Angry officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are spilling more facts about the rot that has prevented the organization from achieving its statutory responsibility of ridding the country of illicit drugs.
They are accusing the agency’s chief executive officer, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (retd) of corruption, executive lawlessness and running the agency as his personal fiefdom. They allege that since he took over the NDLEA in 2016, rather than progressing, Abdallah’s activities have seen the agency going down.
The trouble in the agency came to the fore following its recent recruitment exercise. Sources in the agency alleged that Abdallah is singlehandedly handling the process through a company, Emplug, which is being managed by a retired officer in finance department, Mr. Yohanna Silas Mshelia, who has refused to hand over to the most senior officer in his department since he retired.
The officials claim Abdallah, through the company, has earned at least N1.5 billion by creating a recruitment portal for the process.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, alleged, “I won’t tell you lies, we have only 5,000 vacancies, but 300,000 people have applied. Abdallah has personally done the recruitment through his company. He singlehandedly recruited the 5,000 people, who did not apply through the Internet as advertised and stipulated by the agency.”
Beside the recruitment controversy, the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity on Thursday for fear of being persecuted said the NDLEA leadership is unfortunately promoting and aiding the activities of drug barons.
“Do you know we have no insurance cover and even when our operatives get killed in action, the personnel themselves contribute money to send the body and family home for burial? Forget about death benefits and other incentives. These explain why the anti-drug war is now not effective because men and officers recourse to the barons for survival”, a very senior officer of the agency disclosed.
In the wake of the recruitment saga, concerned officials of the NDLEA petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), urging it to wade into the matter.
In the petition signed by Musa Ahmed Yusuf, they said, “We are writing to report the unprecedented display of impunity, corruption and administrative rascality in the agency. The chairman/chief executive of the agency, retired Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, has flagrantly violated the presidential directive for the suspension of international travels by all cabinet members and heads of government agencies so as to expedite action on the 2020 budget defence.
“Unfortunately, Abdallah’s inordinate addiction to foreign travels could not allow him respect the presidential embargo on foreign travels. In September 2019, he was in Mauritius and later travelled to the United States only to return on October 4, 2019. Despite the presidential directive, Abdallah left Nigeria again on Saturday, October 12, to Brazil for the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) meeting.
“The reason for travelling may sound plausible, but this is not true with Abdallah because he needs to explain why he was conspicuously absent at the INTERPOL conference held in Abuja in August, even when he was in town. All heads of security agencies were present in Abuja at that meeting, except Abdallah. The reason is obvious, because there is no allowance in dollars, since it is within town.
“We have also discovered the main reason why the director of administration and finance, Yohanna-Silas Mshelia, who retired from service on October 11, after attaining 60 years, refused to hand over. He was called to bar in 1984 and was employed with a bachelor’s degree in law on Grade Level 14, contrary to entry regulations. Yohanna is afraid to hand over now because the N1.5 billion recruitment money has been unprofessionally disbursed to faceless companies without compliance with due process. Therefore, to cover the can of worms and skeletons in his cupboard, he is afraid to hand over.
“Besides coming to the office daily since Monday, October 14, he is still discharging the responsibilities of the Director of Administration and Finance with all the apparatus of office. Even appeal from other directors for him to take the path of honour and obey the laws of the country has met with stiff resistance because Yohanna and Abdallah have kept other directors in the dark regarding the recruitment funds. He is said to be handling all the supply contracts, such as uniforms, officers’ boot/footwear and uniform accessories for the on-going recruitment. He is also in charge of feeding of the cadets during the training period.
“Indeed absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yohanna may have easily forgotten his directive in June 2019 to a former commander, but it is still very fresh in our memories. The former commander in Niger State, Mr. Joseph Iweajunwa, wrote him a letter requesting for two days extension for him to hand over on June 28, instead of his retirement date of 26th, because he had no assistant then. Yohanna’s reply was short and straightforward. ‘You are mandated to stick to your official date of 26th and hand over to the most senior officer as any extension is criminal.’
