Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
People of Zaria area of Kaduna state have been blamed for what has been described as “downgrading condition” of National Tuberculosis, Leprosy Centre, NTBLTC, in Saye, in Zaria area of Kaduna state, owing to alleged large-scale financial fraud and mismanagement.
Former Centre’s Medical and Health Workers Union chairman, Kalma Ezekiel, who disclosed this in an interview with our correspondent, said rather than insisting on firmed management, the hospital was allowed to be run single-handedly with sentiments of tribes and religion by the principal, Dr. Shehu Labaran.
“Incidentally, I’m no longer at the centre; I’m at the verge of retiring, though yet to retire. I’m with NGO now in Adamawa, Yola, on secondment. I’ll be leaving the service on 8th March, 2019. I’m a child of God; I don’t want to pock-nose into their affairs anymore.
“In fact, the man (the principal) is a terrible person, a big liar; terribly corrupt. The problem we have is the Zaria people themselves. They’re not helping matters; they’ve ‘long throat,’” he said.
Ezekiel said when the Zaria people are giving plenty of sheep, rams and rice during Sallah, they forget about everything they need to do to help the centre to grow. They’re not like Kano people. It seems like fruitless efforts but not fruitless efforts yet,” he lamented.
He recalled that as far back as 1999, a Senator, during Ahmed Makarfi’s regime, hinted him of a document that would have warranted the centre to be independent, alongside Nigeria Civil Aviation, but was not done, adding that till date, the Leprosy Hospital has no Board members.
According to him, the principal has resulted to the use of religion and tribes, by telling members of the House of Representatives from the area that he was hated by Yorubas and others for being Hausa and a Muslim.
Kalma Ezekiel also noted, with dismay, that the centre has been over-staffed, and now looking like a market square, flooded with over 550 staff-strength doing nothing, saying “My office alone was 12 when I was there.”
He further explained that his colleague and predecessor, one Jonathan, who has also left the centre, was at one time taken to the Emirate Council in Zaria by the principal, where the principal shed crocodile tears, but was told to be responsible for his fault by the Secretary of the Emirate.
“He has been transferred several times but refused to go because of support enjoyed from the Reps members. The minister knows that the man is bad, but the House of Reps from Zaria supports him, went to the minister to say, “No, leave him alone; what’s his own concern with Zaria Centre?”
“They help him to remove all the staff that brought the centre to its glory, using the minister, who is a Yoruba man. So, they’ve stopped the minister from removing the principal, brought junior people, who are toothless bulldogs, and ‘Mummu’ to the center that can’t say anything to the principal.
“From June, 2017, when I was leaving, they cut the salary, and all allowances were removed completely. Imagine someone taking N180,000 to almost N200 000, suddenly reduced to N100,000-N120,000 later. No parastatal is mandated to employ a single staff itself but the man employs himself,” he revealed.
According to Ezekiel and former head of lab, the centre’s former Accountant – one Mr. Dawaki – petitioned the principal that he should account for N78 million excess salaries he received, but was swept under the carpet.
Efforts to reach Mr. Dawaki and former admin officer, Kabir Sariki Bello, through their GSMs to confirm some of the allegations were fruitless. However, Ezekiel informed that contract for the rebuilding of the burnt lab office was given to the NGO where he currently worked to prevent the principal from using it to make money, as a conduit pipe, because the minister knows him.
Findings also revealed that those recently recruited into the hospitals workforce were yet to resume work, but salary account numbers have already been open for them at the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Zaria, and monies paid into them.
A petition also obtained from the centre bearing Ezekiel, copied Kabiru Sarki Bello and other management staff, respectively, revealed and acknowledged that N135 million was credited to the principal accounts for payment of promotion arrears even when the outstanding was not up to N10 million, adding that the balance of the money was shared by him and his cronies, who siphon money through the centre.
