Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More, on National Zoo scams

More, on National Zoo scams

Workers pocket millions, animals turn beggars to stay alive

Welcome, once again, to Nigeria’s only national zoo, the National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ). Located near the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office in the Plateau State capital, the NZGJ has become synonymous with fraud and corruption.

This Marabou Stork inside Nigeria's National Zoo seems to be praying for death to come and free it from further suffering. PHOTO: MAURICE ARCHIBONG. All Rights Reserved.
The NZGJ is under the Department of Monuments, Heritage and Sites of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), which is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation. Messrs Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Oluremi Adedayo and Bode Oke are Director General; Director of Monuments, Heritage and Sites (MHS); and, Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) respectively at the NCMM.

At the NZGJ, many cages are empty because the animals that once inhabited them had since died. Inside the compartments, where a few specimens still abound, the creatures are traumatised. So forlorn and depressed are some of the inmates that they have lost their traditional characteristics. For example, in its natural environment, the lion is famed king of the jungle. But, at the NZGJ, where the lions; like other inmates, are starving to death; every lion has lost its notorious ferocity and is more like some timid pussy-cat.

We found two pairs of these felines at the NZGJ: a lion and a lioness in each of two adjacent cages. From the flacid features of these felines, especially the tiny waist-line of one of the beasts, we guessed the animals hadn’t been fed for a long time. So hungry were the lions, that even when we fetched out our camera to take its picture, the particular captive was too weak to be bothered. The poor lion simply starred morosely at us.

Yes, inside the NZGJ, supposed kings of the jungle seemed so subdued they could not roar, even if they wanted to. At Nigeria’s National Zoo, each lion has lost every authority and is completely at the mercy of attendants. Instead of kings, lions inside the NZGJ are more like slaves at the hands of zoo keepers, who determine whether these captives should even eat, at all; and, when.

Similar is the plight of a cheetah, here. The cheetah is the fastest animal in the wild, but the one we found at NZGJ looked so dull it could barely walk, let alone sprint. Unlike the average cheetah in the wild, the one we found inside the NZGJ was not fleet-footed, at all. Now weak and emaciated, due to chronic starvation, you could count this poor cat’s ribs.

In the wild, many animals are either herbivores or carnivores, but starvation has forced some inmates of the NZGJ to become omnivores. Like cockroaches, many animals here eat anything. Records show that some had even died after being forced by starvation into ingesting polythene sheets (nylon bag)! An example is a waterbuck that was found dead on 29 April, 2012.

“There were blackish spots on the liver and its spleen was inflamed and discloured”, according to an NZGJ doctor’s  report. The vet further noted in the post-mortem: “Allotriophaga was observed with massive ingestion of polythene bags”. In other words, because nutrition, which is key to any creature’s survival; “was compromised over time”, the waterbuck became so famished it resorted to ingesting rubbish, including polyethylene sheets.

Inside another cage, we found a lone mongoose crawling back and forth. Given its long tail and entire length, this mongoose’s space was too small, but that was just one of its many problems. Like other creatures inside the NZGJ, this mongoose was starving too. As we watched the distraught animal literally running from pillar to post, endlessly wandering to and fro; the muse that crossed our mind was: could it be wondering whether it was not an error to describe its uncaring human hosts as “superior animals”?

Inmates turn jesters, beggars to stay alive 

At the NZGJ, we found dozens of various species of Primates: baboons, chimpanzees, monkeys; and what have you. Akin to other captives at this zoo, these Primates were also famished. Hungry beyond imagination and stripped of their dignity, various monkeys reflexively shot out their palms at the sight of any visitor to beg for food. Sadly, acute hunger had also turned some of these creatures into obligate entertainers or circus animals.

In deed, some monkeys out of desperation to remain alive, seemed to have grasped comprehension of the English and Hausa language word for dance. If you have a few fingers of banana in your hand, the monkeys at NZGJ instantly come alive before you can finish saying dance! They lung into girations with gusto: the monkeys vigorously demonstrate their acrobatic skill with the hope of being offered banana, peanut, anything; as reward.

At other cages further inside the grove, we found some Marabou Storks. In their natural habitat, these fowls are bright and beautiful. A Marabou Stork is normally colourful, but at the NZGJ, many of the ones we saw looked obviously desolate, even doomed. We saw two storks that could barely lift their head: this duo was not only permanently bowed, but ostensibly broken.

Unlike the monkeys that can dance for food or stretch out their palms to beg, the fowls appeared condemned; to have resigned to the fate of approaching death to free them from further anguish. In deed, the fate of inmates of this Jos-based National Zoo reminded of En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) by Irish-born writer and Nobel Literature Prize winner, Samuel Beckett.

