The National Business and Technical Examinations Board under the leadership of Prof Ifeoma Isiugo-Abanihe, who was formerly at the Institute of Education, University of Ibadan, has been embroiled in corruption heist presently threatening the existence of the education agency.
Prof Isiugo-Abanihe, who was appointed in 2016 as Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of NABTEB when Dr Aworanti was sacked from the agency, has been entangled in a web of corruption since she assumed office.
NABTEB, which has its headquarters in Benin, Edo State, also has offices across all states of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory.
NABTEB is constitutionally vested with the power to oversee all technical and business examinations across the country.
Prof Isiugo-Abanihe has been roundly accused of high handedness, violation of due process in award of contracts and subversion of civil service rules in employment of staffers.
Her recklessness bothers on over-invoicing, using fictitious names for contracts and sundry corruption sleaze, which earlier pitched Prof Leonard Shigba, the former Board Chairman against her.
Investigation revealed that Prof Isiugo-Abanihe used her connections at the Federal Ministry of Education to have Shigba removed as NABTEB's Board Chairman and demoted and subsequently sacked from the university where he was teaching in Bayelsa State for daring to revamp and reposition the troubled NABTEB.
Our findings unearthed how Prof Isiugo-Abanihe insisted, prevented and blocked all efforts to have a new board chairman in place who would have been overseeing the approval of contacts before they are awarded to contractors. Besides, she has been accused of appointing staffers illegally without required qualifications with falsified dates of birth. Most of the newly employed staffers came from Imo State but they were advised by Prof Isiugo-Abanihe to change their states of origin to reflect federal character equilibrium in accordance to the Nigerian constitution.
One of such illegal appointment is that of her nephew Mr Chidi. Following a protest, Prof Isiugo-Abanihe quickly transferred Chidi whose certificate is allegedly questionable to Ebonyi State office as a level 7 cadre officer. Up till now, Chidi had refused to honour the transfer out of Abuja office. Also charges of irregularities in the placement of the newly employed staffers abound against the registrar.
For example, there are doctorate staffers, who are placed on level 9 step 5 and level 9 step 3, at the time the registrar places Masters degree holder on the same levels with Ph.D holders on 9 step 3 level because the person in question, Mr Onuegbu Vincent Onyeka, is her son in law. This is even when other Masters degree holders are placed on level 8 step 1. Yet, Onuegbu Vincent Onyeka only came to NABTEB with a part time experience from a private company.
The most traumatising of it all, according to a senior staffer, who is shy of the prints is the case of Dr Obina Okpara, the Director of Examination Administration.
“Dr Obina transferred his service from another establishment. He started work in the former establishment in 1984.
“Upon transfer to NABTEB, Dr Obina with a Master degree at the time was placed as a deputy director due to the purported transfer of service. He rose to the position of a director.
“Dr Obina was expected to have retired on October 31, 2019 but he is still serving because the registrar is covering up for him since they are both from Imo State," he lamented.
The explanation given following the resistance from staffers is that Dr Obina secured a fresh appointment with NABTEB when his transfer of service from an unknown establishment didn't work out.
Findings had revealed from the standard civil service rules that no one has ever been appointed or employed directly to the position of deputy directorship with a Master's degree.
Former Director of Administration, Mallam Bello, now retired had earlier rejected Dr Obina's plea to alter the documents to reflect a fresh appointment, but the registrar crippled the agitation and influenced Bello's successor, Mr James Pamni to accept Dr Obina's plea. It was reported that Mr Pamni threatened members of staff to keep mute on the issue or face disciplinary action.
Further investigation into the alleged graft of Prof Isiugo-Abanihe's administration shows that she has been keeping the official vehicles of the examination agency to herself, especially the newly acquired vehicles like the 2018 Prado Jeep, which sources hinted had been enlisted for sale. It was disclosed that the registrar was mad at the agency's officials when she discovered that the said Prado Jeep was registered in the NABTEB's name, instead of her name as personal property.
The management and members of staff are in agreement that the registrar had been short-changing even the drivers of the Board without paying them the actual amount of their night allowances. For instance, it was alleged that anytime she makes herself available for five days for examination monitoring out of 24 days, she merely pays the drivers for only five days and take the money for the remaining 19 days because the money is paid into her bank account directly by the agency.
Sensing that her stewardship of the agency was under scrutiny and being investigated, Prof Isiugo-Abanihe, swiftly made available 10 nights’ allowances to the drivers for the month of January, 2020 alone.
In spite of the obvious contravention of the rules of the civil service, Prof Isiugo-Abanihe is yet lobbying vigorously for a second term of another four years.
She allegedly boasted to members of staff that the new Minister of State for Education, Hon Emeka Nwajiuba, was from the same state as herself and that he would ensure she retains her office.
Recently Prof Isiugo-Abanine gave employment to the younger sister of the Minister of State for Education without due process.
Efforts to have the registrar's side of the story proved abortive as she bluntly refused to respond to a text message sent to her by our correspondent.
However, Public Relations Officer of NABTEB, Mr Uchechuwu Olisa, said the allegations against Prof Isiugo-Abanihe were baseless and a calculated attempt to smear her image.