Tales trailing Rasheed Olaoluwa’s sack as Managing Director, Bank of Industry (BOI) are not cheering. The air is polluted with claims he ran the bank with impunity. In this write-up, Forefront unveils the alleged ‘sins’ of illegal dismissal of staff; showy lifestyle; and underhand personal loans that contributed to his disastrous ouster from the Bank
A strongly worded petition by aggrieved staff of the Bank of Industry (BOI) addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and copied the Senate President; Speaker, House of Representatives; and Chief Justice of the Federation stirred the hornet nest at Nigeria’s oldest and largest development financing institution charged with providing funding for the establishment of large, medium and small projects across the country. The petitioners also listed the Director General of State Security Services (DSS), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) among those served copies of the petition for necessary action. They alleged victimization and illegal dismissal of staff without due process, describing the development as a grand plan to cover up a leaked memo exposing suspected fraudulent activities by the ex-Managing Director in liaison with some ‘trusted’ aides in the bank. The contentious memo exposed alleged fraudulent approvals by Mr Olaoluwa that contravened due process and official decorum, thereby defrauding the bank and federal government of funds running into several millions of Naira. Similarly, there are claims that under his watch, government shares and assets were sold by a stock-broking firm under reprimand from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The ex-BOI boss is also accused of masterminding the illegal arrest of some staff by DSS, in collaboration with the Bank’s Chief Security Officer at the Kaduna office. Here, one Mr Adewunmi, identified as part of Olaoluwa’s DSS details, is charged with the ignoble task of whipping into line staff perceived as non-conformists in suspected underhand deals within the system. One of such petitions dated December 28, 2015 and addressed to the Senate President, through Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central Zone is titled “Petition Against Wrongful Dismissal, Injustice, Illegal Use And Abuse of DSS Agents, Grand Conspiracy to Cover Fraudulent Activities of Mr Rasheed Olaoluwa And Redress For Mr Yusuf Muhammad Baba”. Written by one Hafsat Muhammad Baba and accompanied by a letter from Kaduna-based law firm, Emma Okunola & Associates, the petitioner said, “l most humbly write this complaint and call for a public inquiry through the committee of public petition of the use of self help, injustice, misconduct, illegal use and abuse of security agents, grand conspiracy to cover fraudulent activities of Mr Rasheed Olaoluwa (referred to as “MD BOI”) and consequently seek redress on behalf of Mr Yusuf Muhammad Baba (my son) who is now suffering untold hardship as a result of the activities of the MD BOI over a disturbing information which my son was privileged to read on an online media which involved the MD and some top management staffs, and how he in view of the fact that there has not been a board constituted to overlook the affairs of BOI, resorted to decisions inimical to the organization.” Sources close to the Bank’s office in Kaduna revealed recent developments were in clear breach of the workers’ fundamental human rights. They recounted an instance where a staff was abused and picked up from his duty post like a common criminal without any verifiable reason or warrant of arrest from appropriate authorities. The petition stated that a few disengaged staff were forced to face what seemed a kangaroo disciplinary panel on December 21, 2015 at the Lagos office. After sitting for less than an hour, one of the affected staff was summarily dismissed without due consideration of all available facts on ground. Our source said the letter of immediate dismissal signed by Head of Human Resources, Ngozi P. Osindero and Divisional Head of Management Services, one Mike Esotu on December 23, 2015 was a shocker to many workers in the Bank. A Senior Regional manager told Forefront that another act of impunity is the alleged sales of some Bank’s assets without due process. Competent sources claimed BOI’s shares in WAMCO Nigeria Plc, makers of Peak Milk; and Dangote Group as well as some of its properties in Ikoyi, Victoria Island in Lagos and Abuja were given away in obvious sneaky deals. “There were no invitations for tenders through media advertisements in at least two national dailies as prescribed in the Public Procurement Act and curiously, all the buyers of these assets seem remotely connected to Olaoluwa and his cronies In addition, there is also a petition alleging that ex-Managing Director led a flamboyant lifestyle despite current economic realities in the country. With unusually large motorcades and travel teams during official duties nationwide, the aggrieved staff, who stormed Forefront with legion of documents, accused Olaoluwa of always flying first class with public money. “Given the present administration’s