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EFCC, ICPC May Go after Doctors for Fraudulently Collecting N540m Training Allowance

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The federal government is considering dragging some medical doctors through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for illegally collecting medical training allowances meant for House Officers on residency training programme in 2020, to the tune of N540 million.
The move came as THISDAY learnt that the government had released N4.8 billion for the 2021 residency training programme.
Reliable sources at the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment told THISDAY at the weekend that the health ministry was considering reporting the doctors, who failed to refund the illegal payment to the treasury, to the anti-corruption agencies.
The source said there were three categories of medical officers involved in the scam, including some consultant doctors.
The source also said the government had accused the managements of some of the Teaching Hospitals of allegedly smuggling names of those who had completed their residency training programme into the list of House Officers that received payment from the medical training fund in 2020.
According to the source, though the affected doctors had promised to refund the money, they were yet to do so, thereby making it difficult for the ones due for the training to access their allowances.
THISDAY gathered that the federal government was particularly concerned that some of the consultant doctors who were involved in the illegal deal had not shown remorse for their action but rather were among those collaborating with resident doctors on the on-going strike.
The source also disclosed that out of the 8,000 House Officers that applied for the 2021 residency training programme, 2,000 were screened out for not having postgraduate residency training numbers.
The source said verification was on-going to ensure that only those qualified were deployed for the next programme.
According to the source, the Federal Ministry of Finance has released N4.8 billion as this year’s residency training fund to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation two weeks ago.
Regarding the smuggling of names into the salary payment platform, the source said the federal government had issued queries to Chief Medical Directors of the Federal Teaching Hospitals involved in the illegal act.
About 205 doctors were alleged to have been illegally recruited at the Ibadan Teaching Hospital, while the Calabar Teaching Hospital carried out illegal recruitment of over 100 doctors out of the 500 health workers.
According to the source, these illegally recruited doctors and health workers formed the majority of those that the NARD leadership were demanding that government should pay before they would end their on-going strike.
The source said, “These CMDs went ahead to recruit new doctors and other health workers without relevant approvals and ignoring the federal character principles. They went further to smuggle their names into the (GIFIMS) salary payment platform.
“Teaching Hospital, Ibadan recruited over 950 health workers without waiver from the office of the Head of Service, without certificate of finance and manpower compliance from the Budget Office of the Federation and without compliance with the federal character principle.
“These illegally recruited doctors and health workers were among those that NARD is demanding that federal government must pay salaries. This amounts to arm twisting of the government and cover-up of fraudulent act and it will not happen.
“The federal government in its magnanimity, despite the on-going strike, has decided to pay these illegally recruited doctors and health workers by asking the Head of Service of the Federation to approve a waiver for the affected doctors to be recruited formally into full employment.
“The Budget Office of the Federation is now working to capture them into the budget to be paid through the service wide vote.”
But, in a statement issued at the weekend and made available to THISDAY, former President of NARD, Dr. Muhammad Askira, accused some government officials of deliberately delaying the grant of waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical doctors and other health workers in the federal government health institutions.
Part of the grievances of the striking Resident Doctors was that their members were being owed several months of salaries and allowances by federal and state governments.
Askira, while justifying the current strike by resident doctors, said it was as a result of the government’s insincerity in implementing agreed actionable series of memoranda.
He alleged that there was currently a dearth of medical manpower in healthcare institutions caused by unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Askira alleged that the country presently had a doctor-to –patients’ ratio of 1: 7000, adding that many hospitals are finding it difficult to recruit or replace doctors.
According to Askira, many doctors are leaving the country to other climes where they can do their job with satisfaction.
He said, “As a result, the hospitals are depleted but find it difficult to employ new staff because of bureaucratic processes that involve the Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Federal Character Commission as well as the Federal Ministry of Health.
“This has made the work burden on the available doctors to be unbearably high, resulting in physician burnout and limited care to a limited number of people needing care.”
Writing on the alleged rot in the public health sector, Askira said the process of recruitment or replacement of medical staff was incessantly delayed for no just reason. He accused some officials in the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies of corruption and deliberately delaying grant of approval for waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical staff.
He said, “It takes an average of 8-12 months for a lucky hospital to finally obtain a waiver for recruitment or replacement of medical staff. In some cases, the hospitals would be forced to consider candidates from some directors and politicians if at all they want the processes to be expedited, otherwise, it would be out rightly rejected or at best delayed and the required number slashed.”
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had debunked these, saying contrary to the claims by the striking members of NARD, no genuinely recruited doctor or health worker in Nigeria is being owed monthly salary.
Speaking recently at a conciliatory meeting with doctors, Ngige had said, “NARD goes about telling Nigerians that government is owing them salaries and that government is not taking the problems in the health sector serious. But this is not true. It is incorrect.
“No doctor, nurse, pharmacist or any other health worker, including the driver, is owed monthly salary. Government pays as and when due.
“The truth is that NARD doctors fail to tell Nigerians that their colleagues who are owed salaries are the ones illegally recruited and were, therefore, neither captured by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation nor was their payment provided for by the Budget Office of the Federation.”

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Thisdaylive

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South African police investigate death of 20 in nightclub 

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South African police are investigating the deaths of at least 20 people at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning.

According to AP, it is unclear what led to the deaths of the young people, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams.

Local newspaper Daily Dispatch reported that bodies were strewn across tables and chairs without any visible signs of injuries.

“At this point we cannot confirm the cause of death,” said health department spokesperson Siyanda Manana.

“We are going to conduct autopsies as soon as possible to establish the probable cause of death. The deceased have been taken to state mortuaries,” Manana added.

The owner of the club, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told local broadcaster eNCA that he had been called to the scene early Sunday morning.

