@csrf
Professor Adeshola Adepoju

02.10.2023 Exclusive EXCLUSIVE: How Ex-FRIN DG Shola Adepoju Sold Government’s Vehicles to Himself and Colleagues

Published 2nd Oct, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

Professor Shola Adepoju, the immediate past Director-General of the UNESCO-recognised Nigeria’s Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) headquartered in Ibadan, Oyo State, who left office in March this year, has been accused of diverting government properties.

According to a source, some exotic vehicles purchased for the smooth operations of the institute were diverted by the former DG and Olufemi Michael Hastrup, the institute’s human resources director.

Michael Olufemi Hastrup
Michael Olufemi Hastrup

According to the source, Professor Zacharia Yaduma, the new director-general, has been grappling with sundry administrative issues, including easy mobility and finances, because the institute was grounded by his predecessor.

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FAILED THIRD TERM DRAMA

Our source explained that the Ogbomoso-born administrator fought hard to extend his occupation of the office for another term of four years in clear violation of the FRIN establishment act.

“Professor Shola Adepoju was DG FRIN Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan, from March 31, 2015 to March 31, 2023,” the source said.

“He attempted an illegal third term. He failed flatly. He explored all his contacts in the presidency to make that happen. The FRIN act allows a maximum of two terms of four years each.”

Section 6(3) of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (Establishment) Act 2008 states, “The director-general of the institute shall hold office for a term of four years and may be eligible for re-appointment for another term of four years and no more.”

UNDER-VALUATION OF FRIN VEHICLES

Few months to the expiration of Adepoju’s second term, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing undertook an inspection and valuation of some vehicles belonging to FRIN.

According to a document exclusively obtained by FIJ, five vehicles were inspected and valued at disingenuously low rates. The mechanical division of the works ministry valued two Toyota Prado cars, a Toyota Hilux, a Volkswagen Bettle and a Kia Cerato at ridiculous amounts.

document showing inspected vehicles

While the first valuation report containing details of the two Prado and Hilux vehicles bearing the stamp of the mechanical division was dated December 12, 2022, the second report bore the stamp of the Federal Comptroller of Works of the same works ministry and was undated.

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As stated in the reports, the Toyota Prado purchased in 2019 at the rate of N78 million with the chassis number JTEBU3PFJ1KK172524 was determined to be worth N7 million.

One of the Toyota Prado vehicles valued at N7 million

The second Toyota Prado acquired in 2013 for N21 million with the chassis number JTEBU9FJ1D5002342 was determined to be worth N800,000.

The institute bought the Toyota Hilux with the chassis number MROHX8CD7K1389911 in 2018 for N18 million. In the valuation report, it was said to be worth N1 million.

The Toyota Hilux valued at ridiculous N800,000

FIJ also gathered that the Volkwagen and Kia Cerato earlier mentioned were valued at N2,000 and N20,000 respectively. At the time of the report, both vehicles had been used for six years by FRIN.

document showing inspected vehicles

BENEFIRIARIES OF THE ILLEGAL DISPOSAL

Professor Adeshola Adepoju
Professor Adeshola Adepoju. Source: Twitter

All of the vehicles mentioned in the reports have been illegally taken away by the former FRIN bosses, our source said.

In particular, Hastrup was said to have bought a Land Cruiser carrying an official number plate FRIN-01FG belonging to the office of the director-general.

Land Cruiser illegally bought by Hastrup
Land Cruiser illegally bought by Hastrup

Responding to the claim, Hastrup said he was not the only beneficiary of the asset disposal. He added that the claim was a blackmail.

“There was a process of the disposal of government asset. Due process was followed. I wasn’t the only one that was a beneficiary of the disposal. There was a process followed and duly documented. We have evidence here. Some people are singling me out shows a clear vendetta, blackmail, and it was made in a bad state,” Hastrup said.

He, however, refused to respond when asked how much he bought the vehicle. Although he said he wasn’t comfortable speaking on the phone, he promised to call back, saying he was in the middle of a meeting. He had not done so at press time.

The source further explained to FIJ that the former director-general diverted the rest of the vehicles to his personal use upon leaving the office.

“The former DG acquired two SUVs, his driver got one, Mr. Gambo, ex-Liaison Officer in Abuja got one while Michael Olufemi Hastrup got Toyota Hilux. All of these were sold at unreasonable amounts. The process was entirely shady,” said the source.