The petition went on to list other alleged breaches, saying: “We the concerned officers hereby demand strict compliance with the law, as justice requires a level playing ground for all parties. Has he forgotten the directive he gave in June 2019 or have the rules suddenly changed? It is only during his tenure as director that the administrative faux pas of a commander not having deputies became commonplace. The payment of N100 million to an incompetent and petty ICT firm, Emplug, for creating the online portal for the ongoing recruitment speaks volumes of the monumental fraud being perpetrated by Yohanna.
“ We gathered that the moribund Emplug firm is located in a makeshift office under the staircase at Victory Plaza, No. 7, Onitsha Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Area 11, Garki, Abuja. Already, N60 million has been paid to Emplug for creating an online portal that lasted for only three weeks. Investigations also revealed that the recruitment portal was actually designed by the ICT department of the agency, still, Mshelia and Abdallah went ahead to pay such a whopping amount of money to Emplug.
“Upon assumption of office in 2016, Abdallah also stopped the monthly overhead cost to commanders. This is a very dangerous and tacit endorsement of corruption when commanders are starved of daily running cost.
“Abdallah has the worst record in terms of welfare of officers in the history of the agency. Under the dark and draconian tenure of Abdallah, over 130 officers have lost their lives. Majority of the officers died of depression arising from the bitterness of criminal stagnation in one rank for over a decade. Sadly enough, none of the deceased has been paid their benefits, not even burial expenses. The October 2017 incident, where gunmen killed three of our colleagues in Kogi State, Onwumere Nicholas, Peter Ebun and Abdulrahman Musa, only for Abdallah to send the paltry sum of N50,000 is still a bitter pill in our mouth.”
In the petition, the officers said they wanted change because they have “endured with the hope that Abdallah will one day cause officers to smile, but he is getting worse by the day.”
“At the last management meeting he held on Thursday, October 10, after his return from the United States, we were expecting promotion, but we were all shocked when Abdallah said at the meeting that promotion was the least item on his priority list. It is obvious, therefore, that he will not turn over a new leaf. The level of disenchantment among officers has made an implosion inevitable.
“When officers die in active service, Abdallah would not pay for burial expenses as demanded by law. He is so callous to the extent that he suggested that officers that died in a mob attack be given mass burial due to lack of money. Officers had to contribute money to convey the bodies of their late colleagues for a befitting burial. Even when officers are transferred, no allowance would be paid on the grounds that there was no money. That is why we find it painful, sad and insulting that there is money for his monthly travels abroad and N100 million payment to Emplug for creating a portal,” they said, adding, “Recruitment in the agency was usually handled by a committee of officers drawn from the Directorates of Training and Administration, but the ongoing recruitment is being handled by Mshelia and Abdallah, using Emplug that lacks the technical competence.
“Concerned officers uncovered a secret plot by Abdallah to deceive Nigerian youths by corruptly selecting 5,000 persons through the backdoor who did not apply online, leaving the over 300,000 applicants that took the pains to apply in utter frustration. We gathered that over 300,000 applied online for this recruitment; unfortunately, Abdallah has shortlisted 5,000 that did not apply online for the job vacancies.
“Why ask Nigerians to take the pain of applying online when you have already selected your candidates? This is unacceptable to us as Nigerians. Apart from corrupt practices of siphoning the agency’s overhead for baseless foreign travels and the recruitment scandal, Abdallah has equally sat on officers’ promotion.
“In 2018, Abdallah, in a circular with reference number NDLEA/ALS/ADM/100/V/90, acknowledged that officers have overstayed in one rank for over a decade and promised to address promotion of staff. In that circular, titled ‘Issues Relating To Promotion,’ Abdallah stated that, ‘I have carefully considered all the issues relating to irregular and delayed promotion in the agency and I am determined to put in place an enduring and sustainable promotion process and procedure. This is to enable the agency achieve the desired morale for optimal productivity by the personnel.’”
According to the petitioners, Abdallah had promised to conclude the promotion of staff on grade levels 3 to 6 by June 2018 and continue up the ladder, but the assurances never saw the light of day.
“Even when he made officers to write promotion examination in August 2019, he still refused to release the promotion in October. These are clear signs of administrative ineptitude and nonchalance.
