EXCLUSIVE: Unease at Refugees Commission as Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim Allegedly Runs Agency Aground

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*Sacks procurement director, appoints lackey

*Allegations of corruption, excesses rock agency

Mrs. Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim

Unease is the atmosphere at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) as the Honourable Federal Commissioner(HFC)/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Mrs. Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, is allegedly enmeshed in maladministration and excesses that have put the Commission’s mandate in abeyance and pitched her against staff and some members of management of the agency.

This is even as they accuse her of corruption, arbitrary removal and redeployment of staff, importation of retinue of staff from other government agencies to man key positions in the agency against extant civil service rule, and turning the once humanitarian agency into a spy organisation through the hiring of a retired personnel of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Secretary in the office of the HFC.

A staff of the agency, who spoke on the condition of anonymity alleged: “To start with, Sulaiman-Ibrahim was not even qualified to be appointed the Federal Commission and Chief Executive of the Commission in the first place, as she had no public service work experience before her appointment.

“She was based overseas and was a cosmetics distributor  dealing in Mary Kay products before she returned in 2018 to run for a seat in the House of Representatives in her Federal Constituency in Nasarawa State. She lost and was appointed as Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Education before her appointment as the Director-General (DG) of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) in December 2020, an appointment that caused uproar at the time because she was not qualified.

“Section 8 (1) of the NAPTIP Act 2015 stipulates that ‘There shall be for the agency a Director-General who shall be from the Directorate cadre in the public service of the Federation or its equivalent in any law enforcement service and shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister’.

“She was later appointed the Federal Commissioner/CEO of our Commission in June this this year (2021), a position for which she is not qualified to handle also. If she was not qualified to head a single-mandate agency, NAPTIP, as a DG, how could she be qualified to head a multiple-mandate Commission?” our source revealed.

 Alleged Highhandedness and retinue of security/personal aides 

Our source said that the first sign that all was not going to be well with the Refugees Commission under Mrs. Sulaiman Ibrahim’s leadership was the alleged Gestapo style with which she took over the office.

The insider source explained further: “Upon assumption of office, without waiting for any formal handover, the Federal Commissioner came with a retinue of security aides to remove the pictures and personal effects of her predecessor, Senator Bashir Lado, without waiting for any official handover. As if that was not enough, they equally moved to the former Federal Commissioner’s private residence to remove official vehicles yet to be handed over.

“I can also tell you that as a head of the Commission, our Federal Commissioner uses a retinue of security personnel, including the personnel drawn from the DIA, Department of State Security (DSS), and police. She uses two pickup vans, one in front, and one at the back convoy, all blaring sirens.

“She obviously does not understand the nature and rudiments of the agency she is heading. Is she here for humanitarian work or show of power?

“She brought a Chief of Staff ( a staff of the Ministry of Defence ) to the Commission without any posting or secondment and directed that documents, including our legal documents should be routed through the ‘impostor’, she has a Personal Assistant, she has a personnel of the DIA as Technical Assistant on Social Development, she brought a Technical Assistant on Administration, she brought a Technical Assistant on IDPs and Refugees, Technical Assistant on Projects, Technical Assistant on Partnerships, Special Assistant on Media, Personal Assistant on Media, Personal Assistant on IT, Personal Assistant Projects, a Chief Detail, among others. In all she has not less than 15 personal aides in a humanitarian agency. How are the international partners, and development agencies we are looking up to for support take us seriously?

“Compare this to another humanitarian, but a much bigger organisation – the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The NEMA DG brought only two personal aides and makes use of the manpower he met on ground at the agency.

“But as if those retinue of aides were not enough, Mrs. Sulaiman-Ibrahim equally brought more staff from NAPTIP to take key roles in NCFRMI, thereby displacing the current staff.

“She brought Nsikan Essien a Level 14 Officer in Department of IDPs, Ibrahim Mahmud as Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), and Rimamsomte Obadiah as Assistant Director Procurement.

“As though those were still not enough, she brought in a retired personnel of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as Secretary to spy in on members of staff and management, thereby turning a humanitarian agency to a spy agency. In fact, the popular belief also is that most of, if not all those people she brought as personal aides, are trained spies, hence the unease and air of uncertainty hovering over the Commission even as I speak to you”.

He also alleged impunity and disregard for due process in the transfer of management-cadre staff, citing the transfers of Chief Payment Officer, Director R & M, Deputy Director Procurement, Deputy Director Legal, among others.

 Alleged Corruption 

Meanwhile, a senior management staff, who did not want to be named, equally has accused the Federal Commissioner of flagrant disregard of due process in procurement, including anticipatory approvals without the knowledge of management members of staff, inflation of cost of trips, and “removal of funds with false justifications”.

