Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More, from national museums’ can of worms

More, from national museums’ can of worms

…National Zoo boss escapes death


Unconfirmed reports indicate the official vehicle of the Manager, National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ), Mr. John Aruwa, came under a hail of bullets as he was returning to the Plateau State capital penultimate Wednesday, 25 September, 2013.

The NZGJ is at the heart of ongoing outpouring of revelations regarding misappropriation and diversion of staggering sums of money. Although both Mr. Aruwa and his driver escaped unhurt, it was gathered that a bullet pierced through the body of the automobile they were riding in. The NZGJ is under the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), which is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.

The NZGJ is a unit of the NCMM’s Department of Monuments, Heritage and Sites (MHS). Messrs Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Oluremi Adedayo and Bode Oke are Director General; Director, MHS; and Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) respectively at the NCMM. Mauricearchibongtravels has also been reliably informed that the NCMM management had, in a recent memo, directed Mr. Aruwa to suspend work on a so-called Picnic Grounds inside the NZGJ.

Interestingly, the authorities had also directed the zoo manager to recover some N450,000 paid to contractors handling the “planting of carpet grass” at that picnic grounds. It is not known, if the zoo manager has complied. The NZGJ stands within the sprawling Jos Museum complex and insiders that spoke with mauricearchibongtravels on condition of anonymity, said the attackers’ motive remains a mystery. One source said that, going by the narration of the zoo manager, the assailants were suspected robbers clad in military fatigue.

Meanwhile, the litany of fraud and corruption in the NCMM has morphed into a never-ending story with the disclosure of more and more scams on virtually weekly basis. Apart from the many startling incidents of looting at the NZGJ, the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA) is another area through which money has been serially siphoned.

At MOTNA, money running into tens of millions of naira had been spent over many years under the pretense of preservation of the replica of ancient Kano City Wall, there. The most recent MOTNA preservation effort gulped close to N10 million, yet all that money has practically gone down the drain since the tumbling-down Dick structure has again crumbled!

It would seem that, the more the amount of money voted for the maintenance of this wall; the more the fence seemed determined to collapse the following year, calling for yet more money to be commited to its protection: all to no avail. It is worth pointing out that, the NCMM has a unit called Centre for Earth Construction Technology (CECTECH). Whereas CECTECH could better handle maintenance of MOTNA structures, NCMM fat-cats continue to cling to that responsibility. Very interesting curio, if you know what we mean!

Lease of NCMM DG Residence at ridiculous price

Another sticking point in the sides of NCMM Management members is the lease of a Federal Government estate on Adeola Hopewell Street in Victoria Island, Lagos; without authorisation, and at a fee that many consider laughable. Recall: Until the relocation of NCMM headquarters from Lagos to Abuja, the Commission had an estate that served as residence for its director general.

Curiously, that compound escaped the radar during nationwide audit of Federal Government property. How the former residence of the director general of an important federal government agency could have been concealed remains a mystery. But, what has blown into the open and now threatens to drown the entire NCMM leadership is the fact that the property was leased out under alleged dubious circumstances, and for a laughable sum.

In a memo to the culture minister, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) claimed that the estate situate on Adeola Hopewell Street in the highbrow Lagos neighbourhood of Victoria Island had been leased out for two years at a ridiculous rental of N10 million: i.e an incredibly paltry sum of N5 million per annum.

Not surprisingly, insiders believe there was more to the transaction than meets the eye. AUPCTRE insists that N24 million had actually been collected for that transaction, but NCMM leadership chose to remit N10 million to the commission’s coffers. In any case, it is worth noting that the NCMM Management has thus far not come forward with any answer to this accusation.

Wiped out: Dad, mum and child chimps

Believe it or not, a whole family of chimpanzees has perished at the NZGJ. The victims are: Peter, Paulina and Rahina. Although the daddy chimpanzee, Peter, died more than 10 years ago; the daughter, Rahina, perished in 2009. Paulina, which died on 14 July, 2013; was mother of the late Rahina.

