The Managing Director of the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority [UBRBDA] Yola, Aliyu Jijiwa, is enmeshed in alleged age falsification scandal to enable him evade early retirement from public service.
An investigation by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Mr. Jijiwa was statutorily supposed to have retired from service on July 14, 2015, and was duly notified by the management of the agency in a letter dated March 25, 2014.
A check on the nominal roll of the agency as at September 2014 showed that Mr. Jijjiwa was born on December 31, 1954.
But his date of birth was altered as at July 2015 to read July 30, 1955.
Public service law in Nigeria mandates officials to retire after spending 35 years in service or after turning 60, or whichever one comes earlier.
From the records available to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Jijiwa’s alleged alteration of his date of birth triggered what appeared to be a fraudulent extension of his date of retirement.
Another letter from the UBRBDA dated March 25, 2014, with reference number S/PEN/1/T/84, and signed by Principal Admin Officer, Musa Bello, for the managing director, had notified Mr. Jijiwa of his retirement date and advised him to enroll for a retirement workshop organized by the Pension Commission.
The letter reads in part: “The purpose of this letter is to inform you that in line with the provisions of Section 12 of the Pension Reform Act 2004 and as part of the implementation process of the Federal Government Retirement Bond, the Pension Commission is organising an enrollment exercise for employees in the service of the Federal Government that are due to retire between January and December 2015 by virtue of the age 60/65 years or 35 years in service whichever is earlier.
“Records available shows that you fall within this category as you are due to retire on 14th of July 2015. You are therefore to avail yourself of the enrollment exercise scheduled for 10th April 2014 at Federal College of Education, Gombe.”
Following a petition written to the Ministry of Water Resources raising the allegation of falsification of records against the managing director, the ministry issued a query to Mr. Jijiwa via a letter with Reference Number MWR/S/85/TI/147, dated June 2015.
The query, which emanated from the office of the director of human resources at the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, and signed by one S.P. Ayuba on behalf of the permanent secretary, demanded that Mr. Jijiwa respond to the allegations “not later than 72 hours from the receipt of this letter, so as to facilitate our clear understanding of the facts of the matter and further necessary action”.
Entitled “Petition On Alleged Falsification of Documents”, the query also read: “I am directed to inform you that the attention of the Ministry has been drawn to a petition against you which alleges falsification of documents regarding your age and period of retirement from service.
“The information conveyed through a letter reference UBSH/CON/008/1/207 from the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Yakubu Kirfi, indicated that notification to this effect from Mr. Ahmed Abdulrazak was copied to Executive Directors of Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority(UBRBDA), Deputy Directors of UBRBDA, Legal Unit, UBRBDA, and Chairman Labour Workers UBRBDA, alleging discrepancies in the age recorded in your documents and your international passport.”
PREMIUM TIMES also gathered that on the strength of the query, the matter was discussed at the fourth meeting of the Board of Directors of the agency.
According to minutes of the meeting obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the board observed that the petition on the age falsification allegation was not sent to the board, neither did the management of the authority notify members of the development.
According to details obtained by this newspaper, the Chairman of the board, Clifford Ordia, informed the meeting that his attention had been drawn to the petition against the managing director on falsification of his documents, specifically his age and time of his retirement from service to stay longer in office.
He said such grave allegations against a chief executive was serious, and needed to be investigated.
Mr. Jijiwa had claimed that he was yet to receive a copy of the petition, although he heard about it.
Members of the board expressed surprise that the petition was addressed to Mr. Jijiwa and was copied to all executive directors and chairman of the labour union and wondered why nobody intimated the managing director of the petition.
Although the head of the civil service of the federation notified the agency and the Ministry of Water Resources of the expediency of appointing a new Managing Director for the agency, top officials of the ministry colluded to keep Mr. Jijiwa in office beyond his retirement date.
A letter from the ministry addressed to Mr. Jijiwa titled: “Re:Appointment of a Managing Director for Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority”, dated June 23rd 2015 and signed by one K.M. Ngelale on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the ministry directed a stay of action in his handing over to a new managing director.
The letter reads: “I am directed to inform you that we are in receipt of a letter from the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation on the above subject matter.
“You are hereby advised to stay action on the hand over to the new Managing Director, pending the resolution of your appeal.”
When contacted on the phone, Mr. Jijiwa was reluctant to respond to the allegations and repeatedly refused to answer calls made to his phone.
He, however, responded to a text message put across to him on the matter. He asked to see a copy of the petition before he would respond.
“How will I respond when I am not in possession of the alleged petition,” he said. “I need to see the petition before I make any response, please.”
But when he was informed of the query from the Ministry of Water Resources on the allegations against him, Mr. Jijiwa refused to respond to further calls made to his telephone.
The immediate past Chairman of the Board of the authority, Clifford Ordia, now a senator, confirmed that the matter of record falsification against Mr. Jijiwa came before his board.
According to him, a committee was set up to investigate the matter, but Mr. Jijiwa blocked the committee from sitting, and frustrated their investigation.
“There is nobody that can sweep allegation of forgery against a managing director under the carpet,” Mr. Ordia said. “That is not possible. The issue was discussed at the board level and we set up a committee to investigate him and report back to the house.
“We urged the management, the permanent secretary of the federal ministry of water resources to set up a committee. At that time I was contesting my election.
“He prevented the sub-committee on establishment that was supposed to investigate him from meeting, because the management of the organisation is supposed to provide fund for such meeting.
“Instruction was given to him by the board to provide fund for the committee, but the managing director refused to honour it by preventing them from meeting.
“Now we referred the matter to the Minister through the Permanent Secretary and he took up the matter from there.”
“We also reported to the minister through the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources for necessary action.”
The Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Establishment, which was constituted to investigate the matter, Salihu Bakwai, confirmed that the managing director frustrated all efforts to getting him to submit to the board’s investigation.
Mr. Bakwai said Mr. Jijiwa deliberately refused to allow the secretary of the committee, who is a director in the agency, to attend meetings of the committee.
“The committee couldn’t hold meetings in Abuja or in Yola as the managing director refused to come to Abuja,” he said.
He explained that because the funding of the committee and those to appear before it was dependent on the authority, Mr. Jijiwa ensured that no money was released to enable those involved to attend the hearings.
“The ministry sent somebody to relieve him knowing that he was to retire and was being investigated for falsification of records, he refused to hand over to the person; we asked him to vacate office so we can do the investigation, he refused,” Mr. Bakwai said.
When reminded that the Ministry of Water Resources wrote to the managing director to stay action on handing over, Mr. Bakwai said the matter suffered setbacks as a result of the lack of cooperation from key directors in the authority who had earlier reported the fraud to the board.
“I think they realized that they were not going to benefit from the exit of the managing director, given that the ministry had sent someone to take over, I think the man that was appointed to take over was from Taraba, and that made them to turn around and begin to support the managing director,” Mr. Bakwai noted.
PREMIUM TIMES also sought the response of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, given that a letter from the ministry made a reference to a directive on a new managing director for the authority.
But Director of Communications, Haruna Imrana, said he would not be able to recall such communication unless he had a copy of the letter being referred to.
“We will need to trace the letter and know who signed it as well as the letter from the ministry of water resources before we can ascertain what the position of the Head of Service is on the matter,” Mr. Imrana said.
Officials at the Ministry of Water Resources declined to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry on the matter.