Foreign Affairs Ministry stinks with multi-million dollar corruption – Lilian Onoh

By Ameh Ejekwonyilo

Nigeria’s immediate-past High Commissioner to Namibia, Ambassador Lilian Onoh, has lampooned the level of ‘financial impropriety and impunity’ being perpetrated by senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lamenting what she claimed was recurring misnomer in the ministry, she expressed worry that such ugly financial sleaze is taking place in Nigeria’s Foreign Service system.

She fingered what she claimed was “outright withdrawal of funds from accounts of Nigeria’s High Commissions and Embassies” globally, to “general indiscipline and disregard for extant Foreign Service Rules”, the former Ambassador called for urgent steps to be taken to stop the malaise, rather than an attempt to deny the obvious.

In an open later dated February 2nd, 2021 and addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and Mr. Zubairu Dada, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs), as well as Mr. Gabriel Aduda, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Amb. Onoh, catalogued a legion of “reckless financial transactions” allegedly perpetrated in her former mission of service, as well as in several other Embassies across the globe.

She accused the Minister of Foreign Affairs of condoning such level of stealing.

According to her, even while in service, she had dispatched several petitions to expose the humongous fraud, but lamented that all of the memos were ‘ignored’, while the stealing and other acts of indiscipline went on unhindered.

Onoh, the daughter of the fearless former Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Christian Chukwuma Aninefungwu Onoh, who left her duty post in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, on 17the December, 2020, at the end of her tenure, said she left behind in the coffers of the Nigerian High Commission the following balances: “USD 413,587.53 (as Personnel Fund); USD 20,222.55 (as Overhead Fund, without arrival of 4th quarter allocation) and Nambian Dollar 371,498.33 (Approx. USD 23,000.00) (as Capital Fund).

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“Additionally, I left three months’ worth of local staff salaries in the Namibian Dollar Personnel Account, as well as Nam D101,602.71 in Revenue and Nam D88,444.21 (overhead fund). All salaries, utilities, school fees and insurance were fully paid up till January 2021,” Onoh stated.

She further disclosed that 10 days after she left Namibia, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, posted one Mr. Ali Gombe, an Assistant Director, to the Mission, but unfortunately, the Minister curiously “rescinded the disciplinary recall of Mr. Abdullahi Madobi, (who she claimed was a corrupt Senior Counsellor and former Head of Chancery in Windhoek), who unilaterally gave out a phantom contract, tampered with official documents and issued a letter of non-indebtedness to Mr. Isaac Bedan, the former accountant, that stole USD180,000.00 from the Mission.

“The rescinding of Mr. Madobi’s recall is the primary reason for the looting of the Mission’s funds, which could not have been carried out without Mr. Madobi.

“Between January 5th and January 19th – exactly two weeks, Messrs Ali Gombe, Abdullahi Madobi and Lucas Bakwa, looted the balances at Windhoek, with a wanton profligacy that is staggering in the crudeness of its execution.

“They stripped the USD Personnel Account of over USD200,000. Mr. Ali Gombe did not even wait to be accredited before engaging in the unbridled looting of the coffers of Windhoek!” the former ambassador alleged.    

Cautioning the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs, she said: “These acts of unbelievable corruption and steroid-fuelled looting were carried out by Messrs Gombe, Madobi and Bakwa allegedly with your authorizations. The Permanent Secretary had not yet assumed duty.”

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The former Nigerian High Commissioner who lamented that she had warned in several correspondences about Mr. Bakwa’s ‘illegal’ posting to Windhoek, which she alleged was to ensure the stealing of the Mission’s account, added that “if the ground misappropriation of the aforementioned funds was done under false pretences, it behooves on the Honourable Ministers to take speedy and robust action against the spider-web network of corrupt officers in the Ministry (of Foreign Affairs) to stem this unbridled display of corruption and impunity, lest Your Excellencies be seen to be complicit in this brazen and wanton display of looting and putrid corruption.”

Another top ministry official fingered in the sleaze is Mr. Zubairu Salawu, the Director of Finance and Accounts at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Onoh who said she had petitioned the Senate over ‘Mr. Zubairu’s raid of the Ministry’s treasury’, highlighted some of the alleged corrupt acts of the Director of Finance and Accounts to include: “Salary racketeering, illegal tampering of officers arrears, short payment of missions’ allocations, non-remittance of President Buhari’s intervention fund of USD265,000, non-remittance of 2017 and 2018 and 2019 Capital Votes – over USD400,000 in total, as well as the disappearance of the posting and training budget for 2019 and 2020,” urging Mr. Salawu to explain the “whereabouts of the billions of naira allocated by the National Assembly for the posting of officers.”

Similarly, she requested that Ambassadors-designate: Messrs Lot Egopija, Gabriel Okoko and Mrs. Bimbo Wosilat Adedeji, be removed from the Ambassadorial and Consul General list for alleged “perfidious role in encouraging junior officers to rise up and disgrace out-going Ambassadors in various Missions”.

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Onoh accused Mrs. Adedeji (Director of Administration) of sundry financial misdeeds, while Mr. Egopija was also similarly accused.

She also alleged that “Mr. Okoko protected erring officers, including instructing the High Commissioner in Trinidad to handover to the officers accused of illegal withdrawals from the Mission’s accounts.

“They have rendered themselves unfit to head any Mission by their actions,” Onoh insisted.

Meanwhile, the Spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ferdinand Nwonye, confirmed receipt of the petitions, assuring that it would be acted on.

In telephone conversation on Sunday with The AUTHORITY, Mr. Nwonye said: “What the Minister intends to do (about the petition) is not yet known to me, but I am sure it is receiving the desired attention.

“Action will be taken. What comes to me after every petition is usually the finished product. I have read the petition myself but I have not gotten any directive from any of the principal officers.”

Efforts to get reactions from the fingered officers failed woefully as our reporter was barred from gaining access to the Ministry located near the Eagle Square, neither were the security officers on duty willing to oblige their telephone numbers.

As this reporter made strident effort to explain the mission to the Ministry, his life was threatened by both the policemen and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on duty.

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