This is Nigeria’s only national zoo, where the life of an inmate counts for nothing! At the NZGJ, visitors are confronted with man’s inhumanity to lower animals …

The Nasarawa State connection

Meanwhile, more than 15 of the 30 animals sent by Nasarawa State Government to the NZGJ for preservation have died, despite more than N50 million spent over the last six years for the upkeep of all inmates at that repository.

Investigation revealed the NCMM remits N200,000 to the NZGJ monthly, while this zoo gets another N1.5 million quarterly from Nasarawa State for the maintenance of its animals, which were transferred to the NZGJ in 2007. In other words, the NZGJ gets a total of N8.4 million per year.

Sadly, inmates at NZGJ have been dying in their droves despite the N8.4 million annually remitted for the animals’ upkeep. Interestingly, Nasarawa authorities continue to disburse N1.5 million every three months to the National Zoo, despite the depletion from deaths of its livestock here.

This development is spin-off of a 2007 Letter of Introduction with reference number S/SSG/GA/47/Vol.1/X and dated 3 October, which was sent to The Curator, National Museum and Monuments, Jos. That memo, which emanated from Office of Nasarawa’s Secretary to the State Government, stated; inter alia: “On an official mission to your establishment to discuss the possiblity and terms of temporary relocation of some wildlife animals and birds from the temporary sanctuary in Lafia pending the construction of a permanent Zoo/Museum complex in the state”.

Interestingly, though the letter was received by Jos Museum authorities on 4 October, 2007; another memo, bearing a list of 30 animals was fired from Nasarawa Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources barely four days later. And, by 2 November, 2007; all the animals had been tranferred to the NZGJ.

However, death began to ravage the wildlife within 48 hours of arrival in Jos. According to a Jos Museum memo, “Five gazelles were later brought by (a chief veterinary officer in Nasarawa civil service): one had rectal prolapse – was managed, but later died. The nursing gazelle was weak – later died, despite medication. (In the same vein), the kid of the deceased mother gazelle (also) died. There are only two gazelles left”.

The catalogue of tragedies continued: “Also, two of the Nile Crocodiles died, possibly due to stress of transportation and restraint”. Summary: Five animals had been lost before you could say NZGJ! Sadly, the majority of the Nasarawa livestock sent to NZGJ had perished by 31 August, 2013. Also ravaged by death is the collection of the NZGJ. By 3 June, 2012; 12 specimens had died in as many months. Painfully, the lost animals included a lion and a lioness. Between 3 June, 2012 and 31 August, 2013; 10 more deaths had swept through the NZGJ collection.

National Zoo or bastion of corruption?

At Nigeria’s national zoo, half-a-million naira has been known to vanish before a German-speaker could say, In einem Augenblick (in a twinkle of an eye). Going by a document, which Travels was privileged to see; there was a case where N450,000 was paid to a company with no fixed address in May, this year.

Messrs A Greenland Garden was paid N450,000 within seven days of filing its Quotation For Planting Carpet Grass on 22 May, 2013! Apart from N90,000 that Greenland Garden collected for supplying carpet grass, the company smiled home with another N80,000 for “Tilling” and an additional N50,000 for “Removal of Stumps of wood”, after charging the NZGJ “N85,000 for Labour”.

Yes, the nation has been severely fleeced by NZGJ managers and their Abuja-based benefactors through millions of naira allegedly paid out on suspected dubious grounds. We further gathered that staggering sums of money had been withdrawn allegedly for the procurement of animals, but subsequent investigation revealed some of these inmates were actually gifts.

For example, N200,000 was allegedly diverted under payment for a pair of dwarf cattle, which; an insider of Jos Wildlife Park revealed, was a present to the NZGJ. Again, we gathered that another N200,000 had disappeared as cost of buying a pair of donkeys, which were bought to feed lions and hyenae inside the NZGJ. However, the lions and hyenae are frequently fed with carcasses of animals crushed to death by motorists on Jos roads and other highways in Plateau State.

The feeding of animals with unwholesome meals is one reason many inmates here are sick. Such is the situation at NZGJ that two zoo workers are down with tuberculosis possibly contracted from infected inmates. Furthermore, NZGJ managers want Nigerians to believe it spent N800,000 on the purchase of two female horses! A document revealed the NZGJ paid out a whooping N500,000 for a female horse.

