There is tension in the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) as some concerned officers have opened a can of worms, accusing Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd), the agency’s Chairman/Chief Executive, of impunity and flagrant violation of presidential directive.
Worried over the state of affairs, the officers have also petitioned Ibrahim Magu, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alleging Abdallah of complicity in an alleged N1.5 billion said to have been garnered through a recruitment exercise.
The officers also urged the EFCC helmsman to urgently institute a probe of the NDLEA boss and Mr. Yohanna-Silas Mshelia, the agency’s Director of Administration and Finance, who they said was due for retirement on October 11, 2019 after attaining the age of 60, but had sat tight due to alleged corrupt practices between the two top officials.
They want Magu to investigate how monies accruing to the NDLEA from various sources, including recruitment and overheads were being spent by Abdallah and Mshelia.
Musa Ahmed Yusuf, spokesperson of the ‘Concerned Officers’, in the petition titled ‘Confusion And Impunity In NDLEA As Chairman Defies Presidential Order And Retired Director Continues In Office Over N1.5 Billion Recruitment Money’, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by NEXT EDITION, said there was unprecedented display of impunity, corruption and administrative rascality in the agency.
They also accused their boss of violation of presidential directive on suspension of international travels by all cabinet members and heads of government agencies to expedite action on the 2020 budget defence.
In the petition, the officers told Magu that Abdallah had been embarking on foreign trips, the recent of which were to Mauritania and Brazil, instead of staying home in compliance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives to public officials in his category.
The petition read in part: “The Concerned Officers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are writing to report the unprecedented display of impunity, corruption and administrative rascality in the agency.
“The Chairman/Chief Executive of the agency, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd), has flagrantly violated the presidential directive for the suspension of international travels by all cabinet members and Heads of Government Agencies so as to expedite action on the 2020 budget defence.
“Unfortunately, Abdallah’s inordinate addiction to foreign travels could not allow him respect the presidential embargo on foreign travels. In September 2019, he was in Mauritius and later travelled to the United States only to return on October 4, 2019.
“Despite the presidential directive, Abdallah left Nigeria again on Saturday October 12, 2019 to Brazil for International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) meeting. The reason for travelling may sound plausible, but this is not true with Abdallah because he needs to explain why he was conspicuously absent at the INTERPOL Conference held in Abuja in August 2019, even when he was in town.
“All heads of security agencies were present in Abuja at that meeting, except Abdallah. The reason is obvious, because there is no allowance in dollars since it is within town.”
The officers also alleged that Yohanna-Silas Mshelia, the agency’s Director of Administration and Finance, who should have retired on October 11, 2019 after attaining the age of 60, had till date not handed over.
The accused Mshella, who was called to the Bar in 1984 and was allegedly “employed on Grade Level 14 contrary to regulations”, of refusing to hand over as he was said to be afraid of a possible investigation into the disbursements of N.5 billion recruitment money without following due process.
The officers told Magu, “Concerned officers have also discovered the main reason why the Director of Administration and Finance, Yohanna-Silas Mshelia, who retired from service on October 11, 2019 after attaining 60 years refused to hand over.
“He was called to Bar in 1984 and was employed with a Bachelor degree in Law on Grade Level 14 contrary to entry regulations. Yohanna is afraid to hand over now because the N1.5 billion recruitment money has been unprofessionally disbursed to faceless companies without compliance with due process. Therefore, to cover the can of worms and skeletons in his cupboard, he is afraid to hand over.”
They maintained that since he allegedly retired, Mshelia had been coming to the office daily since Monday October 14, 2019, and had continued to discharge the responsibilities of the Director of Administration and Finance with all the apparatus of office.
The officers stated: “Even appeal from other directors for him to take the path of honour and obey the laws of the country has met with stiff resistance because Yohanna and Abdallah have kept other directors in the dark regarding the recruitment funds.
“He is said to be handling all the supplies contracts such as uniforms, officer’s boot/foot wears and uniform accessories for the on-going recruitment. He is also in charge of feeding of the cadets during the training period.
“Indeed, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yohanna (Mshelia) may have easily forgotten his directive in June 2019 to a former Commander, but it is still very fresh in our memories. The former Commander in Niger State, Mr. Joseph Iweajunwa, wrote him a letter requesting for two days extension for him to hand over on June 28 instead of his retirement date of 26th because he had no assistant then.
“Yohanna’s reply was short and straight forward. ‘You are mandated to stick to your official date of 26th and hand over to the most senior officer as any extension is criminal,’ Yohanna ordered.”
They added: “We the concerned officers hereby demand a strict compliance with the law as justice requires a level playing ground for all parties. Has he forgotten the directive he gave in June 2019 or has the rules suddenly changed?
“It is only during his tenure as director that the administrative faux pas of a commander not having deputies became commonplace.
“The payment of the sum of N100 million to an incompetent and petty ICT firm, by name Emplug, for creating the online portal for the ongoing recruitment, speaks volumes of the monumental fraud being perpetrated by Yohanna.
“Concerned officers gathered that the moribund Emplug firm is located in a makeshift office under the staircase at Victory Plaza, No 7 Onitsha Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Area 11 Garki, Abuja.
“Already, the sum of N60 million had been paid to Emplug for creating an online portal that lasted for only three weeks. Investigations also discovered that the recruitment portal was actually designed by the ICT department of the agency. Still, Mshelia and Abdallah went ahead to pay such a whopping amount of money to Emplug.”
They concerned officers alleged that the NDLEA boss, Abdallah, had been reluctant to release Mshelia “because of their secret financial dealings. Mr Yohanna-Silas Mshelia, a lawyer who lacks accounting knowledge, has turned into a ready accomplice in the criminal payment of large chunks of the agency’s monthly overhead allocation to Abdallah to lubricate his unquenchable crave for inconsequential foreign travels since 2016.
