NCC confirmed its officials stole public funds, refused to ensure they are disciplined as prescribed by anti-corruption laws. (Isa Pantami)
However, two weeks after his office was contacted by a group to take action against two officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) enmeshed in a N122 million fraud, Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, has failed to act.
Although the NCC admitted its officials stole public funds, it has equally refused to ensure they are properly sanctioned as prescribed by anti-corruption laws.
In March two senior staff were exposed, Yakubu Gontor, head of the finance department, and Philip Eretan, former head of the internal audit department of NCC, got the funds as allowances for trips they never embarked on.
Mr Gontor got N54 million as accruable allowances for official trips he never made while Mr Eretan fraudulently raked in about N68 million.
They were indicted by an investigative committee which was set up by the commission’s governing board in 2020.
Urhobo Daily understands that the money stolen is being deducted in instalments from their emoluments. But the two men are yet to have their day in court.
The committee had recommended that the two officials should be made to face a disciplinary panel with appropriate sanctions meted out to them.
Findings have revealed that the Umar Danbatta-led management of the NCC, which in 2020 won the Ethics Compliance and Integrity Scorecards (ECIS) award of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has not disciplined the indicted officials as recommended by the committee, or called for their prosecution.
The NCC is an agency under Mr Isa Pantami supervision.
It was gathered that between January and February 2020, Messrs Guntor and Eretan frequented the Kaduna zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) following a petition by a yet-to-be-identified group.
The new leadership of the EFCC in the zone, however, told our correspondent it could not trace the details of the matter.
In February, the new head of the zone, Sanusi Abdullahi, said he was only transferred to the zone in July 2020, and that he could not trace the files of the matter.”
“But we are still investigating and I can assure you that we will do our best to know what is amiss,” Mr Abdullahi said.
When reached on Tuesday, Mr Abdullahi said the commission’s position remained the same.
NCC had admitted its officials stole public funds. The agency has apparently continued to shield them from prosecution.
The commission’s spokesperson, Ikechukwu Adinde, in a statement to this news men on April 1, said: “the Commission investigated all the cases in accordance with the extant Public Service Rules and the NCC staff regulations as contained in the Staff Handbook.
“Those who were found culpable have had ‘appropriate sanctions’ meted out to them as set out in the NCC Staff Handbook. Other relevant government agencies are also looking into the matter.”
Group Writes Isa Pantami
Meanwhile, an anti-corruption group, Lygel Youths and Leadership Initiatives (LYLI), wrote a letter to Mr Isa Pantami seeking his intervention over the matter.
In the letter dated April 14 and signed by its director of legal and compliance unit, Lekan Oladapo, the group noted that it had complained to the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in a letter dated 29th December, 2020, of which the minister was copied.
“In the said letter we had raised observations on the case of fraud in the Commission that involved the two heads of units of Finance and Audit.
“We have persistently advised the management of NCC to address that by implementing the recommendation of the Investigating Committee to impose necessary sanction and prosecute the culprits.
“Be that as it may, all the advice went to the deaf ears of the management to the extent that it was insensitive to the subsequent publications by news medias on March 29th 2021 and APRIL 1, 2021 respectively.
“We are surprised that the NCC can be as desperate as a reputable organisation condoning corruption of its officers without plausible justification.”
The group stated that it is “amazingly disturbing” for the NCC to continue to shield the officials from disciplinary action.
‘Leave me out of NCC matter’- Isa Pantami
Despite acknowledging the receipt of the letter on April 15, Mr Isa Pantami is yet to take any decisive action.
Mr Isa Pantami current public silence may not be unrelated to recent controversies over his past.
He has been in the news lately over sermons he delivered over a decade ago that supported extremist groups such as Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
While the minister said he has renounced these teachings, blaming his immaturity at the time the statements were made, many Nigerians have demanded his resignation from office.