It is also worth reminding that N45,000 was spent on procurement of “goats for breeding”. However, two of the three goats recently acquired have already vanished from the zoo! Altogether, N1.49million was spent on the purchase of 18 animals for NZGJ between September 2012 and August 2013. Curiously, however, the stock at the NZGJ has been dwindling, instead of rising despite all these procurements. In a report to NCMM headquarters, NZGJ managers claimed that only two inmates (an ostrich and a water tortoise) had died at this zoo between September, 2012 to date; whereas over nine animals had been lost at this garden in the period under review!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From my Mailbox: 250913, A twist in the tale


My attention has been drawn to a feature published in the Daily Sun of September 19th, 2013 (pages 42-43) with the above headline in which some issues on financial transactions were reused purportedly initiated by me. The said feature, which portrayed me at the centre of the storm, was written by one Mr. Maurice Achibong.

It is very necessary for me to react in order to put records straight and disabuse the minds of members of the public. I Mr. Choji Bwosh, Accountant, National Zoological Garden, Jos wish to categorically state that I have never known Mr. Maurcine Achiboing before and still do not known him, neither have I met him before. This entire lies are just a pigment of the imagination of Mr. Achibong

Mr. Maurice Achibong, in the said feature, alleged that I wrote a memo to the Director General of the National Commission for Museum and monuments. Exposing, in his words, staggering incidence of fraud at this facility. Let me unequivocally emphasize that I am not the author of the purported memo and had never contemplated writing any memo of that nature. It is surprising and disappointing that he could just wake up from sleep and cook up bundles of lies.

Mr. Achibong's feature was a calculated attempt to discredit my personality and cause friction between me, on one side, and the managements of the National Zoological Garden and its parent body, the National Commission for Museum and monuments, on the other

His kind of journalism grossly undermines the tenets of the fourth realm of the estate, hence I humbly request the Nigeria Union of Journalist and the Nigerian Press Council to call him to order to check him from dragging the esteemed image of the profession in the mud.

Let me also demand from Mr, Maurice Achibong an unreserved apoiogy immediately or I request my lawyers to commence a court process against him.

Permit me to use this opportunity to urge the management of the NCMM headed by Mr. Abdallah Usman not to be deterred by such distractions as they continue to discharge their duties, I strongly commend him for the good work he is doing and pray that God will continue to bless him.

Mr. Choji Bwosh, Accountant, National Zoological Garden Jos.


Some twist in the tale …

The above reaction from Mr. Choji Bwosh reached me on Monday, September 23, 2013: five days after the report was published. My initial reaction was to ignore Mr. Choji, but lest our silence be misconstrued, it became necessary to make some clarifications, now. Other revelations may follow in due course, should the need arise.

Mr. Choji had called me on phone several times on September 19, 20 and the 21st and all he requested of me was to state, in a follow-up report; that we never met, and that he did not give me any document. As transcripts of our telephone chats would prove, if it came to this; at no time during our conversations in those three days, did Choji claim not to have written the documents from which excerpts were quoted.

It is also worth pointing out that, another Jos Museum staff and labour activist (name withheld) had called, apparently on Choji’s behalf, to express fear that my report may cost the accountant his job. Like Choji, this labour activist never questioned the authenticity of the document we quoted from. Again, like Choji, the unionist pleaded that we should state in a follow-up report that I never met the accountant, and that Choji did not personally avail me of any memo.

Since our investigations had already turned up numerous incontrovertible evidences of fraud at the National Zoological Garden Jos, we had no need to meet Choji and did not need him to furnish us with any document. In fact, the NZGJ is just one of the ducts through which hundreds of millions of naira have been siphoned over the years by crooks in the NCMM. MOTNA (Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture) is another illegitimate goldmine, and we are revisiting this aspect, soon.

Curiously, four days after the report in question was published and after Choji and I had spoken severally, the man stated that I woke up from sleep and cook up bundles of lies”. Interestingly, akin to the poorly-written memos from Mr. Yusuf Abdallah Usman, the NCMM DG; Choji’s complaints are also error-ridden: “FOURTH REALM OF THE ESTATE” and “This entire lies are just a PIGMENT of the imagination”. What a mess! How did these characters get into Nigeria’s federal civil service?

Death threats are nothing new to workers that exposed corruption in the NCMM. It could be recalled that Comrade Bongo Bassey was once threatened at Jos Museum. In the same vein, Comrade Adogah Abdullahi also had cause to raise the alarm over threat to his life, too.

