The Registrar of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB), Ifeoma Abanihe, has denied an allegation that she has been ensnared in corruption since she assumed office.
The allegation was contained in a report published by Sahara Reporters on January 30.
In a message signed by the principal press officer, Uchechukwu Olisah, and sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs Abanihe, a professor, said the report and allegations were false, baseless and orchestrated to blackmail her and tarnish her reputation.
“Both the published report and the allegations contained in it are an orchestrated evil plot aimed at undermining the noble achievements of Prof. Ifeoma Isiugo-Abanihe since her assumption of office as the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of NABTEB. This plan to tarnish her well-earned reputation as a consummate academic and administrator is most unfair and unfortunate,’’ he said.
Responding to claims that the former chairman of the governing board of the agency, Leonard Shilgba, was sacked for checkmating acts of corruption, the agency said it has no mandate to initiate the removal of Mr Shilgba as such powers lie absolutely with the federal government.
Mr Shilgba was removed from office in June 2018. After his removal, he accused the Federal Ministry of Education of covering up fraud in the examinations agency.
But Mr Olisah said Mr Shilgba’s dealings with the board as its chairman did not show that he had regard for due process and the rule of law.
Mr Olisah also said the registrar has no role, nor powers vested as of right to play both in the appointment and removal of her governing board chairman. He also said it is impossible for the registrar to block the constitution of another board chairman.
Also responding to the alleged illegal appointment and employment without required qualifications, Mr Olisah said NABTEB as a federal government institution obtained requisite approvals from all relevant authorities to replace staff that have exited the board’s services, in line with the provisions of Chapter 2 of the PSR No.020101 -020607, Public Service Rules 2008.
He said staff that were suitably qualified for the positions were employed.
He also said there were no irregularities in the placement of staff as it was done by the board’s administration department in accordance with extant rules and procedures.
He said there was no hurried transfer of any staff from one NABTEB state office to another.
‘’Transfer of Staff is an internal quality control measure which may be undertaken to maintain checks and balance and is also used to maintain or improve the number or quality of staff or the social dynamics in specific offices,’’ he said.
Mr Olisah said the issue of the staff, Obinna Opara, being retained by the board beyond his retirement date is untrue, ‘as available records show that he has not reached the statutory retirement age of 60 years.’
He said there is no record to show that he merged his services which would have necessitated his exit from the service after 35 years of service.
He said the issue of shortchanging drivers of their night-allowances was mentioned to the registrar which was discussed at the management meeting with the representative of the drivers present.
“The matter was thoroughly discussed and both Management Staff and Drivers were advised as to how allowances should be disbursed to drivers, and since then, there has been no fresh complaint,” he said.
Mr Olisah said the board is not clear about the allegation of subverting rules in favour of her son-In-law.
Speaking on over-invoicing of contract-sum, Mr Olisah said the board adopted appropriate procurement procedures in determining contract sums and care was taken to obtain all necessary approvals to support contract awards.
He described the allegation of keeping office vehicles in the custody of the registrar as ‘absurd.’ He said activities of NABTEB are organised and executed by various departments and units according to their specialities, stressing that they are not based on the dictates of the Chief Executive Officer.
How it all started
Mrs Abanihe, in 2018 was suspended by the governing board of NABTEB over corruption allegations. Mrs Abanihe said before her suspension that she was neither interviewed by the committee nor given the opportunity to defend herself, contrary to the rules of fair hearing as entrenched in the 1999 Constitution.
Mrs Abanihe rejected all the allegations, saying the chairman marked her out for poor treatment because she did not yield to some of his several financial and other demands, including those he made even before the board was inaugurated.
The education ministry later investigated the crisis triggered by the suspension of the NABTEB officials, and found the Mr Shilgba-led board of unnecessarily harassing Mrs Abanihe and her team. Minister Adamu Adamu immediately dissolved the board.
Mr. Shilgba later accused the ministry of covering up corruption. But checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the removed chairman was high-handed and arbitrary in his dealings with the NABTEB registrar. This newspaper saw evidence in 2018 that he made demands without consideration for due process and accountability.
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