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Monday, 27 November 2023 06:26

N5.6bn Wheat Project Scam: Ex-NIRSAL Boss Arrested 11 Months After Sacking

Almost a year after he was sacked as the Managing Director of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), Aliyu Abdlhameed, has been arrested, Daily Trust can exclusively report.

NIRSAL, a $500m non-bank financial institution, is a creation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) mandated to manage agribusiness-related credit risks in Nigeria.

Abdulhameed was kicked out of office following allegations of corruption, including a 2018 N5.6 billion wheat project meant for farmers in Kano and Jigawa States.

His sack was endorsed by the Board of the CBN following approval from the Presidency in December last year.

Daily Trust had, in January last year, carried out an investigation into how a multi-billion-naira loan guaranteed by NIRSAL for three investor companies for the cultivation of 20,000 hectares of dry season wheat in Kano and Jigawa States was allegedly diverted by the companies in connivance with NIRSAL officials.

In the course of the investigation, Daily Trust visited the affected communities in the two states states where farmers said they were deceived. Community leaders there said they were told the project was aimed at changing the lives of 20,000 smallholder farmers. They said after making farms available, affected farmers were promised fertiliser and other inputs for the wheat plantation, but never saw any of these thereafter.

Both Abdulhameed and the three investor companies had denied wrongdoing.

However, when the Special Investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu and his support team to probe the activities of the apex bank and related entities swung into action in September this year, there was panic and apprehension within the top hierarchy of the CBN and the NIRSAL. The Special Investigator, Jim Obazee and his team, led by DCP Eloho, was said to have beamed searchlight on the NIRSAL and the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme which have, over the years, been at the centre of investigations.

 

How Abdulhameed was arrested

Multiple sources within and outside the NIRSAL revealed to Daily Trust that the arrest of the ex-NIRSAL boss came after five months of a manhunt by a joint team of the Department State Services, the Nigeria Police Force and the Special Investigator.

A source privy to Abdulhameed’s arrest told Daily Trust that he was apprehended last week on the premises of a federal government’s revenue-generating agency in Abuja where he had gone to lobby for a reappointment.

“After turning down several invitations, the joint team eventually got hold of him on the premises of a popular government’s parastatal in Abuja where he was said to have gone to lobby either to return as NIRSAL MD or as the head of the Nigeria Agriculture Development Fund,” said the source who sought for identity protection due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

 

Startling discoveries

Daily Trust’s findings indicate that the embattled ex-NIRSAL boss, who is said to be in the custody of the DSS, is being quizzed on multiple allegations of corruption during his tenure.


A source at the NIRSAL confided in Daily Trust that the investigators were also seeking answers based on findings contained in an investigation earlier conducted by a team from the CBN following a petition against the NIRSAL on alleged fraud, money laundering and criminal conspiracy.

It was gathered that following the investigation, the Banking Supervision Department of the CBN wrote to the ex-NIRSAL boss seeking explanation to “observed breaches of internal policies and procedures of the organisation, relevant regulations and laws, especially the Public Procurement Act 2007.”

Findings by Daily Trust indicate that a query on the breaches was conveyed in a letter referenced: BSD/SPG/CON/NIR/13/083 titled: ‘On a spot check on the operation of NIRSAL conducted between August 27, 2020 and September 11, 2020.’


In the document exclusively obtained by Daily Trust, the CBN had, in its interim report, drawn attention to questionable spendings and procurement violations, and requested the ousted NIRSAL boss to forward his reply within three days.

How ex-NISRAL MD bolted away 32 official vehicles

Sources also revealed that 32 official vehicles were discovered to have been diverted to personal use by the former NIRSAL MD during his tenure.

A staff member of the NIRSAL familiar with the development disclosed that only two of the vehicles had been retrieved by security operatives and returned to the organisation following his arrest. He said it was discovered that 21 of the diverted vehicles were purchased with official funds as auction in the name of some staff of the NIRSAL without their knowledge, but were converted personal use by the former MD.

He was also said to have made away with nine exotic vehicles, including two bullet proof jeeps, and household items at four official guest houses belonging to the NIRSAL in Lagos, Abuja and Yola.

Attempts by Daily Trust to reach out to the former NIRSAL MD for his reaction were unsuccessful as his mobile telephone line was switched off. Contacted, the spokesperson of the DSS, Peter Afunanya simply said: “No comment”.

On his part, Muyiwa Adejobi, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force, neither answered several phone calls nor replied to a text message sent to him on the matter.


However, a top security source confirmed to Daily Trust that the former NIRSAL boss was arrested and is currently in detention.

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