Sired by Peter, Rahina was one of numerous fatalities recorded at NZGJ in 2009. The wave of deaths was caused by contaminated water. Those days, NZGJ authorities fed the inmates with water fetched from a gutter. At some point, the water was contaminated, and the animals were simply drinking poison.

This consequently led to an epidemic that resulted in the demise of dozens of animals, aside from Rahina, at the NZGJ. It was after this disaster that NCMM authorities drilled a borehole at NZGJ. Interestingly, that source of water would become dysfunctional within a year. Ever since, NZGJ operatives have been relying on a borehole drilled at MOTNA for water for its zoo’s inmates. Such is the situation at Nigeria’s only National Zoo, for you.

More scandals

Aside from damning evidences of financial irregularities, serious incongruity also surges to the fore in the inventory of the inmates inside Nigeria’s National Zoo compiled by NZGJ managers, against that of independent observers. Although a list drawn by NZGJ managers shows 97 as the total number of inmates, we counted over 110 creatures here during our latest tour!

The reason for concealment of the true figure of inmates by NZGJ managers is best left to a conjecture. However, it could be a strategy to obfuscate the extent of fatalities inside this park. Such discrepancy, critics of the Usman-led NCMM administration, observed; “is simply another manifestation of incompetent leadership”.

This view was reiterated by executive members of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); during a recent chat with Travels in Abuja.

Brazen impunity

At this national zoo, favoured workers have no need to observe due process. Such ones do not have to come to work everyday. But, once funding arrives, the top-dogs in whose paws management of the Jos-based park has been put, show up: they collect their booty and disappear never to be sighted again, until the next subvention has been deposited.

Why the world must show more interest

Nigerians must show more interest in the goings-on at their National Zoo, for it is a reflection, albeit microscopic, of the entire nation itself. So, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Nigerian Field Society (NFS), et cetera as well as every humane person must be interested in developments at Nigeria’s National Zoo and the leit motif of those at the helm of affairs in the NCMM.

It is also worth reiterating that within 20 years, this National Zoo has practically morphed into a classic metaphor for Nigeria’s endemic corruption. It was here, that a worker that was sent on transfer blatantly shunned management’s directive. But, instead of being penalised for insubordination, this particular employee was practically rewarded with a promotion.

Not only that, this staff; whose co-workers had often complained was running the repository aground, was eventually crowned head of the National Zoo. Interestingly, it was a member of the then NCMM Management, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, who advised the woman, Mrs. Rahina Haruna Garuba, to ignore her transfer memo.

It is also instructive that Mr. Usman, then NCMM Director of Heritage, Monuments and Sites; would himself later be rewarded with appointment as NCMM DG. Following the transfer of Mrs. Haruna Garuba to the NCMM-run Institute of Archaeology and Museum Studies (IAMS) also in Jos, a veterenary surgeon; Dr. M.C. Ekwuonu, was directed to take over.

But, when Mrs. Haruna Garuba would not handover, the new appointee had difficulty assuming duty as there was no official document with which he could begin his assignment. Curiously, instead of NCMM’s managemnt compelling the woman to hand over to Dr. Ekwuonu; an accountant, Mr. Sabo Bature, was put in charge of Nigeria’s only National Zoo at some point.

When we met Mr. Bature during one of our numerous trips to Jos, he made serious efforts to explain that things were not that bad, there. However, when asked, if corruption and poor management were the reasons so many animals had died with dozens others looking malnourished and emaciated; the retort of an obviously irritated Bature was: “Animals die everywhere! So, there is nothing special about animals dying here”!

Mr. Bature later died and had since been buried. There’s more where these came from. Truly, the more you look, the more you see: such is the depth of our knowledge regarding the NZGJ and NCMM, for you.

For the record: successive Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Head of Service of the Federation; Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation; Minister of Labour and Productivity; Permanent Secretary, Tourism and Culture Ministry; Permanent Secretary, Labour and Productivity Ministry; Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism; and, Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism; among others, were briefed on the shenanigans at the NCMM. Therefore, those that failed to act accordingly, even in the face of perceived overwhelming evidence, could in the future be held responsible for aiding and abetting corruption.

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