The Federal Government has stopped the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) from recruiting a registrar and making further procurements for the construction of its Abuja office.
This was contained in a letter that emanated from the office of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMT), Dr. Magdalene Ajani, dated March 27, 2023 with reference number FMT/TPC/275/1/15, sighted by JournalNG.
The letter titled “RE: ALLEGED FRAUD AT THE COUNCIL FOR THE REGULATION OF FREIGHT FORWARDING IN NIGERIA” was addressed to the Chairman, Governing Board of CRFFN, Abubakar Tsanni.
“It has been brought to my notice that CRFFN is conducting a Procurement process for the Construction of its Office Headquarters in Abuja, and the Recruitment Process to fill the Vacancy for the Office of the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the Council without the approval of the Honourable Minister of Transportation.
“Consequently, I hereby direct that you immediately stop all actions on the above Processes and to request you to furnish the Ministry with updates on compliance”, Dr. Ajani said.
Our correspondent gathered that the decision of the Transport Ministry halting the Abuja office construction came on the heels of a petition from some “concerned staff” of the Council to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The petition by the whistleblowers, which was dated March 24, 2023 also copied the Minister of Finance; Minister of Transportation; Permanent Secretary, FMT, and the Accountant General of the Federation.
According to the whistleblowers, the Chairman, Governing Council of CRFFN, Abubakar Tsanni, and the Acting Registrar, Mrs Chinyere Uromta have been trying to pay out more money to the contractor of the project, despite not commencing work on the site till date, after a 15 per cent mobilisation of over N300m was paid in 2019.
They also accused the management of the Council of conniving with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the contractor to warehouse the budgeted money for the project against all financial regulations.
The petition read: “FRAUD IN Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigerial CRFFN)- Act before it happens! We write under the Whistle Blowers Policy of the Federal Government- See something, say something!
“We the concerned staff of the above government regulatory Council wish to draw your attention to the imminent fraud about to happen in the Council.
“The Council was given approval by the Bureau of Public Procurement in 2019 to adopt selective tendering procedure for the construction of CRFFN headquarters in Abuja. The contract was awarded to a company belonging to Senator LADO, the PDP governorship candidate in Katsina State.
“A 15% mobilization was paid to the contractor amounting to over N300m. Till date, the contractor has not mobilized to site nor was the mobilization fees refunded. The projects were to last for not more than six months. Recently, the chairman and the Ag. Registra have been holding secret meetings to enable them pay out more money WITHOUT a MILE STONE COMPLETION CERTIFICATE.
“Over the years, the budgeted amount has been warehoused on the request of the Council. The management of the Council is now conniving with Sen LADO to make further payments to the contractor without any job being done on the site. The office of Accountant General of the Federation has been conniving with Sen LADO to warehouse this money against all financial regulations.
“As the fy 2022 budget is about to be closed, CRFFN is making frantic attempts to pay the contractors for jobs not done. There is presently about 900m in CRFFN account waiting to be shared in payments to companies belonging to Sen LADO in the name of construction of CRFFN headquarters.
“We the concerned staff of the Council feel we have a sense of duty to bring this to attention of the Commission, so that this money is not frittered away in bogus payments for jobs not being done since 2019”.
Also, on the appointment/re-appointment of a Registrar, a committee of the CRFFN Governing Council made four recommendations.
They are: “1. That since the tenure of the Registrar is coming to an end on the 31” of January 2023, that the Council should direct the committee on Appointment Promotion and Discipline (APD) to immediately start the process and procedures for the appointment/re-appointment of a Registrar in accordance with the provision of the Public Service Rules 020205(f) and the powers conferred on the Council by the CRFFN Act 2007, but bearing in mind, the choice of first refusal to be accorded the current Registrar.
“2. That Reference to his letter of appointment Ref, No CRFFN/CGC/RG/13 dated 17th January 2019, informing the Council that his tenure of four(4) years of office expires on the 31″ of January, 2023. That the Council should write and direct the Registrar on behalf of the Governing Council to hand over to the most Senior Director (Mrs Chinyere Uromta) Director Regulations and Enforcement on the 31” of January 2023, pending the appointment/re-appointment of a substantive Registrar.
“3. That henceforth, the Governing Council must observe all conditions, process and procedures provided in the extant laws; particularly the CRFFN Act, PSR in the Appointment Promotion and Discipline of all staff willing to work with the Council.
“4. The committee recommend that the Governing Council should officially write and communicate to the Registrar the decision of the Council”.
However, the recommendations made by the committee on the matter have been ignored.
The Council, in its reply dated March 28, 2023 signed by Tsanni and addressed to the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye and the FMT Permanent Secretary, denied any form of wrongdoing in both cases.
Tsanni explained that the budgetary provision for the office construction remains intact, adding that the Governing Council is acting pursuant to Section 11 of the CRFFN Act No. 16 of 2007 as regards the recruitment of a Registrar.
The letter read: “We acknowledge receipt with thanks of your letter dated 27th March, 2023 referenced FMT/TPC/275/1/15 on the above subject matter.
“Since the former Registrar, Mr. Samuel Nwakohu handed over to the Acting Registrar, Mrs. Chinyere Uromta on 31st January, 2023 there has been no further Procurement process in respect of the construction of the Office Headquarters in Abuja and to the best of my knowledge, the budgetary provision has remained intact.
“As for the recruitment process for the Registrar, the Governing Council is acting pursuant to Section 11 of the CRFFN Act No. 16 of 2007.
“Finally, it is important to reiterate here that, no fraud exist within the Council administration under the guidance of the Governing Council”.