December 5, 2020

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NABTEB registrar reacts to N49million fraud claim, says board’s sacked chairman blackmailing her

The Registrar of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) , Ifeoma Abanihe, has responded to claims by a former chairman of the board of the agency, Leonard Shilgba, that she mismanaged N49 million belonging to the examination body.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja, Mrs. Abanihe, a professor, said the claims by Mr. Shilgba were false, baseless and orchestrated to blackmail her and tarnish her reputation.

“It (missing N49million) does not exist,” the registrar said. “There is no N49million that is lost. He just said it because he didn’t have patience to wait to have meetings and inaugurate the committees. You know that was a special committee he put together. If he so much wanted to find out if something was wrong, he should have asked for explanation but the registrar was not asked to explain.

“My own explanation to it is that there was no N49million lost or that needed to be saved. There was nothing like that. It was because of his wrong calculations and he didn’t understand (the book keeping). He didn’t also ask those that could explain to him. As you have heard now, he didn’t ask the DFA (director of finance) to explain. Neither did the committee ask the DFA to explain.

“He wanted something sensational because it will be sensational to say the registrar should explain N49 million naira. Indeed, he was in a hurry that day because he had already packaged what he would use to hang himself not the registrar. It would be to his disservice even if someone comes to explain it.

“I don’t think he wanted it (the book keeping) to be explained to him. He wanted something to use as blackmail. He just wanted to put out lies in the public.

“It is just a way of blackmailing me, otherwise, you can see that it is ridiculous. It is ridiculous because how does this benefit the registrar? How does this enter my pocket? How do you come by saying the registrar should return N49 million naira? From what? From your calculation that don’t make sense and you didn’t ask the experts to explain to you?

The Director of Finance and Account at NABTEB, Nnasia Asanga, also told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Shilgba’s poor understanding of book keeping led him to a faulty conclusion.

According to Mr Asanga, the ex- chairman lumped the cost of service rendered with the liability that arose from the said cost which resulted in double-counting.

“This is because liability is always created for all unpaid services enjoyed or items consumed or received,” he said.

Mr. Asanga then gave a detailed analysis of the expenses of the board and presented documents to back his explanations.

He said the chairman should have been worried if the amount owed service providers were greater than the cost of services received.

“It is only in this scenario that one can aptly postulate that the registrar/chief executive and management were unable to give accounts of the difference,” he said. “That is not the case here. There is even surplus. So where did the abstract N49million come from?”

The director expressed surprise that he, who manages the agency’s finances, was not even invited to explain the accounts before the ex- board chairman reached his verdict.

Mr. Shilgba had queried Mrs Abanihe almost immediately his board was inaugurated, accusing her of mismanagement and maladministration.

In what continued to baffle many officials of the education ministry, the registrar and some of her directors were then suspended at the first ever meeting of the board. And without recourse to the board.

Mr. Abanihe rejected all the allegations , saying the chairman marked her out for poor treatment because she did not yield to some of his several financial and other demands, including those he made even before the board was inaugurated.

The education ministry later investigated the crisis triggered by the suspension of the NABTEB officials, and found the Mr. Shilgba-led board of unnecessarily harassing Mrs. Abanihe and her team. Minister Adamu Adamu immediately dissolved the board.

Mr. Shilgba later accused the ministry of covering up corruption , but checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the removed chairman was high-handed and arbitrary in his dealings with the NABTEB registrar. This newspaper saw evidence that he made demands without consideration for due process and accountability.

For instance, he once gave an order that he should be paid allowances for all sittings of board committees he appointed, even without participating in their deliberations. He also demanded the employment of four personal aides, a benefit he was not entitled to as a part-time chairman of a federal board.

Mr Shilgba claimed he turned down a contract offer from the registrar when she once visited his hotel. But Mrs. Abanihe strongly denied the claim, saying it was part of the falsehood being peddled by the former chairman to discredit her.

She said she only paid a courtesy call on the then chairman in the company of two other officials of NABTEB and another board member, adding that at no time during the visit was contract discussed.

“When the ministry had a retreat for chairmen and chief executives of boards, we sat together in front,” the registrar explained. “BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) was there to talk about procurement so everyone will understand their roles. The legal people from the ministry spoke. ICPC was there and everything went well. I felt that after the meeting, I would go and see him because we had not held a board meeting.

“I called him and I told i would like to see him. Thank God for my nature, I am not suspicious but I don’t take things anyhow, I hardly go out alone, I go with my assistants and of course they were the ones that booked the hotel (for the chairman). We went to the reception and we were told he is in the other building. When we got there, someone else came down. The man told us that the chairman asked us to come up.

“That was not what I expected so I told the man to tell him to come down and we left for the lobby. Another good thing is that our common friend whose name I don’t want to disclose also came around and we were in the lobby. There was no secret meeting. It was an open discussion. So I did not discuss anything about contract with him.”

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