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26.06.2021 highlights How Global NGO Closed Nigeria Chapter after ‘Young Leader’ Jeremiah Offor’s N16m Fraud

Published 26th Jun, 2021

By Damilola Ayeni

In November 2019, Jeremiah Offor, 25, approached the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a London-based International NGO, for a $78,748 fund to help adolescent girls in Borno State access safe abortion.

Multiple reports had revealed that several girls and women died in Nigeria yearly in an attempt to terminate unwanted pregnancies, and Offor would rake some dollars from the news.

Jeremiah Offor

Borno, the epi-centre of Boko Haram attacks which has driven about two million Nigerians from their homes, was a strategic location to pitch to funders. Rape often accompanies militancy. Soldiers also exchange food and shelter for sex with destitute young girls in IDP camps, leaving them with unwanted pregnancies.

Abortion is, however, illegal in the country, and is often done by quacks in dangerous conditions, putting many lives at risk. Offor proposed an all-year-round programme with activities ranging from training of medicals who would provide safe medical abortion services, to recruitment of girls and women educators, and then the facilitation of classes and community meetings among others, all in the Damboa and Magumeri local government areas of Borno State.

GHOST MEMBERS

IPPF approved the proposal and in December 2019 released about $40,000 (N16million) initial tranche from its Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF), where changemakers around the world source finances for health-related actions.

Offor was the country coordinator of the now-defunct Nigeria Chapter of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP), a pro-choice civil society organisation based in Washington, US. He had requested for the fund on behalf of the organization and had featured some members in the proposal without their consent.

Melanie Tejiri, an IYAFP volunteer who was named ‘Monitoring and Evaluation Officer’ in the project proposal, said she knew nothing about Offor’s ‘Free-2-Decide’ project.

“I was never involved in such project, never had knowledge of it or gave permission for my name to be included at any stage (if it is), never received any monies from it and had even relocated from Nigeria as of the time being referenced as when the said project was conducted,”she said.

A part of the proposal showing the team members
A part of the financial report stating how much each team member would earn

Offor had proposed N72,000 monthly pay for Tejiri, N180,000 for Sophie Enitan whom he called ‘Project officer’, N108,000 for Abagun Olaoluwa, ‘volunteers manager’, and N450,000 for himself.

“Proposal to where? Borno State?” Olaoluwa had asked, full of surprise, when reached for comments. “I was never a member of IYAFP Nigeria.”

Enitan also said she knew nothing about the project at the start, and did not receive a dime.

She said, “In all honesty, I wasn’t carried along initially. But it turned out that the funders sent a representative from London to meet the team.

“When Aung came, he told us how some African countries had tried to defraud them and that they (SAAF) had zero tolerance for fraud.

“After he left Nigeria in January, I asked the country coordinator, who got the grant, what he planned to do. He didn’t tell me anything. He didn’t respond to messages.”

At the meeting with Aung, Offor had presented a nine-member team. Many of the attendees also knew too little.

“Offor invited me to the meeting the same way he invited others,” said Kenneth Okpara, the Abuja coordinator of IYAFP, who joined in welcoming Aung.

GRANT COLLECTED, PROJECT NOT EXECUTED

The meeting with Aung (Offor marked red)

“I never knew where the budget was done,” Kenneth said. “He (Offor) told us we were expecting visitors from SAAF and we needed to welcome them so they would see that this organisation (IYAFP Nigeria) was actually functioning.

“But wherever the budget, the proposal and ‘how much’ was written I don’t know. I don’t know anything about the documents and I can say it anywhere.”

Offor did not execute the project. He manufactured a narrative report for the first half of the year 2020. Although SAAF played in and released the second tranche, which was over $30,000, it would learn of possible fraud, confirmed in an investigation by the international body of IYAFP which linked Offor to a string of fraudulent activities

Part of Offor’s narrative report

FORGED REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE

SAAF had requested a Nigerian certificate of registration, and since IYAFP was not a Nigerian entity, he had forged one to accompany his application.

WHAT GOES AROUND…

FIJ, however, learnt that Offor was refused access to the second tranche by one Isaac Ejekhegbe, CEO of Youth Spotlight Initiative, whose corporate account was used to receive the funds. Isaac kept it to himself, apparently, as his own slice of the cake.

Like Offor, Isaac refused to speak with our reporter when reached for comments.

Offor pulled another string in November 2020, one year after submitting the successful SAAF proposal. COVID-19 was the big thing in the news and he was going to rake some pounds from the pandemic.

He reached the UK Partnerships for Health Systems (UKPHS) with a claim that IYAFP Nigeria was partnering the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) to support “health professionals providing young people with sexual and reproductive health services” in Borno State.

RCOG, however, intercepted the £9,780 grant application and informed the international body of IYAFP.

Offor had added Daniel Nwabama, his close friend, to the application as IYAFP’s contact person and medical doctor who had worked in a Nigerian hospital during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The application reads in part:

“Having worked as a Medical Doctor in a hospital setting during the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, I understand how important every minute is to a health professional responding to a disease outbreak and as such our intervention has taken time management into cognisance and our trainings which would take place virtually would only last for 70 mins per session and it would be conducted during the weekends and healthcare professionals who would participate in this trainings would be reimbursed for their internet subscription.”

“This is to ensure that Precious time they would have spent attending to patients would not be spent on the training and 20mins during every training would be used to provide psycho-social support through a trained psychologist for those undergoing burnout due to the excess workload.”

HEAVY LOSS FOR INNOCENT ‘MEMBERS’

Offor and Nwabama (the purported medical doctor)

Nwabama took none of his calls when ringed. An SMS sent to his phone has also not been replied.

IYAFP closed its Nigeria chapter after its investigation, but it wasn’t all for some of the people whose names Offor had included in his fraudulent applications.

Enitan lost a lucrative position with RCOG over her association with IYAFP Nigeria, while Melanie fears her name might be dragged into the mud.

A Termination letter sent to Enitan

“It’s very difficult for me not be worried,” said Melanie. “My name is very important to me and it’s troubling to have it mixed up in things I have no knowledge of and without my consent.”

Independent, public-interest journalism has never been more vital than in times like this when truth is constantly being suppressed. With your support, it will be easier for us to continue speaking truth to power and preserving your right to know.

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Published 26th Jun, 2021

By Damilola Ayeni

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