For nearly two years, the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, has been without a substantive Registrar-General, RG, following the expiration of the tenure of the erstwhile RG, Bello Mahmud, whose tenure ended on the first week of October 2017.
The current acting RG, Azuka Azinge, popularly called Lady Azinge, took over the affairs of the CAC as the most senior Director in the commission on October 9, 2017.
A few months after taking over the affairs of the commission, in June 2018, Lady Azinge wrote to the Ministry of Trade and Investment, seeking clarification on the payment of salaries and allowances to her as an acting head of CAC.
The ministry, having realised that there was no extant law that made such provision, had to refer the matter to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, for further clarification.
The ministry wrote back to her through a letter dated October 15, 2018, and signed by Director II, Human Resource Management, H.T Ejibunu, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the ministry.
The ministry quoted the OSGF as stating that Mrs Azinge, a Director in the commission, was not entitled to payment of salaries and allowances due to a substantive Registrar-General, “as she was appointed to oversee the affairs of the Commission as the most senior Director, pending the appointment of a substantive Registrar-General.”
Lady Azinge’s antics
Apparently not satisfied by this directive, Lady Azinge approached the board of the commission for a leeway.
An insider told this reporter that the board, headed by Dapo Abiodun, who resigned in 2019 to contest for the governorship election in Ogun State, vehemently jettisoned the idea of conferring on her all the entitlements accruable to an acting Registrar-General.
It was also gathered that during the handing over ceremony of the Board Chairmanship, the issue of her acting position did not feature in the agenda.
However, after the meeting, Mrs Azinge’s cronies took the excerpt to the chairman for signature but he refused on the ground that the issue wasn’t on the agenda.
Much later, Mrs Azinge took advantage of Mr Abiodun’s exit from the board of the commission to advance her interest when her kinsman, Nnamdi Okwuadigbo, became the acting head of the board.
DAILY NIGERIAN also gathered that Mr Okwuadigbo had allegedly been “bought over” by Lady Azinge to the extent that whatever request she presented to the board never wasted time before being approved.
To this end, the board, during its 74th meeting held on February 8 and 9, 2019, and presided over by Mr Okwuadigbo, approved Mrs Azinge’s request seeking to enjoy the allowances and benefits of an acting Registrar-General.
The board premised their decision to grant Lady Azinge’s request on the fact that the CAC under her watch won several awards and commendations for its role on the ease of doing business in the country.
The board was reportedly dismayed that Mrs Azinge, who performed the duties and discharged all the responsibilities of a substantive RG still earned salaries and allowances of a director.
However, the board shot itself on the foot when it further premised its decision on chapter 6.06 of the commission’s condition of service which states that, “when an officer is asked to act at higher level for a period of 30 days or more, the officer shall be entitled to acting allowances.”
However, when all these deliberations were going on, Mrs Azinge had hidden her correspondence with the ministry and OSGF from the members of the board, sensing that they would be discouraged from going ahead with the approval.
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that for hiding the OSGF letter, Mrs Azinge risks dismissal as suppression of records, according to Public service rule, is a dismissible offence.
Lady Azinge, the full-fledged Acting Registrar-General
But Mrs Azinge, it was gathered, has been enjoying all the salaries, benefits and allowances of an acting RG since the board’s decision. The payments were back-dated starting from the 30 days after taking over the affairs of the commission.
Such benefits include two weeks annual all-expense-paid holiday overseas with a spouse to a destination not further than New York, USA; three official vehicles; N250,000 annual dressing allowance and many more.
An internal memo obtained by this reporter, dated March 5, 2019, written by the Director, Human resource of the commission, showed that N3,474,106 and N250,000 were respectively paid to her as overseas Holiday and Dressing Allowance for 2018.
Similarly, on July 25, 2019, N3,389,050 was approved to her to attend an international MasterClass on Corporate Governance and Value-based Leadership program in London.
Can board decision override OSGF’s decision?
A retired director in one of the federal ministries who spoke to DAILY NIGERIAN on the condition of anonymity said the board acted in error.
The lawyer recalled the case of the former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Prof. Yusuf Usman, who was suspended by the NHIS’s board but refused to comply, claiming that the board had no powers to suspend him.
He recalled that at the end, the matter had to be referred to the SGF which constituted a committee to investigate the matter before Mr Yusuf was eventually sacked.
He added: “The SGF is the office that supervises all the government agencies. The office is also saddled with the responsibility of appointing, suspending and sacking of all the heads of federal agencies.
“So, in this case, the CAC board has no powers to upgrade her to an acting Registrar-General position with all the attendant entitlements, no matter how best she performs. For God sake, she is a serving civil servant.
“If not for the insensitivity of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, how would a revenue-generating agency like Corporate Affairs Commission stay for two years without a substantive head?,” the source queried.