To be candid, most a man will cave-in under pressure from harassment and intimidation, but through his apparent volte face, Choji has diminished from hero to zero. We feel wont to see Choji’s rejoinder as a mere after-thought contrived to distract attention from the main issue: that money was being looted and/or misused at the NZGJ. The nation should beware of ploys like this.

Choji wants Nigerians to believe he is “at the centre of the storm”. He is not and the nation should remain alert and not lose sight of the substance, here. The principal issue is that, going by available documents, huge sums of money had been diverted and/or otherwise disbursed/spent in an unlawful manner at the NZGJ.  

We advise Choji to head to court and facilitate the total exposure of the countless shenanigans perpetrated under the watch of Yusuf Abdallah Usman. We stand by our story. And, stand even ever-ready to disclose more of the fraudulent practices at the NZGJ, and the NCMM generally.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Amid looting spree: Animals dying in droves at National Zoo


Amid looting spree: Animals dying in droves at National Zoo


Nigeria’s only National Zoo, the National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ), has morphed into a metaphor for corruption, mauricearchibongtravels can authoritatively reveal. Launched in 1956, the NZGJ is located within the sprawling Jos Museum complex in the Plateau State capital.

A Tantalus Monkey: one of the hungry inmates of NZGJ begging for food.
Beside dozens of visits over the last 20 years, our latest visit to the NZGJ lasted several days, 8 September to the 11th this year; and, we were confronted by shocking shenanigan right at the entrance! Yes, we encountered the fraud that this supposed sanctuary has evolved into, even before we gained access to see the animals.

Admission fee to the NZGJ is N50 or N100 per child or adult visitor respectively. Being something of a numismatist, I enjoy keeping tickets collected during my visit to a museum, zoo et cetera; as memento. So, after parting with the N100 requisite gate fee, I was forced to request a receipt as the man that collected the money showed no inclination to giving me one.

“I don’t have the (ticket) booklet now, but you will get the ticket before you leave”, the man told me. In order not to appear difficult, therefore giving the impression that I did not trust him, I chose to wait and see. As I headed to what should be the entrance, I was directed to enter through a different route, a wide-open gate. In the past, that gate served as exit but nowadays, it serves for both ingress and egress. The reason would hit me later.

There is a revolving metallic device at the entrance to the animals’ abode. Normally, this equipment records the number of people that passed through it. Consequently, the authorities could tell how much had been realised by multiplying the visitors’ number with the fee. As regards knowing how many visitors were minors, against adult viewers, the number of ticket leaflets sold ought to help iron that out as there is a different booklet for N50 ticket, apart from the N100 ones.

But, to obfuscate the figure of visitors and how much was collected at the box office, viewers are diverted to pass through a gate that cannot record the number of people that went in. To further perfect the fraud, NZGJ managers and their agents often refuse to issue a ticket to visitors: this was my experience on Monday and Tuesday, 8 and 9 September respectively. On both days, I had arrived at the NZGJ before 10am.

On emerging from the zoo, after spending about an hour observing the inmates, I looked around hoping to find the man that promised to give me a ticket for the N100 entrance fee I had paid. Alas! The man was nowhere to be seen. Since I was planning to return to this zoo the next day, 9 September, 2013; I left. When I came back the following morning, there was a woman in charge of gate-takings. The reason I returned was principally to take pictures. The fee for taking still photographs at this zoo is N400. After paying N400 to the woman at the entrance, and seeing that she was also determined not to issue a receipt for this payment, I had to demand that document.

In response, she glibly remarked; “Oga, na wa for you, o. The man with the booklet is not around. May be, before you come out, he might have returned”. Again, I went into the zoo. Some two hours later, when I came out, the woman that had collected my money was still around. But, when I requested for my receipt, she said; “The person that has the ticket has not yet come back”. To avoid pressing, lest my cover got blown; I left.

So, in two days, I had parted with N600 (two Entrance fees, N200; plus still Photography fee, N400); yet there was no receipt to show that I even paid one dime. Evidently, the nation had been severally robbed, for; most of the other visitors’ payments had been similarly diverted into private pockets.

But, rather than allow myself to be depressed by the robberies I suffered at the hands of NZGJ operatives, I was practically excited and determined to unravel the true situation, here. I subsequently lunged into an investigation to find out more as to what was actually going on at this repository. In the end, our interest and diligence would yield bounteous harvests!

The NZGJ is under the Department of Monuments, Heritage and Sites of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). Embroiled in controversies over the last eight years, the NCMM is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation. Chief Edem Duke is Tourism and Culture Minister, while Messrs Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Oluremi Adedayo and Bode Oke are Director General; Director, Monuments, Heritage and Sites (MHS); and Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) respectively at the NCMM.

