The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is enmeshed in a wide-scale certificate forgery and age falsification scandal, involving dozens staff, Daily Trust authoritatively gathered.
With many senior staff found to have been involved in the illegalities, it was learnt that a grand plan was being hatched by the board and management of the anti-corruption commission to provide a soft landing for those found culpable.
No fewer than 50 staff of the commission have so far appeared before the board’s subcommittee on verification of staff certificates and service records where irregularities were discovered in their age and credentials.
Daily Trust gathered that the verification of staff certificates and service records was triggered by demands arising from the conviction of an official of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Idowu Olamide, for forging a certificate to secure employment upgrade.
In October, the anti-graft body secured the conviction of Olamide for using a forged National Diploma Certificate to secure an upgrade in his office, a development that was said to have prompted public demand on the need to investigate ICPC staff with similar allegations.
According to the commission, Olamide was convicted of “Knowingly making a false statement, which is contrary to section 25(1) of Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 25(1) (b) of the same Act.”
An insider at the commission also confided in Daily Trust that agitations for the commission to beam the searchlight on its staff also heightened with the case of an ex-female staff that left the ICPC to join the NDIC but was later sacked upon discovery that she was parading forged credentials.
Daily Trust gathered that following such demands, the board of the ICPC constituted a three-man subcommittee on verification of staff certificates and service records.
The committee comprised Mrs. Olubukola Balogun, the board member representing Lagos; Bala Muhammad, the commission’s director of administration (who ironically was also asked to appear for verification) and Professor Musa Usman Abubakar, the commission’s secretary.
It began by writing to nine out of the eleven directors of the commission, including assistant commissioners, commissioners, deputy commissioners as well as directors, requesting them to come forward with their certificates and service records for verification.
A staff of the commission who spoke with Daily Trust in confidence said arising from the verification exercise the board discovered that all the directors, with the exception of two, had discrepancies in their records.
Sequel to the appearance of the senior staff, the verification committee was said to have issued a memo requesting forty-two (42) intermediate and junior staff to appear before them on October 26.
They comprised officers from grade levels 12, 13, and 14 including; chief superintendents, assistant chief superintendents as well as superintendents.
The memo, which contained a list of the affected staff, reads: “Officers’ names listed below are to appear before the board’s subcommittee on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, at the designated venue with originals and photocopies of the following documents: Birth certificates, relevant educational credentials; First School Leaving, Senior Secondary, NCE, ND, HND, first, second and or third-degree Certificate and NYSC Certificate as applicable, marriage certificate (as appropriate), evidence of change of name, letter of first appointment, confirmation of appointment, last three promotion letters and current ID card.”
Disturbed by the outcome of the verification exercise, especially its embarrassing potential, the Chairman of the commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye SAN, was said to have convened a general meeting with all staff and the board on October 22, 2021, after which a ‘soft landing’ strategy was adopted by the board.
The approach, Daily Trust gathered, was intended to provide ‘soft landing’ and shield the affected staff from dismissal and criminal prosecution in line with extant civil service rules.
It was also gathered that the cover-up became necessary because most of the affected staff, especially the senior ones, were either loyalists to the chairman or those employed under his watch.
The strategy was later communicated to all staff by the Secretary to the Commission via a memo issued on October 27, 2021.
The memo with ref. number: ICPC/GNA/148/21/078 titled: “Decisions of the 3rd General Staff Meeting with the Hon. Chairman in 2021” maintained that the board remained resolute to complete the process of the staff service records verification exercise.
It further reads: “Staff who have attained 60 (sixty) years of age are strongly advised to put in their letters of voluntary retirement within the next one month and that such staff shall be entitled to the commission’s exit package as stipulated in the ICPC condition of service and no sanction shall be meted out on them.
“Staff who reduced their age in their records of service are advised to immediately regularise their records within a month to reflect their appropriate retirement time.
“Staff on grade levels 16 and 17 who wish to voluntarily retire may apply to do so, and such staff shall be entitled to an incentivized exit package to be determined by the board.
‘It is a sign of weakness in our institutions’
Speaking on the matter, the founder, Follow The Money and CEO of Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat B. Lawal, told Daily Trust that if an agency set up to curb corrupt practices and prosecute offenders is itself found enmeshed in any form of corruption, then it reflects an entrenched weakness in the nation’s institutions.
“There is no reason to get sentimental. Emotions don’t bring about changes. Rather it is important to advocate for better leaders who are both morally and intellectually equipped to run such an agency.
“If we want real change and progress, our systems and institutions must run effectively and independently,” Lawal said.
He said that it is necessary to expose such occurrences not only at the ICPC but other institutions in the interest of the nation.
It is a routine exercise—ICPC
When contacted, the ICPC said the verification of staff credentials was a routine exercise.
The spokesperson for the commission, Azuka Ogugua who said this in response to a text message however failed to explain further.
She did not respond to further inquiries on the fate of those that might be found wanting from the verification exercise.
A management staff of the commission who spoke with Daily Trust off the record because he is not authorised to speak however said: “We have been prosecuting others of alleged corruption, including issues of certificate forgery. Therefore, the exercise was intended to put our house in other and go after others involved in similar allegations with clean hands.”