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27.05.2021 investigations How an Executive Secretary Destablised College by Hijacking Buhari’s Powers Using Agric Minister’s Name

Published 27th May, 2021

By Adeola Oladipupo

The act establishing the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) is clear on the functions of the council and its Executive Secretary. While the supervision of agricultural researches and extension training activities of institutes established by the presidency is one of the functions of the council, it is not stated that the ARCN or its Executive Secretary should interfere with the administrative operations of Federal Colleges of Agriculture (FCA).

In addition to its statutory responsibilities at the ARCN, Professor Garba Sharubutu, the Executive Secretary of ARCN hijacked the management of FCAs. One of them is the Federal College of Agricultural Produce Technology (FCAPT), Kano, said to be the only college in Nigeria and West Africa specialising in this field of agriculture. This interference continues to boil in a leadership tussle threatening to ground its operations.   

Mohammed Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (Photo credit: FMARD)

From documents obtained and interviews with multiple sources who asked for anonymity for of fear of victimisation, FIJ found that Sharabutu often stated the office of the Minister of Agric, Alhaji Mohammed Nanono, as the power behind the barrage of directives he issued to FCAPT, which has a governing board appointed by the President that answers to same but through the Minister.

Sources told FIJ that Sharubutu exploits Nanono’s poor knowledge of the functions of the Ministry of Agriculture to interfere with the administration of FCAPT and that a N2.4 billion budget is the motive behind it.

ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT, FLAWED APPOINTMENT LETTER

On August 20, 2020, Dr Mohammed Yushau’u Gwaram was informed of his appointment as the provost of FCAPT in a letter by Sharubutu claiming that he had been directed by the Minister for Agriculture to do so. The letter, seen by FIJ, instructed Gwaram to be “guided by the provisions of the act establishing the ARCN…”

Dr Mohammed Yusha’u Gwaram (Photo credit: Facebook)

But multiple sources challenging Gwaram’s appointment, citing provisions of the 2019 Conditions of Service for Federal Research and Development Agencies, Institutes and Colleges and the Public Service Rules (PSR), faulted the source of the letter, the processes that led to its issuance and the instruction to the provost contained in the letter.

Between 2012 and 2019, Gwaram had been a lecturer and Deputy Provost for two terms. Despite opposition to his candidature, he was appointed Provost, holding the position for eight months.

FIJ gathered that Sharubutu should not have been involved in the recruitment of the Provost, but illegally took over the process from FCAPT’s governing board by leveraging on his connection with the Minister to influence — over two other candidates — the appointment of Gwaram, who allegedly did not pass the written test.

“The minister refused to listen to people who would tell him that Gwaram should not be appointed. He just told the sitting provost to go and hand over,” said one source who craved anonymity for fear of backlash.

SAME PROVOST POSITION, DIFFERENT APPOINTMENT LETTERS

Professor Garba Sharubutu

The ARCN, led by Sharubutu, placed a recruitment advert for the position of a Provost at FCAPT in Daily Trust Newspaper of December 2019 and sent the names of shortlisted candidates to the Presidency after screening. The action is clearly against provisions of the 2019 Condition of service of Federal Research and Development Agencies, Institutes and Colleges that the Provost should be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the governing council through the supervising ministry.

“This process was boycotted, hence the difference between Gwaram’s appointment letter and that of the immediate past provost,” said another source at the college, who asked to be anonymous.

The appointment letter of Professor Mohammed Sule is different from that of Gwaram. Sule’s letter was issued directly by the office of the former Minister of Agriculture at the time, Akinwumi Adesina and it did not state that the provost should be guided by the act establishing the ARCN.

“Gwaram’s documentation did not go to the Presidency, it ended in ARCN,” a source said.

“ARCN is FCAPT’s supervisory body and NBTE is its regulatory body, but the former does not have the powers to recruit for the college.

“Sharubutu wanted a strong grip on FCAPT because of the college’s budget and Gwaram, being desperate, saw Sharubutu as an ally and would do anything to become provost.”

CRIMINAL CASE BRUSHED ASIDE

In a police report of February 13, 2020, Dr Gwaram was listed as a suspect in a case bothering on defamation of the character of some staff members and inciting public disturbance on the college’s campus.

Investigations by the Intelligence Bureau of the Police in Kano found that Gwaram resorted to threatening “his perceived enemies” through anonymous text messages, following a protest on the school’s campus against his candidature for the position of provost that resulted in the destruction of his car.

“It is also a fact that competition for the position of the college provost played a vital role that pushed Dr Gwaram into the act,” the police report seen by FIJ read.

Despite having enough evidence to secure the conviction of Gwaram, the Intelligence Bureau granted the request of the college’s management and governing board to “decide internally”.

Responding to a query on offences, including making false claims against a public officer, sabotage, acts unbecoming of a public officer, Gwaram said that his phones were stolen at different times in 2019.

“Possibly, these could be the phones that were used to send the messages that dented my image,” he wrote. “I saw these text messages for the first time in the Police Command, Bompai, though my phones were used.”

But in a letter by the Acting Registrar, Halima Sani, FCAPT’s management rejected Gwaram’s response to its query, stating that it chose to believe the report it received from the Police. Gwaram was placed on interdiction, with half payment of salary, effective from March 9, pending a decision by the governing board.