Believe it or not, official documents we stumbled on; confirmed: “Misuse of Public Funds” at the NZGJ. This disclosure came from a 15 May, 2013 memo to the NCMM DG, Mr. Abdallah Usman. In that letter, from Jos Zoo Accountant, Mr. Bwosh Choji; the attention of the NCMM DG was drawn to staggering incidences of fraud at this facility.

According to the said memo, a certain staff, Mr. Steven Maren, “is with the tickets and collecting revenue since 9 April, to date”. There’s more: “The fund is now being spent, based on instruction of the manager”. Furthermore, “Madam Jemilah Khalid gave the sum of N450,000 to Miss Mary Ohaegbu without following due process: no application, no records of the financial transaction. The manager has been giving verbal instruction to spend fund raised from gate-takings”, according to the memo sent to Usman.

Take Two: “The manager collected the sum of N550,000 as honorarium for NCMM directors in Abuja”. The sum of N200,000 was collected on 13 September, 2012; while another N350,000 was allegedly siphoned on 12 March, 2013. “The collections were done without any application”, we gathered. Take Three: “In December 2012, the manager brought tickets from (NCMM) headquarters, Abuja … The tickets were being issued … without involvement of the Accounts Department … It was one zoologist (name withheld) that was collecting the sales returns”.

Take Four: “Fumigation of the Zoological Garden” left NZGJ treasury N350,000 poorer. “The sum of N350,000 was collected by Mr. John Aruwa on 4 December, 2012; for fumigation of the zoological garden”. As if these were not enough, another memo revealed that N450,000 was paid out for the planting of grass at NZGJ picnic grounds!

Apart from the 15 May memo, the NZGJ Accountant had fired another letter, entitled Observations on Revenue Remittances, to that repository’s Manager; on 2 September, 2013. The overture of the 2nd of September missive, which reads: “I have been observing non-compliance with financial regulation on revenue remittance before disbursement”, summarises the messy situation regarding book-keeping at the NZGJ.

To prove his case, Bwosh went on to list the sordid details: “It has been the practice to spend money collected from our revenue point, without it passing through Account Office for proper recording before expenditure”. According to this accountant, public funds were being used to buy GSM phone-recharge cards for personal calls; and, that the Revenue Officer has been keeping public funds at her residence for weeks in contravention of “Financial Regulation 72, Section 11, sub-section 1120”.

Bwosh again: “On 2 September, 2013; Mrs. Jemilah Khalid came to the office and collected the sum of N35,000 (revenue collected over the weekend at the zoo) from Mr. Abdul, an Accounts Staff, on duty at the Zoo Gate”. The NZGJ Manager allegedly gave instruction via a phone call to Mrs. Khalid to take the said N35,000 to her home for disbursement, according to Bwosh’s memo.

“On that same day”, Bwosh continued, “the sum of N20,500 was disbursed by Jemilah Khalid in her house”. Of this amount, N2,500 was given to the Zoo Manager, John Aruwa, as reimbursement for recharge card; while N18,000 was paid to Mary Ohaegbu to take care of weekly purchases for the zoo. Again, the accountant went on to stress: “These payments were made without following financial regulation: no application, no approval; and, no voucher was raised”.

To make matters worse, payment of public funds were made in an individual’s private residence. Citing relevant sections of the financial rules, Bwosh charged: “Under no circumstance shall payment be made, for voucher not yet raised (FR 72, section 6, sub-section 601 and FR 72, section 7, sub-section 708). An officer that takes public money to his/her house is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention (FR 72, section 7, sub-section 1106)”.

It is worth noting that the 2 September, 2013 complaint from this accountant came less than a week after Bwosh issued another memo, Revenue Report 2013, to the NZGJ Manager. In that memo, dated 28 August, 2013; Bwosh complained: “I wish to observe that the sum of N41,000 was disbursed without my knowledge … This payment was made without following financial regulation: no application, no approval; and, no voucher raised”.

More, to ponder on: “On 27 August, 2013; a vendor with the zoo, Mr. Harka, came to my office to ask for receipt for the sum of N5,000, which he said he paid to Mr. Adamu Lawan, the auditor. I called the auditor to clarify and the auditor said he collected the money and gave it to Mrs. Jemilah Khalid. The auditor called Khalid in my presence and he told me that Mrs. Khalid said she had not issued any receipt for that money”; Bwosh’s memo further revealed.