“If you go through our vouchers before she came and now that she is in charge, you could see that a two-day trip that used to cost about N2 million now costs the Commission N7 million. And in several cases, she would travel in Air Force Jet while still collecting the transport fare. If for any reason she secures an Air Force jet for her trip, shouldn’t she retire the money approved for her transport since it is the same Federal Government?.

“The only reason that could be adduced for the removal of the Director of Procurement posted to the Commission by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPE) was his insistence on due process for contracts. Contrary to laid down rule, Sulaiman-Ibrahim insists that the Director of Procurement hands over to an Assistant Director she brought from NAPTIP.

“To perfect that, she first moved the Assistant Director, Procurement to Planning, then brought another Assistant Director from NAPTIP. But the Director of Procurement (BPE) has refused to hand over to the Assistant Director as instructed, insisting he must hand over to a staff of the Commission or someone from the BPP”, he alleged.

 Strange happenings 

The source further alleged strange happenings around the Commission.

“For the first time since I joined the Commission, we are experiencing strange occurrences. There was an altercation between the Director of Procurement and the HFC. Then she requested his redeployment. Next the Director’s office was sealed. Then came the mysterious fire incident in the procurement office. It was scary because we never had such experience before. Why would anybody want to burn down the procurement office.

“But scarier even is the fact that the car of the same Director of Procurement was vandalised at an eatery where he branched off to eat on his way from the office. Vital documents were carted away. We feel very unsafe at the Commission because everyone now feels targeted.

“We no longer talk on regular calls as staff of the Commission because we fear that our phones are bugged. We can no longer talk freely in the office because it appears everywhere has been bugged” the insider narrated.

It was alleged that the door of the meeting venue of the union leaders of the agency was locked behind them while holding their meeting at the Commission on Wednesday. But everyone is afraid to speak up.

 Off the handle 

It has further been alleged that the Federal Commissioner often gets violent with staff in addition to yelling and talking to staff in a demeaning manner.

“She easily flies off the handle and talks down on staff, including very senior management staff. She has made the Commission a very toxic environment. The air we breathe here is hot.

“You can interview the union leaders of the commission to have their firsthand experience.

“You cannot enter our madam’s (Honourable Federal Commissioner’s) office with a phone because she fears we could record her talks and yelling, which are unbefitting of her office. This has never happened in the history of this agency.

“Meanwhile, in one month, two Special Assistant on Media have resigned from the commission.Sadiq resigned. She bought a Level 10 officer from the Ministry of Information, who also left on Tuesday, 23rd November 2021”, the source alleged.

 Lack of Focus and Misplaced priorities 

Meanwhile, whereas the head of the Refugees Commission has been accused of misplacement of priorities in the deployment of the agency’s human and material resources.

Aggrieved staff alleged that although the Office of the Honourable Federal Commissioner was tastefully furnished by a reputable company less than five months before her predecessor, Senator Lado, was removed, Mrs. Sulaiman-Ibrahim allegedly  “spent over N33 million on her personal office renovation and furniture on a newly refurnished office space”.

“This is despite the fact that the welfare of staff of the zonal offices and the physical state of the offices are in an abjectly poor state . It is so poor that some staff in some of our zonal offices come to work with their own chairs.

“She is currently planning to open a resettlement city in Daura, which does not have any history of IDPs instead of Katsina where we have thousands of IDPs, just to impress and curry favour from the President. But before you move IDPs, you have to consult them and stakeholders. That is the international best practice. But she does not care at all.

“The Project Zero Hunger was recently launched in collaboration with the Defence and Police Officers’ Wives Association where support is solicited from corporate Nigeria and public-spirited Nigerians is also nothing but nothing but a money making venture. Everything is shrouded in secrecy.

“Could you imagine that she is now donating things to wounded soldiers and widows of soldiers, thereby illegally expanding the mandate of the Commission that has not even fulfilled its primary mandate.

“She was overheard boasting to someone how she sent a truckload of provision to the mother of Humanitarian Affairs in Zamfara. The minister frowns at such gestures , but Sulaiman-Ibrahim just wants to curry favours”.

Meanwhile, key international partners are said to be considering pulling out of partnerships with the NCFRMI due to the deluge of perceived excesses and infractions.

Several staff spoken to in the course of investigation fear that things had already gotten out of hands and may get worse unless President Muhammadu intervenes immediately.

Efforts made by this newspaper to reach across to Mr. Lanre Elegbede the technical assistant to the Federal commissioner to give us the official answers to these allegations wasn’t successful as his phone wasn’t connecting. 

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