Nigerian Governors’ Forum Secretariat On Fire As Director Exposes Alleged Corruption, Diversion Of Funds By Director-General, Okauru

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Bello-Barkindo warned that the Governors’ Forum Secretariat was on the verge of imploding, claiming that the DG’s allegiance lied with someone outside the 36 governors that constitute the Forum.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Secretariat has written to the Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, over alleged fraudulent activities of the Director-General of the forum, A B Okauru.

In the petition dated May 17, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, the NGF Director, Media and Public Affairs, detailed the illegal activities of Okauru, calling on the Chairman of the forum to order a forensic audit of the financial books in the last 15 years to show the enormity of financial impropriety going on under the DG.

Bello-Barkindo warned that the Governors’ Forum Secretariat was on the verge of imploding, claiming that the DG’s allegiance lied with someone outside the 36 governors that constitute the Forum.

According to the petition, Okauru is running an agenda contrary to that of improving the lives and livelihoods of the populace at the sub-national level apart from the willful self-aggrandisement and personal gratification that he obtained through many illegal transactions.

Accompanying the petition with affidavit, which he said would amplify its authenticity and to emphasise that everything in it was the truth, he added that the DG had turned the Secretariat of NGF into a family affair and now more of transactional than developmental. 

The petition partly read, “The Director General Okauru, has occupied the office for fifteen years. In those years, instead of a history of progress, the DG and his ED Finance and Admin had turned the Forum and its finances into their personal fiefdom. It is a litany of graft. Millions of Naira is stolen through spurious over-invoicing. At different times, the DG and the Executive Directors have had shouting bouts in the open, in the full glare of staff over money. 

“The Secretariats accounts have not been audited in the last decade to say the least, that even the phony auditors invited to mock the auditing process have at various times confessed that the job they are doing for the secretariat is a wash. Has anyone ever wondered why an institution that midwife’s huge monetary deals like the Paris-London refunds does not have a qualified accountant?”

“In an organisation that makes over N3billion annually, the total annual income of its entire staff is N70million. Staff of the Forum are always asking where all the money goes. There is a staff that earns N20,000 a month or $20. 

“There are instances. The N630m deductions from the N5bn infrastructure support fund which ended in a shouting bout among governors while you are chairman was a deliberate ploy to make you look bad among your colleagues. The secretariat did not brief you adequately. Their instructions from their master’s house, across the street, was to set booby-traps and obstacles in your path. 

“Sir, you must take urgent steps to ameliorate the situation. In my opinion, the NGF requires a forensic audit of all its accounts including those that were opened during crises periods to avoid the prying eyes of Governors in the name of NIGOFO among others,” he suggested.

Insisting that he is ready for whatever may emanate from the petition, the Director explained that owning to the happenings, he consulted with reputable Human Resources Managers who advised me to document his altercation with Mr. Okauru, should the matter get to higher authorities, including the law courts. 

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“…They should have just asked me, and I will repeat myself, fearlessly. My constitutional duty as a public interest journalist locally and internationally is to expose malfeasance. I still stand by my accusations against Okauru and his wife. They stole the DG’s job. The interview that brought Okauru to office was conducted by Restral Consulting, an outfit solely owned by Ifueko Omoigui Okauru who at the time was Chairman of the FIRS and operating a consulting firm, even as a high earning civil servant. They commit crimes upon crimes and expect to get away with it. But everyday is for the thief and one day for the owner.

“The sale of a plot donated to the secretariat by the FCT minister is another case in point. The plot situated in the heart of Abuja referred to as the Central Business District was sold by Okauru to Mrs Okauru for a paltry N800m, a cost they decided in their bedroom. No plot of land in that district goes for less than N4bn then and N10bn today. The whereabouts of the proceeds in both organisations are still uncertain. At the time, Gov Rochas Okorocha had protested the insider trading deal, a crime in the eyes of the law.

“I am narrating all these to illustrate the scenario under which the majority of staff of the Forum, who are serving you and your colleagues diligently are working. All is not well at the NGF. I have had cause to write to the DG on his obnoxious behavior and in fact even previously resigned my appointment with the Forum at different times only to be persuaded to stay that things would get better, but instead they got worse. The point I am making is that I have never been afraid to say the truth. All contracts are awarded to Okauru’s clan, just as HR reforms contract at the Forum was awarded to a car-dealer. Ask the staff.

“Exposing these infractions and several others like them have been the major reasons why Okauru would threaten to take my life. As the vehicle for aiding donor agencies to interact with the sub-national on the same platform, the NGF earned money from grants. However instead of utilizing the money for the collective good of the organization, Okauru paid a few of his minions but even they complained that he shortchanged them. …That is why I took his threat on my life seriously.