Animals dying in droves

Meanwhile, staggering fraud and mismanagement have led to the loss of some 24 animals in as many months at the NZGJ. The roughly 24 deaths in two years at this national zoo bring the total number of fatalities here to over 100 animals in 10 years. Shamefully, the NZGJ has thus become a killing-field, instead of the sanctuary it is supposed to be for its inmates.

Aside from loss due to deaths, several animals have also simply vanished. An example is the discovery, on Thursday, 12 September, 2013; that a he-goat, which was procured to sire offspring by she-goats in the zoo; was nowhere to be found. Similarly, a kid (baby goat) had disappeared from this repository’s collection barely two weeks earlier. Furthermore, two pythons had also died at National Zoo Jos within two weeks. The latest snake casualty perished on 8 September, while the other died exactly a week earlier (1 September).

As if these were not enough scandals, the only royal python at Nigeria’s National Zoo has also died. Curiosly, after the death of this reptile, the disappearance of the baby-goat was attributed to the royal python. In other words, the ghost of the royal python had swallowed the kid!

To make matters worse, Paulina, a female chimpanzee that had morphed into an icon of the Jos-based zoological garden had also joined the staggering list of casualties, which as one critic of this repository’s attendants, observed; “is engendered by the ostensible incompetence of the incumbent NCMM leadership as well as NZGJ managers”.

A memo with reference number NZGJ/T.F 10/Vol. 1/12 and dated 17 July, 2013 confirms Paulina’s demise; thus: “I hereby release to you our dead chimpanzee fondly called ‘Paulina’, which died at the ripe age of 60 years on 14 July for the purpose of Taxidermy and preservation after which it shall be returned to National Zoo”.

This memo, signed by John Aruwa, NZGJ Manager, was addressed to the Director, Natural History Museum at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; in response to a request from the latter. Curiosly, this request from OAU was made the same day that Paulina died: 14 July, 2013!

But, there is a more intriguing issue, here. On 11 May, 2013; the NZGJ authorities threw a party to celebrate Paulina’s 50th birthday. That golden jubilee fecilitation was reported in some media. Curiously, however, by the time Paulina died, on 14 July; she had suddenly aged by another decade! We are here refering to a part of the memo that reads: “Paulina, which died at the ripe age of 60 years on 14 July”. This apparent fraud was ostensibly contrived to mislead and thus give the impression that Paulina died from old-age.

Reacting to a complaint by the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); dated 26 April, 2013; the House of Representatives’ Committee on Culture and Tourism, via a memo dated 9 May, 2013; had demanded explanations from the NCMM DG.

Mr. Usman’s response to the legislators’ letter, with reference number NASS/7HR/CT.23/Vol.2/124; was a three-page memo, CAA.168/Vol.1/106, dated 14 May, 2013. Regarding labour activists’ alarm at the wave of deaths blowing through the National Zoo, Usman stated; “The majority of animals in the Jos Museum Zoo are very old. Financial constraints have prevented the Commission (NCMM) from acquiring young animals to replace the old ones”.

Now, compare Usman’s submission with the assertion of a veterinary surgeon, Dr Oludairo Oladapo Oyedeji, then Principal Veterinary Officer at NZGJ. In his defence, after being slammed with a query; Dr Oyedeji in a letter dated 7 June, 2012; had pointed out: “From the post-mortem reports, we lost two striped hyenae, two mongooses, and one monitor lizard basically due to nutritional deprivation”.

While an animal was lost to sudden death, which also afflicts humans, the vet doctor added; “Nutrition accounts for over 85 per cent of management costs”. Nutrition, this vet continued, “is key and very important in any production outfit like the zoological garden. If nutrition is good, balanced, adequate and consistent; over 90 per cent of production problems are already solved”.

Oyedeji again: “But, when nutrition is compromised over time, it results in many other problems; especially decrease in immunity from which any disease condition can set in, causing the death of the animal. Due to poor feeding of zoo inmates, we had to deal with many disease conditions among the inmates”.

The summary of Oyedeji’s memo is that the majority of fatalities at this national zoo arose from “Chronic malnutrition and starvation as well as delay in the release of funds for teatment purposes”, contrary to Usman’s claim that the inmates died from old age. This revelation also unravels the lie in the fabrication that, “Paulina died at the ripe old age of 60 years”. 

Dr Oyedeji’s letter is one of countless NCMM memos that mauricearchibongtravels managed to access in years-long investigation of massive corruption in this Commission. It is worth pointing out that NZGJ fatalities include exotic species like lions, boa constrictor, pythons, ostrich, stripped hyenae, mongoose, patas monkeys, monitor lizard, baboons, and water buck. This is even as two baby lions that disappeared from this zoo since 2008 have not been found!

