By Zikirullahi Ibrahim
To the many adversaries who have been circulating false and malicious statements, purporting to have removed my humble self as TMG Chairman, we now know who is in charge.
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To the apostles of corruption, who feel they can make wild allegations to distract, and tarnish the stellar reputation of this great coalition, we won’t lie low and let them smear us. Ladies and gentlemen, this Press Conference is therefore about setting the records straight in the face of mudslinging and character assassination by the agents of destabilization within the TMG Board. Let it be clear that no Board meeting of the TMG took place to give vent to any decision to remove me as Chairman.
The alleged sack only exists in the imagination of some disgruntled and mischievous Board members. These elements are the minions of political interests out to smear the image of TMG, given the sterling roles it (TMG) has been playing to support the democratic and governance process in Nigeria. I must also stress that the allegations about financial impropriety are wild and unsubstantiated. The characters making these claims have provided no documentary evidence to support them. For avoidance of doubt, Section 10 (ii) of the TMG Constitution empowers the Chairman to “summon meetings of the Board.” In the absence of the Chairman, the only other official designated to call Board meetings is the Vice Chair. It therefore amounts to sheer lawlessness for any other official of the group to attempt to hijack the powers to call a Board meeting of the TMG. I, Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi remain TMG chairman; anything you have heard to the contrary, is false and mischievous. TMG calls on its members, partners and general public to discountenance the resort to jungle antics by the disgruntled and discredited Board members.
Given our excellent record in pro-democracy work, there are Nigerians who may be wondering why a coalition, which keeps playing critical roles in the Nigerian democratic process, would be on the receiving end of the kind of vile attacks made against TMG in recent times. The simple answer to such a poser is that corruption is fighting back with all vehemence. The irony however is that our traducers have found willing accomplices in disgruntled dissident Board members. It is these elements that have been going about making false claims alleging financial impropriety against me. These fifth columnists within the TMG are the dinosaurs whose only legacy in this organization is the long number of years they have spent sitting tight as members of the Board.
When it comes to value addition, beyond the interminable years spent on the Board, these persons have added absolutely no value to this organisation. To correct this anomaly, majority of TMG members, during the review of the TMG Constitution at an Annual General Meeting in July last year made a land mark decision. In the reviewed Constitution it was promulgated that any Board member that has served up to two or more terms, should no longer be eligible to return. So as I speak to you, all the current Board members including me as Chairman won’t be standing for re-election as a result of that constitutional provision. This democratic decision, which aims to open up the TMG space in the spirit of popular participation, remains one of my biggest offences against these greedy Board members attempting to discredit me. To them, being on the TMG Board is a birth right. But to us, an umbrella body of over 400 civil society organisations in Nigeria, which seeks to hold government to account, must practice what it preaches. This position of insisting that as democracy promoters, we must not be sit tight leaders is one of the major grouses being held against me by the traitors on the TMG Board.
Secondly, given the activist role that TMG has played in the defence of the votes of the Nigerian people, especially during the 2015 elections, it is not surprising that certain political interests would be hell bent on undermining this organization. For those who have followed our work closely, it is clear that the cross we have to bear in the course of our pro-democracy work is being on the line of fire, so that Nigerians will enjoy democracy and good governance. Desperate politicians are always on our trail, as they seek to either compromise us or undermine the work we do. Having failed severally in their bid to induce us, they have now resorted to blackmail, using weak characters from within our Board. In the build up to 2015 general elections for instance, I was offered the sum of N2 billion by the immediate past Presidency to compromise our stand on credible polls. I stoutly rejected that ungodly offer. But alas, when I reported this situation to the Board, all the Board members now maligning me were visibly upset. To them, TMG should have met to consider the illicit offer. Such is the character of the men and women, who have been going about peddling falsehood that I have been involved in financial impropriety.
A good number of these characters attempting to malign us have a number of accountability issues based on how they have discharged their mandate. It is therefore not a coincidence that all those in the TMG Legal Committee, which we set up to recover TMG’s property, who failed to discharge this responsibility, are currently among those trying to tar us. For clarity, in 2007 TMG purchased a house for which it made part payment of N15 million. Till date, that transaction is caught in a web of conspiracies as TMG has neither be given the property nor has its initial deposit been returned. My point of departure with disgruntled Board members like Barrister Rommy Mom who was appointed Legal Counsel to help recover the property, is because I insisted that his shoddy handling of the case was unacceptable. I have constantly had to pester the said Rommy Mom about the shoddy and lax manner he handled TMG’s property case, which was put in his charge even after collecting about N600,000 as fees and sundry expenses.