GOVERNMENT PAYROLL BYPASSED WITH HELP FROM ACCOUNTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE

On August 14, 2020, a letter bearing the signature of the Acting Registrar was sent to the Office of the Accountant General and the Director of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), asking that full salary from May to August should be paid to Gwaram as his interdiction had been lifted. It was not true; the interdiction was not lifted.

Halima Sani told FIJ that Gwaram, as a Provost, informed her of an irregular salary issue and while trying to help him resolve it, he took advantage of her ill-health to draft a fraudulent letter and backdated it. 

“That day, I was having stomach ache but I told him that I would draft a letter to IPPIS when I was feeling well. He said he would draft it. He drafted and gave his Secretary to type. When they brought the letter to me, I did not go through it. I just signed but I kept the draft,” she said.

The draft later helped in exonerating Sani when the board issued her and Gwaram queries. Multiple sources told FIJ that Gwaram admitted writing the letter that made IPPIS pay him N3.8million, which he later refunded when he was pressured.

At the IPPIS office, there was no record of the letter, a document seen by FIJ, signed by the Deputy Director of IPPIS, Ekwem V.E.N, confirmed. This raises concerns about officials at IPPIS collaborating with civil servants to circumvent government’s payroll system.

“Gwaram took the letter to IPPIS through the backdoor,” a source told FIJ. “If it went through the normal process, there would have been an entry registering the letter on the day it was received. He has an insider at IPPIS and that makes it a criminal matter.”

A HISTORY OF VIOLATING RULES OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT

A petition by the Academic Staff Union of Colleges of Agriculture and Related Institutes to the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Students’ Affairs claimed that Gwaram should not have been permitted to participate in the job interview process and be appointed Provost considering an existing interdiction.

Also, by the time Gwaram resumed as the Provost of FCAPT in September 2020, he was 60 years old. This contravenes one of the requirements to apply for the job advertised in a newspaper. His hand-written CV seen by FIJ revealed that he was born on July 16, 1960.

A review of his CV showed further breaches of the Public Service Rules (PSR). At 52 years old, Gwaram’s employment as a lecturer at FCAPT in April 16, 2012 violated Section A of rule 020205 of the PSR stipulating that only persons between ages 18 and 50 are eligible for employment into the Federal Public Service. The same age restriction applies to eligibility for permanent and pensionable appointment in the federal civil service.

One can only be employed as a contract staff if one is between 40 and 45, a source said.

A review of Gwaram’s job history revealed that he was sacked by two federal government institutions; the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Benin City, dismissed him for “fraudulent misrepresentation amongst other misconducts”, while Hussaini Adamu Polytechnic sacked him based on reports from NIFOR.

No approval was sought from the Federal Civil Service Commission before Gwaram was appointed, contrary to PSR 020206 dictating that an approval from the Commission must be sought before a government institution would employ anyone with a history of dismissal from government-owned organisations.

SHARUBUTU TAKES ADVANTAGE OF AN ALOOF AGRIC MINISTRY

Two days after the governing board, which answers only to the President, through the Minister of Agriculture, suspended Gwaram for offences including abuse of office and admitted forgery and perjury, Sharubutu wrote a letter claiming to have being directed by the minister to suspend the Chairman and members of the governing board, the Provost and the Acting Registrar.

Sharubutu said that the prolonged crisis at the college prompted the suspension and he handed the management of the college to the most senior academic staff, Dr Modupeore Alimi, with instructions to report to the honourable minister through him.

However, FIJ learned that Dr Alimi is not the most senior academic staff. While she is on Grade 7 Step 4, Dr Maryam Lami is on Grade 7 Step 8.  The overall most senior staff is Ibrahim Haddi, the pioneer provost of the college.

Sources told FIJ that Sharubutu confuses the act establishing the ARCN to mean that the council owns Federal Colleges of Agriculture (FCA) and he interferes with the affairs of the college because of its N2.4 billion budget, the first in 13 years and 75 percent of the money is for training.

“Sharubutu would want to influence the appointment of provosts he can control. ARCN’s work is to monitor extension trainings and researches of any FCA; it does not mean that it owns them,” one source said.

“The huge amount of money budgeted for research and training is the reason for this crisis. Sharubutu is handling one of those trainings and he wants N24 million. He is more interested in the budget.”

Despite the prolonged court case over the messy leadership tussle, the Presidency and the Agric Ministry remain aloof.

“In Nigeria, a lot of us learn on the job,” a source said. “Although vast in agriculture, the Minister has little knowledge of administrative procedures, though vast in agriculture. Nanono saw in Sharubutu a confidante but what he did was to abuse the confidence the minister had in him.”

In a swift response to the suspension of the top management team of the college, Ambassador Abubakar Wurno, the Chairman of FCAPT’s board, stated that Sharubutu’s directive should be ignored because it violated a court order to maintain status quo.

DENIAL, AGGRESSION, ALOOFNESS

When contacted, Dr Gwaram denied all allegations and labelled documents in FIJ’s possession fake, even though he refused to provide ‘original’ documents. He hurled insults and threatened to sue FIJ if the report was published.

Similarly, Professor Sharubutu insisted he got directives from the Minister of Agric. But he became aggressive and refused to answer other questions from FIJ.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development did not respond to requests for comment. Theodore Ogaziechi, the public relations officer of the ministry, insisted that a letter should be sent to the Minister directly even though a mail had been sent to the Ministry’s official email address before contacting him. When asked to send the Minister’s email address, he dropped the call and refused to answer subsequent phone calls or reply text messages.

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Published 27th May, 2021

By Adeola Oladipupo

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