Contrary to another claim by Usman, the staggering number of animals that have perished at this zoo, has nothing to do with inadequate funding. Although there is enough funding for proper maintenance of the inmates, sadly, however; the bulk of the votes for their preservation is often simply looted or misappropriated. Too much abracadabra is going on at the National Zoo, and that has been the norm here for almost a decade.

From memos made available to mauricearchibongtravels, the NZGJ once had two veterinary surgeons: Dr Oludairo Oyedeji and Dr A. M. Fasure. But, during our latest tour of this zoo, neither doctor could be reached. “Fasure was transferred to Makurdi and Oyedeji is on leave”, a guide told me.

For the record, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Head of Service of the Federation; Minister of Tourism and Culture; 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, had been informed of the corruption ravaging the NCMM through series of memos over the years. And, for posterity’s sake, the role of every principality in this saga is being documented.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fresh strike may hit National Museums, soon

Fresh strike may hit National Museums, soon

…N20m burnt on Damaturu retreat, another N10m blown on 24-hr summit


The National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) is on the boil again, mauricearchibongtravels can authoritatively reveal. Rarely far from controversy over the last eight years, the NCMM is an agency under Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.

NCMM Director General, Yusuf Abdallah Usman. PHOTO: MAURICE ARCHIBONG. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Yusuf Abdallah Usman is Director General of the NCMM, some of whose workers have threatened to resume long-suspended strike, where lingering grievances were not addressed. It could be recalled that, for two weeks, beginning from 19 March, 2012; National Museums across the country were bogged by a strike called by the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE).

Similarly, national museums had also been shut over labour unrest in 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. In a memo, dated 3 September, 2013; members of AUPCTRE (NCMM Branch); threatened: “This union … will be forced to resume suspended strikes, if the issues … are not (expeditiously) resolved”. The labour activists have called on the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, “to, as a matter of urgency, look into the conversion of a portion of NCMM land in Jos into a filling station”.

Other issues raised by the union include “how N20 million (meant for) Amichi Project was misappropriated” as well as alleged embezzlement of N9million under the guise of furniture procurement. The AUPCTRE letter further alleged that the Usman-led NCMM leadership blew a whooping N10 million on a one-day conference involving less than 40 participants! Furthermore, another N20 million had been burnt on a different workshop that took place in Damaturu, Yobe State. The labour activists are also angry that the NCMM DG spent a further “N20 million on sensitisation programme”.

“The purported return of N248 million (unspent vote) by the headship of NCMM … (to federal treasury) in January (whereas) the total amount of money in NCMM account was N388 million” is another reason AUPCTRE members are spoiling for war. Wary of being victimised, museum workers that spoke to Travels did so on condition of anonymity.

Many of these respondents were dumb-founded by the disclosure that NCMM Management had almost N250 million unspent-vote, when basic stationery, such as typing sheet, envelops and file-jackets as well as toner for photocopiers were lacking at almost all national museums across the land. Moreover, numerous NCMM workers owed various allowances for more than two years said it was heart-rending that the Usman-led management preferred to return N248 million, while museum workers groaned under impecuniosities wrought upon them by what they described as “a wicked leadership”.

In the same vein, President of the Artefact Rescuers Association of Nigeria (ARAN), Mr. Agbo George, expressed shock that NCMM, which had been owing the body’s vendors N198 million since 2009; preferred to return unspent vote to settling its indebtedness to artefact rescuers. “The NCMM management’s refusal to pay us has encouraged antiquity flight and therefore loss of invaluable heritage objects”, George told mauricearchibongtravels during a chat in Jos. 

Lease of DG Residence at ridiculous rental

Until the relocation of NCMM headquarters from Lagos to Abuja, the Commission had an estate that served as residence for its director general. Interestingly, the compound curiosly 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 sack the entire NCMM leadership is the fact that the property was leased out under alleged dubious circumstances, and for a laughable sum. In its latest memo to the minister, AUPCTRE also claimed that the estate situate at 47 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. When contacted, for clarification over what was actually paid for the 24-month lease, the NCMM Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA), Mr. Bode Oke, said he was not aware of the history of that transaction as it was never discussed at any Management meeting that he attended.

Pressed to explain how a business transaction that yielded N10 million or N24 million could have eluded him, given his office as director of finance, Mr. Oke had this to say: “My friend, you know that ordinarily, I should not speak with you, at all. I therefore advise that you contact the DG. If he directs me to speak with you, then we will get relevant files, cross-check, and then get back to you”.