The promotion of officers has been neglected by Abdallah as the timetable he released in 2018 after several agitations was not adhered to. He only promoted 11 very senior officers and 1,311 junior others in 2018 and went to sleep. After much agitation, he fixed examination for Sallah period in August 2019, still, we went to write only for him to refuse to release the results. If he had released the promotion, it would have been captured in the proposed 2020 budget but he deliberately declined to do the needful because he has no interest in staff welfare. This is why we are calling for his immediate removal so that somebody with passion for the job can be appointed,” they said.
“Our prayer is that Abdallah be compelled to abort his Brazil trip because, if INTERPOL meeting is important, he should have attended the one held in Abuja in August 2019. Yohanna-Silas Mshelia should be forced to hand over and return all agency properties, including his official vehicle, without staying a minute longer in office, having attained the retirement age of 60.
“Both Abdallah and Mshelia should be probed and prosecuted for the diversion of the monthly overhead to needless foreign travels. They should also be investigated for the non-payment of running cost to commanders since 2016. The account of the agency should be audited in the past four years. Abdallah should not be allowed to conduct the current recruitment exercise so that Nigerians can be selected on merit to serve their country.
“Emplug firm used by Abdallah and Mshelia to defraud the agency should be investigated and the N100 million deal be immediately revoked while the N60 million paid be refunded. The pending promotion of staff released and harmonisation be conducted to properly place officers where they belong. We also demand immediate release of monthly overhead to commanders to check corruption,” the statement signed by Yusuf said.
When Saturday Sun visited the NDLEA office at Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, the massive buildings in the premises were deserted. An official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “All you are asking is the truth. Look at how we are looking dejected. Our morale is too down. Our boss has killed the agency. This place used to be active. We just gathered that the National Assembly has ordered the chairman’s immediate return from Brazil. This is a good development.
“Officers are stagnated on one rank, so morale is down. How can you be patriotic when you lack logistics, and running cost because Abdallah stopped paying running cost since 2016? Again, we see how the families of late officers are suffering because Abdallah refused to pay their entitlements, not even burial expenses. The truth is that everybody is trying to survive, after all, what is important to Abdallah is his foreign travels. The head determines the direction.
“To show you that NDLEA is gone, you can see that the agency is no longer being supported by foreign countries and agencies. Before now, we were being assisted here and there. But nowadays, we have been abandoned by international agencies. You know that they are watching us and they know that we are not really fighting the war against drugs. They know that we are paying lip service to the matter.”
At the Airport Command of the NDLEA in Ikeja, a senior officer who also craved anonymity for fear of victimization told Saturday Sun that: “We are not recording success as we used to do. The level of support is going down, because our boss is not investing in tactical undercover operations that lead to the major seizures we used to get at the seaports.
“What you have now is small arrests. The major breakthroughs are no more, because it requires discreet investigation. What is happening is individual efforts. What he ought to give to commanders, he stopped since 2016. And he would not ask officers why they are not making arrests. He used to tell commanders, ‘Don’t ask me for your running cost and I will not ask you for arrests,’ and this is why drugs are passing freely to and from Nigeria.
“If an officer makes an arrest, he is not appreciated. Morover, our equipment is obsolete and our boss is not interested. When people like Hamza was a commander, he was spending his personal money for information and on informants.
“We cannot associate him with drugs or fraternising with drug barons, but the barons and pushers are celebrating him as he is not interested in the war against drugs. Officers, especially commanders, are having field day, stashing money in the banks. If the boss warned commanders not to request running cost and he won’t ask them for any arrests, what do you think the commanders would do? They will compromise when they make arrests.
“This place is a business centre. We make arrests but negotiate and, once the suspect settles, we allow him to go.”
When the officer conducted this reporter to one of the agency’s cells, there was no suspect there as it used to be.
However, the NDLEA public relations officer, Mr. Jonah Achama, in a telephone interview, said: “All the allegations are baseless. Yohanna Silas Mshellia, former director of administration and finance, has retired as at Friday, October 11, 2019, which was his due retirement date. The collation of all applications is ongoing, contrary to the claims in the petition. The chairman/CEO has assured of equal opportunity for all applicants.”