disposition against profligacy in public resources, Olaoluwa’s attitude was not only unpatriotic, but callous as it impinges negatively on government’s lean resources. Apparently, he found it difficult to key into the “Change Mantra”, particularly in reducing his long convoys and other trifling expenditures,” the petition said. Besides, he allegedly dismissed staff of non-Yoruba stock and replaced them with persons sacked from UBA. Forefront also learnt he had a clique running things in the Bank to the detriment of accountability and good corporate governance. According to insiders, BOI has one of the best equipped and modern studios for the production and recording of television or radio shows but disappointingly, it is under-utilized as all public enlightenment programmes are outsourced to so-called independent producers and consultants. These people turn-around to conspire with some staff and secretly rely on the in-house studio to produce and record their programmes at no cost. Strong claims have emerged that these supposed independent producers and consultants are ‘fronts’ for some BOI’s big shots that continue to con the bank of huge sums in the name of public awareness and enlightenment campaigns. Again sources hinted the Corporate Headquarters building of the Bank in Abuja’s Central Business District (CBD) is popularly called ‘Siberia’ by staff. With the management preferring to operate from Lagos and deliberately ensuring no serious official engagements holds in Abuja; staff posting to the office is considered punitive. Also taking a swipe at the management apparent lukewarm attitude to maximally utilize spaces at the Abuja complex, insiders said aside the few rented floors by some private concerns and the 10th floor occupied by the North Central BOI zonal office, the edifice presents a sad picture of what an institution built with huge public resources should not be if efficiency and excellent resource management must be the watch-word in any serious organization. Petitioners’ Prayers The petitioners wants the Presidency; the National Assembly; the EFCC and ICPC to urgently intervene so that justice would be done, even as they further alleged a case of persecution and devious plot by the management to cover up systemic infractions within the Bank. They also demand the withdrawal of dismissal letters and their reinstatement pending the outcome of impartial investigations and determination of cases brought against them. Thirdly, they want a public hearing on activities by the sacked MD even as they equally called for a public apology to them from the Bank to be published in some national dailies. Believing Mr President and the National Assembly would serve them justice, the petitioners said: “The unconventional, illegal, fraudulent and corrupt activities of the former MD be thoroughly investigated and where necessary, be referred to our anti-corruption agencies for immediate prosecution so as to serve as an example in reiterating this administration’s stand in stamping out corruption and the practices attendant thereto.” The ex-MD’s Bravado! Competent sources said unaware what awaited him; Mr Olaoluwa made surreptitious moves to cover-up the alleged mess with repeated fence-mending visits to the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Abuja. In desperation, he convinced some Ministry’s officials on having a Committee to review cases involving the dismissed staff, another act of impunity and clearly against the laws establishing the Bank. “The Bank only recognizes the Board of Directors, not any committee, to address such cases as well as issues that relate to staff welfare among others,” a senior BOI staff told Forefront. According to him, the dismissed MD repeatedly boasted and told close confidants that his deft moves would compromise Ministry’s officials. Sealed Lips Over Allegations With recent developments, it is sealed lips at the Bank. No response to our repeated calls and initial message for official reaction on these issues. Our General Editor sent the Bank’s spokesperson, Hadiza Olaosebikan the following text: “Good morning Ma, Please, I had sent a message earlier on behalf of Forefront Magazine concerning some issues about BOI that need your reaction. So, we are still waiting to hear from you. We may speak on phone or send your e-mail for the questionnaire. Thanks and Regards.” Acknowledging receipt, Olaosebikan pleaded with Forefront for time as she was out of the office on leave, stating thus: “Hello sir, Please let talk next week; ‘am on leave.” So, based on the above stated response, we made several calls and also sent two reminders that read thus: “Sure your leave went well. As discussed, please, how do we get BOI’s reaction on the story we are working on. Time is no longer friendly for us; waiting to hear from you and regards!” Yet, no response came from her till we went to press. Similarly, attempts to speak with the Head, Human Resources, Ms Osindero and Divisional Head, Management Services, Mr Esotu, who signed the dismissal letters, met a brick wall as all text messages sent to them were unanswered.