After excuses upon excuses, he got us to a point where the case in court had to be struck out for lack of diligent legal representation in court. My orientation of service cannot cope with such unconscionable disregard for the interest of the organization. Today, I know how much TMG pays annually in rent. That property would have permanently solved our accommodation challenges. It is this insistence that the right thing be done that earned me the enmity of this particular Board member for terminating his legal contract.
In the build up to 2015 general elections for instance, I was offered the sum of N2 billion by the immediate past Presidency to compromise our stand on credible polls. I stoutly rejected that ungodly offer. But alas, when I reported this situation to the Board, all the Board members now maligning me were visibly upset.
Similarly, Osita Nnamani Ogbu, one of the dinosaurs on the TMG who is the genesis of the quagmire TMG now finds itself over the property, declared me an enemy for questioning his complicity in the TMG property issue. It was on the basis of his failure to make a headway with the case that we handed it over to the lethargic Rommy Mom. Having failed for years to get the organisation what rightfully belongs to it, TMG was compelled to seek the services of an external lawyer to unravel the mystery and possible conspiracies surrounding the TMG property. The matter has now been reinstated in court and those involved in the shady deal would soon be called to account. This is another reason why the arrow heads of the onslaught against me have become so desperate and virulent.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, the flippant nature of the allegations being spewed against me merely does one thing: it advertises the ignorance and the mischief of those peddling them. TMG is not a mushroom organisation, where the helmsman can just have access to the funds of the organisation. There are proper financial controls, as well as mechanisms to ensure due process is followed. Hard evidence can only be adduced when there is documentary evidence. My traducers have not been able to point to one document, which implicates me in any financial misdemeanor. At the end of every fiscal year, project financial records are audited by external auditors appointed by the funders of the project. As of the last audit, TMG was given a clean bill of health. TMG also appoints external auditors of its own to do a composite audit. In terms of procurement of goods and services, this passes through the Procurement Committee with membership from TMG and the technical partners (National Democratic Institute and World Learning). With such checks in place, there is no way the Chairman can unilaterally take monies meant for the organisation. In fact, with the level of scrutiny, and meticulous account reconciliation process, which we have in place, the purveyors of the allegations know in their hearts that they are just crying wolves where no such thing exists.
I brought in our Technical Partners to be a part of the TMG Procurement Committee. This Procurement Committee, which I excused myself from is in charge of contracting vendors and awarding TMG contracts. It is clear on record that I have never interfered with the work of the committee. I have never changed a vendor approved and recommended by the committee.
As Chairman of TMG, I have done more than any other TMG Chairman in the history of this organization to promote transparency, openness, accountability and prudent management of financial resources. It is on record that on my own, I brought in our Technical Partners to be a part of the TMG Procurement Committee. This Procurement Committee, which I excused myself from is in charge of contracting vendors and awarding TMG contracts. It is clear on record that I have never interfered with the work of the committee. I have never changed a vendor approved and recommended by the committee. I have never been involved in price fixing or anything remotely connected to influencing its work. I choose this approach in order to protect my hard-earned reputation, which I cultivated on the basis of my irrevocable commitment through the years, to the defence of the interests of my fellow countrymen and women. My history as an activist, and my name as a person is what these characters are attempting to malign. To ensure those making these wild allegations, either substantiate them or immediately retract them, I have briefed my legal counsel to immediately institute legal action against all those character assassins. I am sure that the judicial process would help establish the truth.
Finally, an assessment of the timing of these vile attacks would suggest that the authors are hell bent on denying me a glorious exit as TMG Chairman. If this were not so, I wonder why these falsehoods are coming at a time when I have just been nominated for a honourary doctorate degree by the Commonwealth University in the United Kingdom. Why are these traducers after me soon after I was decorated with the Fellowship of the Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC), the highest grade of the Institute’s membership reserved for accomplished professionals? While I take this onslaught as the price to pay for leadership, I will surely not surrender to these sinister antics. I have always been a fighter; I will fight until the truth is established in this matter, and these plotters are made to eat their words. I will never surrender.
This was the text of a press conference addressed by Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the Chair of the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, Nigeria’s biggest coalition of civic organisations observing elections, on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at the organization’s headquarters in Abuja-Nigeria.