Poised to return to the trenches

AUPCTRE’s latest memo also reminded the minister, that; in at least two letters, dated 13 June, 2012 and 2 July, 2012; labour had asked for “the constitution of a panel of enquiry” to look into allegations of massive fraud and corrupt practices on the part of NCMM leadership. Now, having waited more than 12 months to no avail, it might be forced to call another strike; AUPCTRE warned.

Basically, AUPCTRE’s complaints over the years revolve around the same issues. Aside from those already mentioned, there is also the matter of “Missing lion and recurrent deaths of animals at National Zoological Garden Jos”. According to the labour activists, the wave of deaths blowing through Nigeria’s only National Zoo “is as a result of malnourishment and inadequate care on the part of the Zoo manager”. AUPCTRE had also severally reiterated alarm over alleged threat to its members’ lives as well as non-payment of Transfer Allowance to deserving NCMM staffers.

One of the recent memos, entitled Corrupt Practices in NCMM: The Hon. Minister and National Assembly Dimension, dated 17 June, 2013 was jointly signed by Comrades Omonkhua Ikhuehi and Adogah A. Abdullahi; Chairman and Secretary respectively of NCMM chapter of AUPCTRE. Going by the said letter, AUPCTRE members are piqued that 12 months after the attention of the minister and members of the House Committee on Culture and Tourism were drawn to alleged shenanigans, Usman, the NCMM DG, had not been sanctioned, in any way.

However, AUPCTRE’s appeals have not always fallen on deaf ears. In response to an 26 April, 2013 complaint, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Culture and Tourism, via a memo dated 9 May, 2013; actually demanded explanations from the NCMM DG. The legislators’ memo, with reference number NASS/7HR/CT.23/Vol.2/124, signed by Clerk of the House; states: “The Committee awaits response from you not later than Tuesday, 14 May, 2013 before 1.30pm; to enable it act accordingly”.

Interestingly, Mr. Abdallah Usman had responded in good time, through a three-page memo with reference number CAA.168/Vol.1/106, dated 14 May, 2013. No pun intended: but, the long-standing differences between AUPCTRE and the NCMM Management have spawned so many badly-worded exchanges that one could find enough material for the kernel of a collection to start a Museum of Awkward Correspondences. Although both sides’ submissions have shed some light on the issues, their letters, which are often riddled with bad grammar and misspellings; have willy-nilly provided clues to the shortcomings on the part of either disputante.

For example, Mr. Usman’s letter to the House Committee on Culture and Tourism threw up the following howler: “No formal approval HAVE been granted to any of the ventures”. This was part of Usman’s refutation regarding allegation that a portion of Jos Museum land had been leased out to a company that has built a filling station on that estate.

On the issue of alleged threat to the lives of AUPCTRE members, Usman literally detonated another howitzer: “Management is awash of the regular recourse by AUPCTRE to … crying WOLVE where there is none. It is instructive to note that no LIVE of any union leader … is being threatened”.

Usman again: “It might interest you to know that the issue BEEN presented before you …”. Not to be outdone, AUPCTRE “is surprise and disturb”, while challenging claims by NCMM Management that N250 million was returned to FG coffers.

To be fair, Usman couldn’t have recorded only negative strides since assumption of office as NCMM DG four years ago. But, for more than two years, we sought, to no avail; to meet him to spell out his successes. Finally, our attention was drawn by an NCMM staff to a paid advertorial in one publication. Excited, we rushed to read Usman’s catalogue of his contributions. And, alas! Even this advertorial is marred by more IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) of the grammatical kind!

If poorly written correspondences from ordinary trade union activists are inexcusable, then gaffes and other blunders in official documents from the exalted desk of a director general in Nigeria’s federal civil service can only be condemnable. Usman, the NCMM DG, is currently pursuing a doctorate degree; therefore, his spelling of staggered as STARGGARD; must elicit worry over the future of this country. On a less depressing note, there must be some area Usman might excel in, but museum work ostensibly isn’t his forte.


Respondents pointed out that, where the allegations raised by AUPCTRE were not investigated and those found culpable dismissed and prosecuted, if need be, it would be a glaring proof that the current federal administration’s anti-corruption posturing is no more than mere make-believe. Consequently, other civil servants will feel encouraged to indulge in similar faux pas.

Apart from the minister, a copy of the 3 September, 2013 memo was also served on the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Head of Service of the Federation; Minister of Labour and Productivity; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Tourism and Culture; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity; Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism; and, Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism; among others.

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.