“On the Paris-London Club transaction which the NGF midwifed, the NGF made close to N19bn out of which the staff of the NGF were to be rewarded with N850m by the Chairman of the Forum, at the time Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State. Okauru and his accomplice sat on the money for nearly a year until I led the staff to his office to demand the payment of the share of the Forum’s workers. This action evoked a shameless finger-pointing exercise between Okauru and Jibia. Eventually the money was shared in a manner that shocked everyone. Okauru alone took N250m while he gave his Executive Directors N200m each. The remaining staff were left with N200m. the staff were agitated and wanted to protest this sharing formula, but the other Director (Legal) and I held the Forum together and pleaded with the staff to let it go.”

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“… Despite the lump sums Okauru paid himself and the Executive Directors in lieu of official vehicles, housing and furniture, a utility vehicle once disappeared from the office. The car was in Okaurus house, and we demanded that the car be brought back. He promised to bring it back and directed the Human Resources officer to send a driver to his house to retrieve it. On getting to his residence, he told the driver that he couldn’t find the keys to the car. Months later I saw Okauru and his wife at a funeral shamelessly sitting in the car.

“The 15 years of sitting as DG has turned Okauru into a despot. He has also personalised the secretariat and shared its properties with his family, friends, and cronies. …Where office property expires or are procured, Okauru gifted old ones to his kith and kin or sent them to his village even when the HR would have declared that that office equipment was to be auctioned to staff. Not satisfied with what he hauls away the office pays for everything including his haircuts.

“At this point it is important to bring up an attempt by Okauru and his wife through the instrumentality of her NGO, Dagomo, to bullishly take over the NGF and make it their family business. At the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, they came up with a plan to participate in the distribution of palliatives to the most vulnerable citizens of this country. But what came as a philanthropic gesture by Dagomo turned out to be a grand design to transfer the services that the secretariat rendered to Governors to their NGO as a consultant.

“Finding that arrangement fishy I called the attention of my colleagues to the scheme which we resisted and forced Dagomo to withdraw from the team. However even though we blocked the hostile take-over of the NGF by one family that wanted to run the subnational secretariat from their bedroom, they left, but not with empty hands. The NGF parted with N50m to Dagomo, Okauru’s wife’s NGO.

“What is happening today at the secretariat where the DGs floor has a retinue of nine staff is another dimension to this takeover. Not even Governors have that number of aides in the name of personal staff. There is one staff on that floor whose name will not be mentioned in order not to shame his children. His duty is to flush the toilet after it had been used by Okauru. Personnel files are stored in Okauru’s home, giving teeth to the fact the Mrs Okauru uses the NGF as her retirement plan. It is evident as any matter that was ever discussed at the Forum must await Okauru to take it home first before it is executed.

“Lest I forget, I am not the first person that has been lied against to be thrown out. Philemon Anda, the administrative officer was flushed out for carrying out instructions issued by Jibia. When Okauru questioned Philemon, Jibia left Philemon in the lurch and was dismissed inappropriately by Okauru. The case of Madu Emmuemen is still fresh in the Forum’s memories. Okauru sacked Madu without as little as a query. This administrative ineptitude is what is now being extended to me.

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“In our altercation, Okauru told me he had already written me off as a staff of the NGF. I asked him, “why don’t you man up and sack me?” Instead of manning up, he weaved a lie that I had resigned “verbally” and rushed to the gate to order security not to let me back into the premises. On what I said about his wife, I promised him that I will gladly repeat it but that will be in court. His response, “we will follow you to your house, your bedroom and even to Sweden”. It is the cry of a desperate man. I took that threat seriously because I am not about to let anyone touch my wife, my son and my two dogs. I have since moved everyone to safety and reported the matter to the IGP and also sought special protection against Okauru from the Swedish police.

“Your Excellency, I have sought protection from the Northern Governors’ Forum, the Northeast Governors’ Forum and the Governor of Adamawa State, where I come from. They are all in copy. As far as I am concerned, I am still a staff of the NGF as no DG can whimsically sack me through non-procedural means because as a director only the Chairman or a committee of governors can take a decision on my employment. For now, I am very aware that I am putting my life on the line by challenging Okauru’s unethical conduct, sir.

“I am giving this background to notify Governors of the sickness in the NGF that I have had to work to defend before the Nigerian public, in spite of threats to my life and my hard-earned integrity that no one has ever questioned. Journalists have accused me of aiding this Forum’s clannishness, not knowing that everything is in Mr Okauru’s efforts to shield the country from knowing he has been in this office for 15 years. 

“Even at that Okauru has not shown gratitude to the governors who he speaks ill of at various times. For example, when the Southeast Governors’ Forum DG, Senator Uche Ekwunife visited the NGF Secretariat in Abuja, Okauru openly announced that “whether anyone likes it or not Sakari is the best Chairman of the NGF.” Such a preposterous statement coming from one who is supposed to be fair to all. I also wonder what society thinks of a man who worships male friends of his wife.”

Finally, he said that his lawyers had filed a suit against Okauru. “The rest of the revelations will be made in full public glare before a court of law as well as the court of public opinion.” 

Meanwhile, Media’ efforts to get the reaction of the DG Okauru were unsuccessful as he did not take his calls for two days before filing this report. 

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