The petition document, dated July 2016, and April 2016, reads in parts: “I am aware N130 million credited to you for payment of promotion, and you did not have any outstanding payment of up to10 million. The balance money you and your cronies shared; I did not expose you, I have evidence in my possession.
“I also know you have used your company, Sambex Farms, crookedly to earn award of contract to build haematology lab, which, the sum of over 60 million was remitted to you. The evidence of the letter you personally wrote to Abuja to outsource security, gardeners, Paul Davis and Cafeteria got a boost, and the sum of 50 million naira was also released to you – it is crystal clear that you did not outsource them and the said amount was entirely benefitted by you.
“You single-handedly bought a second-hand 508 Peugeot car at a whooping sum of 10 million naira without approval from anywhere. You also did not get approval for the purchase of Hilux, 405, Hiace Bus. Government expenditures are not spent with careless abandon; approvals must be sought and granted before you can spend government money,” he stated.”
Earlier, the document averred that, “l still feel I have a stake in Saye community, and that probably translates to why am still concerned, because if a petition is written today, I may have to be called upon to answer some questions; as such, I still have a stake, and that’s why I want every pending issue to be sorted out before I finally handover, particularly the issue of recruitment, which seems more of racketeering than the actual procedure.
“I feel you do not really know the right procedure and you won’t budge to all the advises I had rendered to you in this regard and so many others, which culminates to the incessant quarrels we have been having.
“My write-up today is to further advice you and bring out some points for you to ponder on, so that you can appreciate my protection on you, not because I have soiled my hands but because I seriously sympathize with you. You know quite well I stooped for you but I refused to condescend, which are reasons behind our quarrels,” it stated.
“Recruitment: The recruitment you are presently undertaking isn’t the procedure. There is no authority of any sort that warrants this recruitment. In practical terms, you do not have any approval to do this recruitment. If I may ask you, which authority do you have to conduct this fresh exercise?
“I condoned your excesses on this matter; instead of reporting you, I obeyed your instructions without creating problems, rather I protected you against my wish and procedure, yet I’m your Number One enemy, which you flaunt at every chance you get,” they narrated.
“The minister is aware. He (the minister) knows that all his people are supporting him so he has to keep quiet. And if the minister keeps quiet, what more of the permanent secretaries and directors? Previous directors in the ministry knew about this, and feast on it. House Committees knew about it. When they wanted to ask, they briefed them, and they said, ‘Ok, put our own.’ Those, who are assisting him in the dirty deals, were transferred, he went and worked them back,” he stated.
Contacted, the principal was said to be out of office. However, the head of the account, Buhari Abdullahi, who spoke to our reporter on phone, said ICPC has already investigated the centre on most of the allegations raised and was exonerated. He also refuted most of other allegations, but agreed that patient-feeding dropped from 3 to 2, adding that the N1,000 charge on each patient was meant for ‘admission fees’ done in every medical center.
An insider staff, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, disagreed with the Accountant, Abdullahi, as he confirmed all the allegations raised against the principal.
According to the staff, “The management staff devices many strategies in defrauding government and staff, such as the use of integrated payroll and personnel information, IPPIS.
“Others include the over-payment of Account and some Admin staff, use of personal account to transact government businesses, employing of staff and posting them to local government primary health care and under federal government payroll, investing in personal properties with government funds, use of federal ministry of health as Plc.
“These also include using the cleaning company to defraud the government, carrying out employment without involving federal character commission, bribing people in health ministry to post staffs of the centre that are threat to him, employing staff and posting them to his house in Abuja and Kano.”
Our correspondent, who visited the centre for clarification, said he was prevented from entering the patient ward, insisting that until application is written, requesting for visit approved.
Meanwhile, recent media reports said Nigeria recorded 420 from Tuberculosis deaths daily, even as the country is second largest burden of Tb in Africa and fourth in the world.
According to head lab science unit, who also pleaded anonymity, the principal is being accused of running the hospital finances using his own personal account and his own personal email address to send official correspondences.