The ministry engineers who valued all the vehicles claimed that they had become unserviceable and “uneconomical to repair”. There are indications, however, that this was done as a strategy to justify the DG’s plan to acquire them at ridiculous rates.

More so, there was no report indicating the incident that rendered the vehicles uneconomical to repair. “It is untrue that the vehicles were uneconomical to repair. The vehicles were in good state,” said a source.

“The ministry officials that came had no report that the vehicles were faulty or damaged. Even, there is no report from the institute’s transport officer that anything unwholesome happened to the vehicles to make it uneconomical for the government to repair.”

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All this malfeasance was said to have been perpetrated after the former head of the FRIN failed to get his tenure renewed for a third term.

“When his unconstitutional third term attempt failed, he resorted to massive looting and conversion of government properties to himself and his allies, especially Olufemi Michael Hastrup,” the source said.

NO AUCTIONING ADVERTORIAL

By the Public Procurement Act 2007, every government procuring entity shall double as a disposing entity. For context, if a government entity acquires an asset, it would also be the disposing agency when the time is ripe to sell the property if it is still on its watch.

The said act stipulates the procedures of disposing any public asset in Nigeria. Section 55(3) of the law states, “The open competitive bidding shall be the primary source of receiving offers for the purchase of any public property offered for sale.”

In section 56(1), the law provides as follows, “Before slating any public property for disposal, the accounting officer (whether acting in his own authority or at the direction of any superior or other authority) in charge of any public property set for disposal shall authorise the preparation of a valuation report for such property by an independent evaluator, or such professional with the appropriate competence to carry out the valuation.”

Subsection 3 of the above section states that the disposal of government assets “shall be timed to take place when the most advantageous returns can be obtained for the asset in order to maximize revenue accruing to the government”.

The shining looks and state of those vehicles opposes the works ministry’s claim that they were unserviceable. Our source further stated that the vehicles were in good and functional conditions.

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Despite these clear provisions of the law, Adepoju and his collaborators never subjected the vehicles and other materials to a transparent public auctioning process.

“No, they didn’t advertise as provided for by the public service rules,” said the source. “There is no licenced auctioneer. It is only licenced auctioneer that can sell government properties. The Professor Adepoju completely grounded the institute in his last days as DG. He removed so many things from office illegally.”

FIJ obtained a document showing several valuable agricultural equipment now missing after the DG left the institute. The said document, dated January 25, was signed by Areo Olusola Samuel.

Areo Olusola Samue
Areo Olusola Samuel. Source: LinkedIn

He joined the institute as Head of Department of Forest Product Development and Utilisation a year ago, according to his LinkedIn profile.

JOB RACKETEERING

Before now, there had been accusations of illegal contract awards and other public service infractions against the former DG.

Recently, the House of Representatives revealed that there was a grand illegal recruitment and job racketeering in many federal government agencies. Following this revelation, the House mandated a committee headed by Yusuf Gagdi representing Pankshin/Kanam/Kanke Federal Constituency of Plateau State.

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FIJ gathered that the former head of the institute is among the heads of agencies being probed by the committee for massive corruption.

“As we speak, former FRIN DG is among the individuals and parastatals that are being investigated by House of Representatives Committee on employment racketeering,” the source said.

“It’s a fact that Professor Shola Adepoju embarked on massive unlawful employment in 2022 and 2023 when it became glaring that he was not going to get his illegal third term. No single advertisement, no interview, but hundreds were employed in 2022 and early 2023. A lot of them were not paid salaries for several months.”

When asked to respond to the claims, Adepoju said he was entitled as an exiting DG to purchase his staff vehicle, and that documents were available to show the process he followed in purchasing the assets.

“The accounting officer of the institute has the details of everything. I was qualified to buy my staff car that I was leaving with. So, ‘diverting’ is what I don’t understand. Everything was approved by the board. Nobody can divert anything. It is not possible in Nigeria,” he said.

Though Adepoju claimed he was entitled to a staff car, he failed to mention why he acquired the other cars and sold some others to his collaborators, including Hastrup.

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This was despite the fact that the procurement act earlier referenced states in section 59(13) that “A person involved in the disposal of assets, shall not either by a third party or by himself be interested in any manner in buying directly or indirectly these assets and shall not have or obtain any type of advantage or revenue from the disposal for a period of three years after the disposal”.

If found guilty by a court, Adepoju, Hastrup and any other person involved in the process might be jailed for nothing less than five years without any option of fine. They also risk summary dismissal from government services.

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Published 2nd Oct, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

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