There seems to be no end in sight to the spate of management crises that have dogged the Abuja Investment Company (AICL) since 2017, a recent investigation by the Daily Trust has revealed.
AICL was incorporated in 1994 as Abuja Investment and Property Development Company (AIPDC). The firm has since undergone a number of restructuring and currently functions as an interface between the government and investors interested in operating within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
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AICL was created and is wholly owned by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) with the vision to build capacity in public private partnership administration and asset management for sustained development.
The company was conceived to be a publicly owned yet privately funded limited liability company to act as the FCT’s holding company. With over $100m currently under management, AICL has grown to become a world-class investment firm with a diversified portfolio to include investments in transportation, technology, real estate, among others.
However, Daily Trust can reliably confirm that since 2017, there has been no substantive Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the company.
How it all started
The problem started in May 2017 when allegations of fraudulent diversion and breach of extant procurement provisions to the tune of N1.1 billion, bordering on the sales of Green Acres Estate located in Apo district led to the suspension of the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of AICL, Dr Musa Musa, by the minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello.
The minister directed AICL Group Company Secretary, Mr Salisu Abdulsalam, to act as the MD of AICL during the course of Musa’s suspension.
Not long after, the minister appointed Dr Bashir Isyaku as interim CEO and seven others as members of the team.
But less than two months after it took over the affairs of the company, this newspaper reported how the AICL interim management approved for themselves huge salaries running into millions of naira without approval from the minister, as well as the sacking of four staff of the agency for allegedly leaking their payroll.
After the publication of the story, the interim management team headed by Dr Isyaku wrote to the Daily Trust, threatening legal action if the story was not retracted.
A month later, the FCT minister, however, confirmed the Daily Trust story, by directing the caretaker team to refund the two months’ salary they drew via a letter dated August 29, 2017, and signed on behalf of the minister by Amina Abubakar, Director, Human Resource Management.
Contrary to the interim management’s claim, the minister’s letter said the team “…would be entitled to a consolidated payment of N500,000 per month with effect from 19th May 2017. You should, therefore, refund the May 2017 salary arrears and June 2017 salary you collected either through monthly deductions from your approved consolidated payment or pay directly into the bank account of AICL and present evidence of refund to the FCTA.”
Official documents analysed by this newspaper revealed that the seven members of the IMT were paid a total of N23.3 million as salary for May and June.
The breakdown of the AICL staff salary schedule for the month of June shows that Dr Isyaku was paid N5.2 million as salary; four other members – Kene Nwanegbo, Garba Sani, Babangida Bashir and Mrs Omobolanle O. W. Olatunde – drew N3.4 million each, while Mrs Maryam Onusaba Gomina and Arc. Ramalan Ahmed Umar, on secondment from FCTA, were paid N2.4 million each.
The interim team’s case worsened when the in-house crisis took another dimension after a petition was sent to the National Assembly and some anti-corruption agencies by the staff of the company alleging that Dr Isyaku had recommended the immediate sack of all management staff including those recalled and those still on compulsory leave.
Minister sacks Dr Isyaku–led interim management
Following a series of controversies, the minister of the FCT, Bello, sacked the Dr Bashir Isyaku–led interim management of the AICL.
However, the spokesman of the minister, Abubakar Sani, confirmed to Daily Trust that the Dr Isyaku-led team was disbanded because its tenure, which was extended once, had expired.
The minister appointed the Director, Economic Planning Research and Statistics of FCTA, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Pai, as acting managing director of the company.
Daily Trust investigation further revealed that from May 2018 to date, the acting MD appointed by the minister, who was a director in the FCTA, has since retired but remains as the CEO in contravention of the retirement rule of the public service which pegs the age limit at 60.
Daily Trust findings also revealed that other managing directors of the subsidiaries of the company have since retired after attaining the age of 60.
How minister stalled CEO recruitment since 2020
Further investigation reveals that the company advertised and commenced a process for the recruitment of a substantive CEO since October 2020. The names of shortlisted candidates were forwarded to the minister in November 2020, but as at the time of this story, the minister has not acted on the memo.
Daily Trust findings showed that the recruitment process was conducted by Phillips Consulting Ltd (PCL) with millions of naira spent on engaging the firm. The board did the final interview and submitted the recommended candidate to the minister for final approval.
Insider sources familiar with the process said: “If mischief was not intended, the board is the final authority in the company. Why submit to the minister for approval?”
Expired board conducts parallel recruitment of CEO while minister stalls
Further investigation by Daily Trust indicates that in March/April 2022, the board of the company in a bizarre twist of events carried out another process in which its committee collected/received CV’s of individuals and recommended one Abubakar Maina Sadiq for appointment as the group managing director and Mr Abiodun Akanbi as chief investment officer.
The sources told our reporter that the entire process contravened the guideline for the recruitment of executive management staff in government corporations.
One of the sources said: “The board in this instance approved the appointment without the minister’s seal, Why? What has changed?”
Why the board’s last appointment was illegal
Daily Trust findings revealed that the AICL Board was constituted and inaugurated in February 2018, alongside other boards such as the FCDA, FCT Water Board and FCT Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB).
All the other boards are no longer operating as their terms are deemed to have expired. The board of the FCDA, which is chaired by the minister, has not met this year.
“Why is the board of AICL still allowed to continue operating even when it is clear that its term has expired?
“This is an institution, established by CAMA, which manages very important assets of the FCT, and requires proper corporate governance to function. Why should we allow this kind of mess since 2017?” one of our sources asked.
FCT Ministers’ response
When Daily Trust reached Abubakar Sani, The Special Assistant (Media & Publicity) to FCT Minister to respond to why the AICL board has continued to function beyond its life span as well as why the previous process lies waiting in the minister’s office since 2020, he said: “You will have to put your request in writing and address it to the honourable minister so that a proper response can be given to you.” He hanged his phone afterwards.
Observals around the agency and its subsidiaries believe that everything revolves around the inactions of the minister.