrawn from the said account without any recourse to appending our signatures in conformity with DG’s directives,” Mr. Abdulrahman said. “In fact on one occasion, we were made to understand how N1,000,000.00 was withdrawn from the zonal office without our knowledge, let alone consent.”

The financial queries raised by Mr. Abdulrahman, he believes, later became his albatross.

Punishing the whistleblowers

The non-dismissal of Mr. Salihu and his subsequent appointment by President Jonathan on February 14, 2014 as FRCN boss would later become the albatross of the whistle blowers.

As if determined to subject both whistleblowers to the same punishment, they were fired on the same day, December 23, 2014.

According to Mr. Falalu, the new DG first redeployed him, then refused him the official disturbance allowance and later tactically stood down his promotion.

“The DG first directed for my deployment to Abuja Zonal Station to work under an assistant director, thereby, blocking my chance of promotion,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

“In fact, he gave a lame excuse that I should not be promoted to the rank of Assistant Director on the grounds that I do not have a professional certificate. This was coming at a time when some officers were promoted by the Director-General even though they did not possess the said professional certificate.

“Another scenario, which clearly confirmed victimization, hatred and injustice against me was my wrongful dismissal after 27 years of meritorious service to the corporation.

“Following my deployment on 27/05/2014 to Abuja Zonal Station, I reported to work on 6th June, 2014. I started my annual leave on the 16th June, 2014. I later applied for my disturbance allowance to enable me settle in Abuja after the leave.

“At the expiration of my leave on 24th July, 2014, I was neither paid packing allowance nor disturbance allowance in line with Section 153 of Radio Nigeria Staff Regulations. Instead, my salary was immediately stopped since August, 2014. It was a big surprise to me,” he lamented.

Mr. Falalu was eventually sacked for absence from his new duty for over four months without leave.

He has now petitioned the Presidential Advisory Committee on War against Corruption, demanding reinstatement and payment of his entitlements. He is hopeful of being reinstated.

Like Mr. Ibrahim, Mr. Abdulrahman was also controversially dismissed for his alleged refusal to resume in Kaduna after he was transferred there.

Mr. Abdulrahman confirmed that he did not resume in Kaduna as directed.

In response to a query he received on June 24, 2014, he claimed he was redeployed from his position as General Manager of Gusau station verbally “through a mere telephone call by an acting zonal director”.

He said since his redeployment did not follow laid down rules, he refused to comply with it.

Six months later, he was sacked. He, however, believes his treatment and subsequent dismissal from service was an act of victimisation for daring to speak against graft committed by Mr. Salihu.

Background

This newspaper had on August 22 published the first part of its ongoing investigation into Mr. Salihu’s service record, which, if it had been considered by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, would have made him ineligible for the position he currently occupies.

According to that report, a petition by a retiree of the FRCN, A. J. Usman, had in 2008 led to the setting up of an administrative panel by the then DG of Radio Nigeria, Ben Egbuna, to probe allegations of “massive fraud and lack of due process in the activities at the Kaduna zonal station” which Mr. Salihu headed at the time.

The report also referenced a query letter DG.452/VOL.XTV/66, dated July 14, 2008, in which Mr. Salihu was queried for allegedly stealing parts of the funds released to him by the station for the coverage of the 2007 Hajj.

Besides, the report indicated, Mr. Salihu failed to account for $13,800 he received as team leader for the Hajj coverage.

The investigation further showed that in 2009, as zonal director of Radio Nigeria, Kaduna, Mr. Salihu became enmeshed in a receipt forgery scandal and was recommended for sack after being placed on half pay by Mr. Egbuna’s successor, Nuhu Yusuf, who ironically, Mr. Salihu succeeded as Director-General of FRCN.

A panel of inquiry set up by Mr. Nuhu reported that the FRCN receipts numbers 15051 in the sum of N5,620,000; 2433 in the sum of N500,000; and 25581 for N3,500,000 issued to the Katsina State Government for airing of different programmes were forged.

The N5,620,000 was paid with regard to “Gaba dai gaba dai jihar Katsina”, a sponsored programme by Katsina State Government which aired on Sundays and Thursdays at the time.

The panel reported that Mr. Salihu not only awarded contracts above his expenditure limit, but also expressed worry that the contracts “were awarded only to Scale and Symbol Associates Limited without following the extant guidelines for award of contracts in the public service”.

According to our report, he was also indicted for selling, without authorisation, a Medium Wave Antenna belonging to the Corporation for N700, 000 in “violation of the Corporation’s financial instructions which, among other things, require the approval of the Board of the Corporation, and in the absence of the Board, the approval of the Honourable Minister (of Information)”.

The report also found that he was a serving director of Lead Point Nigeria Limited, contrary to the code of conduct for public servants in Nigeria.

No wrongdoing

Mr. Salihu has however said reports of indictment for graft, abuse of office and gross misconduct against him were false and libelous.

He is therefore seeking the payment of N50 billion damages from PREMIUM TIMES within one week.

Mr. Salihu wrote Wednesday, through his lawyer, Rickey Tarfa, SAN, seeking payment of the princely sum and a retraction, which he said must be published in PREMIUM TIMES and five other national dailies – all within seven days.

Additionally, the lawyer wrote, a letter of apology must be sent to Mr. Salihu without delay.

In making those demands, Mr. Tarfa claimed the report brought his client “into a serous [sic] state of disrepute, and tarnished his had [sic] earned reputation which he has built over the years”.

He said should this paper fail to comply with his demands, Mr. Salihu would deploy every means available to seek redress “where we shall claim among other reliefs, both general and aggravated damages”.

Read our earlier reports on Mr. Salihu’s service record below:

INVESTIGATION: How Jonathan appointed suspected serial thief, Ladan Salihu, to head Radio Nigeria

Embattled FRCN DG, Ladan Salihu, demands N50 billion damages from PREMIUM TIMES 

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