“Upon assumption of office in 2016, Abdallah also stopped the monthly overhead cost to commanders. This is a very dangerous and tacit endorsement of corruption when commanders are starved of daily running cost.
“Abdallah has the worst record in terms of welfare of officers in the history of the agency. Under the dark and draconic tenure of Abdallah, over 130 officers have lost their lives. Majority of the officers died of depression arising from the bitterness of criminal stagnation in one rank for over a decade.
“Sadly enough, none of the deceased have been paid their benefits, not even burial expenses. The October 2017 incident where gunmen killed three of our colleagues in Kogi State, Onwumere Nicholas, Peter Ebun and Abdulrahman Musa only for Abdallah to send the paltry sum of N50,000, is still a bitter pill in our mouth.
“We have endured with the hope that Abdallah will one day cause officers to smile, but he is getting worse by the day. At the last management meeting he held on Thursday October 10, 2019 after his return from the United States, we were expecting promotion, but we were all shocked when Abdallah said at the meeting that promotion was the least item on his priority list.
“It is obvious, therefore, that he will not turn a new leaf. The level of disenchantment among officers has made an implosion inevitable.”
They also alleged that when officers die in active service, Abdallah would not pay for burial expenses as demanded by law, stressing, “He is so callous to the extent that he suggested that officers that died in a mob attack be given mass burial due to lack of money.
“Officers had to contribute money to convey the corpses of their late colleagues for a befitting burial. Even when officers are transferred, no allowance will be paid on the ground that there is no money. That is why we find it painful, sad and insulting that there is money for his monthly travels abroad and N100 million payment to Emplug for creating a portal.
They also maintained that recruitment in the agency was usually handled by a committee of officers drawn from the Directorates of Training and Administration, but, “the ongoing recruitment is being handled by Mshelia and Abdallah, using Emplug that lacks the technical competence.
“Concerned officers uncovered a secret plot by Abdallah to deceive Nigerian youths by corruptly selecting 5,000 persons through the backdoor who did not apply online leaving the over 300,000 applicants that took the pain to apply in utter frustration and neglect.
“Concerned officers gathered that over300,000 applicants applied online for this recruitment, but unfortunately, Abdallah has shortlisted 5,000 that did not apply online for the job vacancies. Why ask Nigerians to take the pain of applying online when you have already selected your candidates? This is unacceptable to us as Nigerians.”
The officers also alleged that apart from alleged corrupt practices of siphoning the agency’s overhead for baseless foreign travels and the recruitment scandal, Abdallah has equally sat on officers’ promotion.
The stated: “In 2018, Abdallah in a circular with reference number NDLEA/ALS/ADM/100/V/90 acknowledged that officers have overstayed in one rank for over a decade and promised to address promotion of staff.
“In that circular titled ‘Issues Relating To Promotion,’ Abdallah stated that ‘I have carefully considered all the issues relating to irregular and delayed promotion in the agency and I am determined to put in place an enduring and sustainable promotion process and procedure. This is to enable the agency achieve the desired morale for optimal productivity by the personnel.’
“Abdallah had promised to conclude the promotion of staff on grade level 03 to 06 by June 2018 and continue up the ladder, but the assurances never saw the light of the day. Even when he made officers to write promotion examination in August 2019, he still refused to release the promotion in October. These are clear signs of administrative ineptitude and nonchalance.
“The promotion of officers has been neglected by Abdallah as the time table he released in 2018 after several agitations was not adhered to. He only promoted 11 very senior officers and 1,311 junior others in 2018 and went to sleep.
“After much agitation he fixed examination for Salah period in August 2019 still, we went to write only for him to refuse to release the results. If he had released the promotion, it would have been captured in the proposed 2020 budget but he deliberately declined to do the needful because he has no interest in staff welfare. This is why we are calling for his immediate removal so that somebody with passion for the job can be appointed.”
The officers would want Abdallah to be compelled to abort his Brazil trip, because if INTERPOL meeting was important, he should have attended the one held in Abuja in August 2019.
They also added: “Yohanna-Silas Mshelia should be forced to hand over and return all agency properties, including his official vehicle, without staying a minute longer in office having attained the retirement age of 60.
“Both Mohammad Mustapha Abdallah and Yohanna-Silas Mshelia be probed and prosecuted for the diversion of the monthly overhead to needless foreign travels. They should also be investigated for the non-payment of running cost to commanders since 2016.
“The account of the agency be audited in the past four years. Abdallah should not be allowed to conduct the current recruitment exercise so that Nigerians can be selected on merit to serve their country.
“Emplug firm used by Abdallah and Mshelia to defraud the agency should be investigated and the N100 million deal be immediately revoked while the N60 million paid be refunded.
“The pending promotion of staff released and harmonisation be conducted to properly place officers where they belong. We also demand immediate release of monthly overhead to commanders to check corruption.”
However, several calls put across to Mr. Jonah Echema, NDLEA Public Relations Officer (PRO), was not picked. Text message also sent to his line was not responded to by press time.
However, when asked if he was aware of the petition of the Concerned Officers of the NDLEA to Magu, contacted, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC spokesman, said petitions to the commission do not usually come to him.
But, he stressed: “People submit petitions to the EFCC every day. There is nothing special about the one by the NDLEA officers. The EFCC handles petitions as they come.”
On the allegations that the EFCC might not handle the petition from the NDLEA because of the personality of Col. Abdallah (rtd), being a retired senior Army officer, Uwujaren also reiterated what he had earlier said that there was nothing special about this particular petition.
However, sources close to the NDLEA maintain that such stories about the agency’s helmsmen had been flying around for a long time, and that nothing positive might come out from the current move by the Concerned Officers of the agency.