Uneasy calm at CAC headquarters
Lady Azinge’s incompetence has become too glaring to go unnoticed, said a staffer at the commission’s headquarters Abuja.
According to the staff, who prefered not to be named, Mrs Azinge has surrounded herself with cronies and yes-men as directors and heads of strategic committees in the commission, despite several objections to these acts.
Recently, Mrs Azinge, in connivance with the ICT department, undertook an upgrade on the Company Registration Portal, CRP, of the commission for improved productivity.
An insider told this reporter that the upgrade was initiated with a view to installing software that could be siphoning money into their private pockets.
He said: “This woman is busy bribing and pumping money into people to do her biddings. The portal upgrade was a sham, it was done for economic gains. Thank God She did not succeed.
“The portal crashed to the extent that for two weeks we could not register any company in the commission. We had to revert to the old portal before normalcy was restored,” the source lamented.
The insider disclosed that the acting RG was currently sitting on so many petitions written by various disgruntled staff members and other organisations concerning her inability to steer the affairs of the commission without fear or favour.
A letter, sighted by this reporter, written by the Abuja Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, to the acting RG, registering their dismay over her appointment of one Moses Adaguusu as the head of Public Affairs department of the commission who is not their member, lend credence to what the CAC staffer said.
According to the NIPR, in its letter dated September 11, 2019, and signed by its chairman, Tayo Haastrup, it is an illegal and punishable offence for any organisation or person to appoint a non-registered member of the Institute as Director or as Head of Public Relations in Nigeria.
However, DAILY NIGERIAN reporter gathered that Mrs Azinge is yet to comply with the NIPR’s prayers.
Mrs Azinge’s alleged gross ineptitude, favouritism, others
On June 14, 2019, the CAC chapter of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service and Recreational Services Employees, AUPCTRE, wrote a petition to the acting RG over gross ineptitude, poor management co-ordination, favouritism and selective application of rules in the commission.
Obtained by DAILY NIGERIAN, the petition was signed by the CAC AUPCTRE chairman, Ibrahim Kirfi, and copied the Senate President, Speaker Federal House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Director General, DSS and the Chairman, Federal Character Commission.
One of the issues the petition raised was about an “unwarranted and biased offer of contract appointment” by the acting RG.
It cited the case of one Tony Ugochukwu, whom Mrs Azinge gave a contract appointment, sidelining tow others, Jamilu Naladan Doko and Mohammed Aminu Abubakar who were much more qualified than Mr Ugochukwu.
According to them, Mr Ugochukwu has been in Government Service for 38 years, since 1981, adding that he has no value to add to the commission.
The petition further noted that a staff (Mrs Juan) was posted to the Commission’s Secretariat to understudy the office, preparatory to her take over from Mr Ugochukwu, but was later on rejected to give way for the return of Mr Ugochukwu.
Part of the petition read: “Mr Tony has no special qualification and he is not indispensable to necessitate this offer, he has no degree and has stagnated on his bar as Senior Manager, after all, Kunle Joseph who is meant to replace him happens to hold an HND, BSC, a chartered professional, a qualified Confidential Secretary and presently a Principal Manager.”
The petition also complained of discriminatory formation of committees by Mrs Azinge, lamenting that the recently constituted Disciplinary and Exams Committees are lopsided and do not reflect federal character.
It named the committee members as B. F Ikhanoba; chairman, Uji Uzoma; secretary, Ifeoma Isaac, Laraba Shuaibu and Justin Ndiya.
It questioned the removal of one Munir Wambai and A.G. Abubakar, saying that: “Ordinarily, we expect that Mrs Ikhanoba, having chaired the committee for over 10 years should have stepped down for Mr Abubakar who has been secretary, to take over having garnered the requisite experience.
“We equally expect that the entire membership of the Committee will be Directors in order not to give undue advantage to non-directors who will one day write Exams,” it noted.
It also named the disciplinary committee members as Justin Ndiya; chairman, Hadiza Umar Tandja; Secretary, Mr Inyang, T.S. Tume, Leticia Moodey, Mrs.Ajetumobi, Oyeniyi Olamide, O., Chris Umahi and Peter Nyam Gai.
The union was completely opposed to the formation of the two aforementioned committees as they do not reflect Federal Character.
it said: “it is pertinent to note that since the creation of the Commission in 1991, all committees have always reflected Federal Character, Religion, and Gender until now.
“We do not vouch on the credibility, sincerity and impartiality of these Committees.”
The union, therefore, called for an immediate and unbiased reformation/realignment of the committees to reflect Federal Character/Religion and Gender in order to avoid possible backlash.
While compiling this report, effort was made by DAILY NIGERIAN to get reactions from Mrs Azinge as text an email messages were all sent to her. However, the acting RG is yet to respond to these enquiries as at the time of publishing this report.