The Clerk of the National Assembly, Magaji Tambuwal, functions as shareholder and director of a private company, incorporation records show, an action that breaches Nigeria’s anti-corruption law regulating ethical conduct among public officials.
According to the Nigerian Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, public officials are prohibited from managing private businesses except if it is for farming. The purpose of this law is to prevent conflicts of interest and abuse of office among government officials.
However, the company, YASMA Special Services Limited, owned by Mr Tambuwal, which was incorporated in 2010, is focused on “trading, to carry on the business of general contracting, trading, import, export, general logistics services, supplies, transportation, etc.,” as confirmed by company records obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission during PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation.
As the head of the bureaucracy at the National Assembly, Mr Tambuwal, 58, is responsible for overseeing procurement and contracting at the federal parliament. This presents a potential conflict of interest since he owns and manages a company that has an interest in contracting.
Mr Tambuwal did not answer calls or reply to messages seeking his comment on our findings.
This reporter visited Mr Tambuwal’s office at the National Assembly complex to interview him about the company. However, the security personnel at the entrance said all media enquiries should be directed to the clerk’s spokesperson, whom they identified as Shehu. They, however, refused to provide any contact details for the Shehu.
Sending a Surrogate
After calls and SMS to Mr Tambuwal were not replied to, this reporter was contacted by a man in the National Assembly, who simply identified himself as “Labaran”, and requested a meeting on the matter.
It was later discovered that Mr Labaran is the National Assembly Secretary on Finance and Account. This reporter met with him in his office located at the Annex, an administrative building within the National Assembly Complex.
Sitting behind a desk with piles of files on the table, Mr Labaran, who is probably in his 50s with a bit of grey beard, said “Oga” is no longer involved in the company because a letter of resignation was sent to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
“How does the company belong to Oga (Tambuwal)?” he asked with a grin all over his face while he leaned back on his chair.
In a very casual manner, he explained further: “That was before and he has since resigned from the company since. If you go there (CAC), you will get the letter of resignation.”
PREMIUM TIMES had done a physical check at the CAC, and contrary to the claim by Mr Labaran, the clerk is still listed as a director in the company.
This reporter later asked Mr Labaran the date of the resignation, which he said he could not remember. He was also asked to provide a copy of the resignation letter. And after about a five-minute search, he directed this reporter to approach the CAC for a copy of the resignation letter.
He further claimed that the company was meant for farming because the clerk’s family had encouraged him to set it up.
“The company was even meant for farming, and he later realised that there was no need. If you look at the company, the company has never done anything. It has not done anything, it was just registered with his family for farming business. he felt that there is no need,” he said.
When he was informed that the objective of the company as written in the company’s profile is different from farming, Mr Labaran said the Clerk resigned specifically because of the way the company was set up.
“That was the reason why he stepped down now. What he intended to do was different from the company. I wish that you had gone to the CAC for search,” he insisted despite being provided with evidence contrary to his claims.
The Company: YASMA
The company has a total of three million shares, of which Mr Tambuwal owns half. The rest of the shares are held by three other directors and shareholders who apparently have close family ties with him. Sadiya Sani owns 24.9 per cent, or 750,000 shares, while Sani Ahmad, Sani Yahaya, and Magaji Usman Tambuwal all own 250,000 shares each, which represents 8.33 per cent for each of them.
All of them have the same address: Block 99, Flat 3, OAU Quarters, Wuse II, Abuja, which is the registered address of the company.
Mr Tambuwal, a former budget officer at the Sokoto House of Assembly, has been in the employment of the National Assembly for 30 years.
As the administrative head of the National Assembly, Mr Tambuwal is in charge of implementing the budget of the National Assembly, which is N228.1 billion in the current year. The federal parliament has for long been criticised for shrouding the specific details of its budget in secrecy, and there have been calls for the body to open its finances.
Experts say the opacity raises high corruption risks. One of Mr Tambuwal’s predecessors, Sani Omolori, is currently being prosecuted for corruption by the EFCC over an alleged diversion of assets of the National Assembly.
The exact details of the activities Mr Tambuwal has used the company for are not known, and CAC searches indicated its status as “inactive”. However, having inactive status does not necessarily mean a company has not been engaged in activities. It could also mean a company has not been filing the required financial returns every year.
Mr Tambuwal had in the past years occupied key positions in the bureaucracy of the National Assembly. He was, at one point, the Secretary of Finance and Accounts. In 2017, he was appointed the Director of Budget, and in 2022, under very controversial circumstances, he was appointed Clerk.
The bureaucrat was picked ahead of other core legislative staffers of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly Service Commission allegedly “bypassed” the next in rank, Chinedu Akabueze, the Clerk of the Senate, and three others, to appoint Mr Tambuwal, in what appears a breach of Section 6 of the Act establishing the Commission.
The line of hierarchy for appointments in Section 6(1)(b) of the Act, is stated as – clerk to the National Assembly, deputy clerk to the National Assembly, clerk of the Senate, clerk of the House of Representatives, deputy clerk of the Senate, deputy clerk of the House, secretaries to the directorates and then holders of other offices.
Mr Akabueze became the next senior legislative officer to Mr Ojo following the earlier retirement of the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly (DCNA), Bala Yabani.
What the law says
Section 23 of the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act provides punishment for anyone who contravenes the position of the Act, which includes vacation of office and even disqualification from holding office for 10 years. The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has the power to try any public officer who contravenes the Act.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, the national coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, said, during a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, that the action of the clerk constitutes a conflict of interest and urged the anti-corruption agencies to probe the matter.
Mr Onwubiko said the fact that Mr Tambuwal is in a position where he could award contracts and issue payments should spur the anti-corruption agencies to launch an investigation.
“It constitutes a conflict of interest for the clerk of the National Assembly, the top-ranked legislative body in the country, to be involved in a private company, maybe running a business or whatever,” Mr Onwubiko said.
“You cannot have a private business, and you are in a position to give contracts. As the clerk of the National Assembly, you are involved in the activities that happen in the parliament. In fact, you are involved in the expenditure of the things that happen in the Assembly. The new EFCC chairman should use this case as an example,” he added.
Jiti Ogunye, a lawyer, also urged a probe to determine if Mr Tambuwal declared the company in his assets declaration to the Code of Conduct Bureau, failing which would be a violation of the law.
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