Code of Conduct Bureau summons permanent secretary over corruption allegations

Code of Conduct Bureau Court
Code of Conduct Bureau Court

The Code of Conduct Bureau has summoned a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Power, Louis Edozien, to appear before it over allegations of graft against him.

Mr Edozien is scheduled to appear before the Bureau at the conference room of the Federal Secretariat complex in Abuja on May 30, according to a copy of the invitation letter obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

The invitation is in response to a petition to the agency by Maryam Mohammed, a former General Manager at the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, against Mr Edozien on alleged “grounds of lack of qualification to hold office and abuse of official powers by conflict of interest and participation in official corruption.”

Mr Edozien rose into the public’s consciousness in 2016 after reports emerged that he was occupying the highest position in the Nigerian civil service without, apparently, having a National Youth Service Corps certificate, which is against the civil service rules.

He did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ phone calls and text messages on Tuesday requesting for comments.

A former director at the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Mr Edozien was among 18 permanent secretaries appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015.

The president said at the time that he changed the tradition of subjecting permanent secretaries to written and oral tests before appointment but, instead, subjected them to a “more rigorous selection process.”

A Sudden Sack

According to Ms Mohammed, an erstwhile GM (Audit and Compliance) at NDPHC who authored the petition to the CCB, Mr Edozien (then Executive Director, Technical Services) and Anthony Muoneke (then Executive Director, Finance and Administration) were among the staff of the company who failed to provide their NYSC certificates during a company-wide audit.

But while Mr Muoneke subsequently provided a verified NYSC certificate, Mr Edozien was unable to produce his NYSC certificate as he, apparently, never underwent the programme, she said.

Mr Edozien was reportedly sacked by the company after the audit exercise carried out by Ms Mohammed.

He was later appointed a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Power.

Seven months after Mr Edozien’s appointment by the president, Ms Mohammed’s engagement at the NDPHC was terminated.

“I write to inform you that the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has, in the exercise of his powers, approved your disengagement as the General Manager (Audit & Compliance) of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Nigeria Limited with effect from Friday, 10th June, 2016,” read a letter dated June 10, 2016, and signed by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

“Consequently, you are to hand over the affairs of the Department to the most Senior Officer in the Department.”

No reason was given for the termination.

Mr Buhari transmitted power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and travelled to the United Kingdom on June 6, 2016, to treat a “persistent ear infection.”

He returned to the country on June 19, 2016.

It is unclear if the president approved the termination of Ms Mohammed’s appointment at NDPHC before embarking on his medical leave.

In a letter to Mr Osinbajo dated June 21, 2016, Ms Mohammed argued that there was no disciplinary reason or committee to which she had been subjected to and found guilty before dismissal and that she had never been found wanting or reprimanded during her years in the civil service.

One week later, Ms Mohammed petitioned the president against her “wrongful disengagement,” claiming she was dismissed by persons who felt aggrieved with some decisions she took as GM Audit & Compliance.

“My disengagement was said to have been approved by you in exercise of your power as President,” the petitioner wrote in the letter dated June 28, 2016.

“I received the said letter 17 days after my disengagement was announced in the media.”

According to Ms Mohammed, the SGF had announced the dissolution of the executive management of the NDPHC by the federal government and directed the managing director and all executive directors to hand over their positions immediately.

“Strangely and shockingly, the SGF also directed me to handover to the most senior officer in my department even though I am not a member of the dissolved Executive Management but a staff of the company of 24 years of unblemished career that rose to the position of General Manager through sheer hard work, commitment and dedication to duty.

“Curiously, there are 12 other General Managers of the same status as me that were allowed to remain in their positions, obviously because they are staff of the company and not members of the dissolved Executive Management.”

On October 25, 2016, the Attorney General of the Federation wrote to the president’s Chief of Staff informing him of Mr Buhari’s approval, during a meeting on October 12, 2016, for the reinstatement of Ms Mohammed.

Ms Mohammed wrote another petition to the president on December 19, 2016, reminding him of the need to act expeditiously on the matter in the interest of justice and fairness.

Mr Edozien is said to be a long-term associate of Abba Kyari, Mr Buhari’s Chief of Staff.

Despite the president’s approval, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Ms Mohammed is yet to be reinstated till date.

Allegations of graft

In her petition to the CCB dated April 9, Ms Mohammed argued that it is a “grave anomaly” for someone who was sacked for presenting a fake NYSC discharge certificate to be elevated to the position Permanent Secretary.

The petition also accused Mr Edozien of a breach of public service rules by his regular involvement in transactions which pose a clear conflict of interest arising from his position as a permanent secretary.

According to the petition, Mr Edozien is an interested party in Gigagas, an energy-sector company he is allegedly pushing to “initiate technical and commercial discussions with potential drilling, gas processing and pipeline partners and contractors for accelerated delivery of the gas.”

The petition further accused the permanent secretary of concluding a deal with the American firm, General Electric, for the Afam 3 Power project, without any tender and side-stepping the government’s due process.

“As evidence of the Perm Sec’s personal interest in this regard, as the GE transaction began to crash, the Perm Sec approached the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and demanded that it become an investor in it by the immediate release of $34 million, a demand which was refused by the NSIA.”

In January, PREMIUM TIMES obtained a correspondence between Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, and Mr Buhari in which the former alerted the president of a concession agreement in which key electricity transmission infrastructures belonging to Transmission Company of Nigeria were allegedly awarded to Alheri Engineering Company and Phase 3.

According to the correspondence, the concession agreements were entered into under circumstances of conflict of interest because Phase 3 is owned and managed by one Stanley Jegede, a son-in-law to Cornelius Adebayo, who was the Minister of Communications when the company obtained the licence.

Also, Joseph Makoju, a former managing director of NEPA who signed the agreement on behalf of TCN is now an executive officer in Dangote Group, the owners of Alheri Engineering Company.

In her petition to the CCB, Ms Mohammed also said the conflict of interest extended to Mr Edozien whose wife, Ndidi, sits as a group executive in Dangote Group.

“This petition states that the only sure resolution for such a conflict is the resignation of one or both of the parties from the roles held at Dangote Group and at the Ministry of Power.”

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