“I am still uncertain about what really happened, but when I was called in the morning I was told the place was too full and that some people were trying to force their way into the tavern,” he said.

“However, we will hear what the police say about the cause of death,” Ndevu added.

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Missing ex-Nigerian diplomat found dead in US

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Police in New York, United States, have found the body of a former Nigerian diplomat, Ambassador Ejeviome Otobo.

The 70-year-old was declared missing by the police in Tuckahoe, New York, in United States of America.

Otobo went missing on Wednesday, June 15th and was last seen near Dante Avenue.

The Tuckahoe Police Department on the their Facebook page requested information from the public.

Etobo served as the Director and Deputy Head, Peacebuilding Support Office at the United Nations headquarters in New York between December 2006 and October 2013.

On June 24, the police announced that Etobo had been found dead and sent condolences to his family.

“We would like to thank those of you who offered tips and tried to assist with the investigation. Our thoughts go out to the Otobo family during this difficult time,” the statement read.

Until his death, he was a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Peacebuilding and Global Economic Policy at the Global Governance Institute in Brussels, Belgium.

He had previously held the position of director and deputy head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, where he also acted as Assistant Secretary-General from February-August 2009.

At PBSO, he led the efforts in assisting the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) to develop peacebuilding strategies, including supporting governance reforms and reconciliation processes for countries on the agenda of the PBC; supervised the work related to the follow-up, monitoring and periodic reporting on the implementation of the peacebuilding strategies; and formulated benchmarks for monitoring progress in the implementation of peacebuilding strategies.

His areas of research interests and writing included peacebuilding, public service reforms, institutional development, governance, regulatory policy and management, and international trade.

He co-edited African Development in the 21st Century: Adebayo Adedeji’s Theories and Contributions (2015) as well as authored Consolidating Peace in Africa: The Role of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (2015) and Africa in Transition: A New Way of Looking Progress in the Region (2017). The book Africa in Transition was nominated for the Grand Prix of Literary Association Award in 2018 in the Research category.

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NDLEA nabs Brazilian returnee with cocaine hidden in private parts

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A Brazilian returnee, Igwedum Uche Benson has been arrested in Lagos with pellets of cocaine concealed in his private part.

He was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja by the operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

The agency said Igwedum came in via Ethiopian Airlines from Sao Paulo, Brazil, enroute from Addis Ababa.

A statement signed by spokesman for the agency, Femi Babafemi, said, “Preliminary investigations revealed the suspect had swallowed 50 wraps of cocaine before departing Brazil and excreted 48 pellets in Addis Ababa where he handed them over to another person.

“He however claimed he was unable to excrete the remaining two wraps at the hotel room in Addis Ababa before boarding his flight but later excreted them in the aircraft restroom during the flight from Ethiopia to Lagos.

“In the same vein, after three weeks of painstaking investigation and tracking, operatives of the MMIA command of NDLEA on Saturday night, 25th June arrested a drug kingpin, Onyekachi Chukwuma Macdonald behind attempts to export 40 parcels of Methamphetamine popularly called Mkpuru Mmiri locally to London, United Kingdom, through the NAHCO export shed of the Lagos airport.

“Onyekachi was arrested at Manacola estate, Alakuko area of Lagos at the weekend, three weeks after his Mkpuru Mmiri consignment weighing 2.05 kilogrammes was intercepted at the airport and his freight agent, Peter Christopher Anikan arrested on 7th June.

“During his interview, the suspect said he’s from Ahiazu, Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo state and had lived in Dubai, UAE, for 10 years before returning to Nigeria in 2019.

“He stated that after his return to Nigeria, he opened a phone accessories shop in Sango Otta, Ogun State, but the business collapsed.

“He then started sending cigarettes to London and decided to conceal the illicit drug in the consignment after advice by a friend”.

Closely related is the seizure of another consignment of 2kg Mkpuru Mmiri at a courier house in Owerri, Imo State.

The cargo seized on Wednesday 22nd June had ankara and lace fabrics in which two cylindrical cellophanes containing the drug heading to Hong Kong were concealed.

Also at the Lagos airport, NDLEA operatives on Friday June 24, intercepted 500,000 tablets of Tramadol 225mg packed in 10 cartons and labelled Tramaking imported from Karachi, Pakistan on Emirates Airline.

The consignment weighing 407.60kg was seized during a joint examination with Customs and NAFDAC officials.

Same day, a Dubai, UAE-bound passenger, Alegbeleye Taiwo was arrested at the departure hall of the MMIA with 40 ampoules of pentazocine injection.

The 21-year-old suspect claims he’s from Osun state.

Meanwhile, two kingpins behind the importation of two recent drug consignments from Canada concealed in vehicle containers through the Tincan seaport in Apapa, Lagos have been arrested by NDLEA operatives.

One of them, Gboyega Ayoola Elegbeji, was arrested at his house, 14 Bakare Street, Idi Araba, Lagos on Wednesday 22nd June, for importing a 40ft container TRHU7874497 containing 33 parcels of cannabis indica (Colorado) weighing16.5kg.

The second suspect, Sunday Joe Oyebola, (aka Otunba) was arrested on Thursday 23rd June.

He’s linked to the importation of a 40ft container MEDU4389887 containing four vehicles used to conceal 290 parcels weighing 145kg cannabis indica (Colorado) from Montreal, Canada.

He had been on the run since March and had in the course of the investigation attempted to bribe officers with N10million to influence the case.

Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) commended the officers and men of the MMIA, Tincan, and Imo state Commands of the Agency for the drug seizures and arrests especially of those who thought they could evade the long arm of the law.

He encouraged them and their compatriots across other formations to intensify their efforts towards achieving set goals.

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