National Steel Council uncovers ‘over N1bn fraud’, executive secretary, Musafari suspended

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The National Steel Council (NSC) in Abuja has informed the Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Abubakar Audu, of an alleged over N1 billion fraud that it linked to its Executive Secretary, Ambassador Abdulqadir Musafari.

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The council, in a March 15, 2024 letter, told the minister that Musafari had allegedly “failed, refused, and/or neglected to avail the Council of any information concerning his activities on behalf of the council, if duly authorized.”

It advised that the Executive Secretary should be suspended from office pending the conclusion of the investigation of the allegations by a disciplinary committee.

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The council’s recommendation followed a request by the committee that it set up on February 12, 2024, to investigate Musafari for, among others, financial impropriety and serious misconduct.

Documents obtained by NewMailNG show that the committee’s terms of reference included investigating “several wilful and deliberate actions calculated to sabotage the lawful activities of the National Steel Council in the fulfilment of its mandated duties and responsibilities to the Nigerian people under the National Steel Council Act.

“Wilful and deliberate misappropriation of public funds to profit and/or benefit oneself and with intent to deceive or defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and its citizens.

“A recurring pattern of executive recklessness (both civil and criminal) and blatant disregard for established laws, council procedures, and/or directives

“Communicating formally, conducting formal meetings, and/or making formal outreaches to third parties on behalf of the council without knowledge or approval, and without consequently reporting the outcome of such to the council.

“Engaging persons (either directly or on secondment) for employment and/or to serve (particularly in strictly confidential positions) to act on behalf of the council without notice to, approval by, and/or subsequent report for the purpose of ratification by the council, in contravention of paragraph 5(2) of the first schedule of the national steel council act.”

The disciplinary committee, headed by a retired judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo, submitted its preliminary report to the NSC Board on February 29, 2024.

Other members of the disciplinary committee are Prof. Sylvester Osuji, Hajiya Fatimah Hayatu, DIG David Folawiyo (Rtd) and Barr. Elvis Asoro (Secretary).

Specific allegations against Musafari that the committee investigated are: “The attempted illegal withdrawal of the sum of N726,477,654.21 from the Treasury of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) without the knowledge, consent, or approval of the National Steel Council (NSC).

“Payment of N5,000,000.00 as bank charges” that the National Steel Council said it was unaware of and did not approve.

“Payment of N6,253,000.00 as insurance dues/claims. The Council is unaware of, and did not approve, any such insurance agreement(s) for which this payment may be considered a responsibility of the Council.

“Payment of N961,000.00 for publicity of which the Council is unaware and did not approve or authorize.

“Expense of N310,060,500 as purchases/acquisition without the knowledge, authority, and/or approval of the Council.

“Expense of N38,418,530.75 as Local Travel and Transport unknown to, unauthorized by, unapproved by, and hidden from the Council.

“Another expense of N4,709,848.05 for Local Travel and Transport unknown to. unauthorized by, and unapproved by, the Council.

“Expense of N1,000,000.00 on telephone calls without the knowledge, authorization, and/or Council approval.

“Expense of N1,000,000.00 on the printing of security documents that are unknown to, unauthorized by, and unapproved by, the Council.

“Expense of N20,125,000.00 budgeted for staff training on persons unknown to, unauthorized by, and unapproved by. the Council.

“Payment of N24,371,000. as honorarium and sitting allowances, which are either unapproved or unreported by the Council.

“Payment of N9 million for the purchase of photocopy machines unknown to, unauthorized by, and unapproved by, the Council.

“Payment of N512,000.00 from funds budgeted for the purpose of the National Steel Council, for privately accrued electricity charges by Ambassador A. Musafari on private and/or personal property, without the knowledge, authorization, and/or approval of the Council.

“Payment of N4,435,113.75 for Office Stationery/Computer Consumables without the knowledge, authorization, and/or approval of the Council.

“Payment of N166,000.00 for the purported maintenance of personal/private motor vehicles that the Council is neither aware of nor owns. This payment is without the Council’s knowledge, authority, and/or approval.

“Payment of N120,000.00 for the maintenance of personal/private Office Furniture for which the Council is not aware of ownership. This payment is without the Council’s knowledge, authority, and/or approval.

“Payment of N99,000.00 purportedly for the maintenance of Office/Residential Quarters that do not belong to, are unknown to, and/or authorized by Council.

“Payment of N470,000 for maintenance of Office/IT Equipment whose ownership is unknown to, and/or does not belong to, the Council. This payment was not known to, authorized by, and/or approved by, the Council.

“Payment of N476,000.00 from public funds for maintenance of private and/or personal Plants/Generators. This payment was not known to, authorized by, and/or approved by, the Council.

“Payment of N107,000.00 for non-specific maintenance services that are not known to. authorized by, and/or approved by, the Council.

“Payment of N1,950,000 for cleaning and fumigation services for private and/or personal premises. This payment was hidden from, unauthorized by, and/or unapproved by, the Council.

“Payment of N4,995,287.50 for Motor Vehicle Fuel Costs for personal vehicles unknown to the Council. This payment was hidden from, unauthorized by. and/or unapproved by, the Council.”

The Council’s chairman, Murtala Aliyu, in a letter to the minister, described the suspension as necessary because Musafari had allegedly “failed, refused, and/or neglected to avail the Council of any information concerning his activities on behalf of the council, if duly authorised.”

The letter noted that the Council could not investigate some of the allegations against the ES and advised that they should be reported to law enforcement agencies.

Aliyu said: “It is therefore necessary to forward the infractions that the disciplinary committee cannot investigate under the law beyond the documents presented, to the appropriate government agency e.g., the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission) or the police to act.

“The infractions against the Executive Secretary are too weighty, being criminal in nature and therefore tainted with the commission of crimes, which are also in violation of the Federal Government Financial Regulations Rules. These allegations should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency with investigative powers forthwith.”

He added, “With due respect and without prejudice to the powers of the Honourable Minister for Steel and the committee set up by him, we are of the opinion that these infractions have to be investigated as agreed by the Disciplinary Committee set up under the NSC Act.

“In view of these infractions that are to be investigated, there is a need to suspend the Executive Secretary as stipulated in the Act by the Appointing Authority, which must be informed of these infractions and the steps that the Council is taking in this matter.”

When our correspondent contacted Abdulkadir Musafari for a reaction, he declined to comment on the matter. He simply told our reporter that “if you want to talk about the National Steel Council, please direct it to the Ministry of Steel Development.”

When asked what he meant, he said, “If you want to talk about steel council, you should talk to the minister, please.”

 

 

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