Kashim Imam: But for PenCom,  First Guarantee Pension Would Have  Been Ruined

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Former Presidential Liaison Officer on National Assembly Matters and Board Chairman, First Guarantee Pension Limited, FGPL, Alhaji Kashim Imam, has faulted those accusing PenCom of defying court order in saving FGPL. He insists, such persons, notably, a former Member of the House of Representatives and Vice Chairman of FGPL,  Nze Chidi Duru almost ruined FGPL with reign of impunity. He challenged Hon. Duru to come out and face the law rather than wage shadow media war against PenCom. He said Duru left the company’s account in red to the tune of N400 million deficit, whereas the Interim Management Committee, IMC, set up by PenCom after sack of Duru has grown the assets of the company to over N120 billion with profit of over N3 billion in four years. Imam recently spoke to select journalists in Abuja. Olaoluwakitan Babatunde was there   

Why did PenCom sieze FGPL from Chidi Duru and how did you come across Hon. Chidi Duru?                                                        

Starting with the last, I knew him, when our Political Association- The Peoples Front, moved into the SDP. He was selling Fire Alarms on Molony Street, in Lagos then. He became a Personal Assistant to Chief Ojo Madueke, and then later, he also became a PA to Ambassador BabaGana Kingibe. And you know, he was also a member of the House of Representatives. But contrary to the impression being created by him, that the Pension Reform Bill 2004, was his, I want to confirm that the Bill was not a Private one. So, it couldn’t have been his Bill. In fact, it was an Executive Bill emanating from the Fola Adeola Committee set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to reform our ailing pension system. Instructively, the woman who is now the DG of PenCom today, Mrs. Anohu-Amazu, was a member of that Committee.

 Now, technically speaking, Duru, cannot even be said to have invested a dime in the business. But we did not know this, until much later. The initial deposit we were supposed to make, that is the initial capital, was never contributed by him. But  findings later showed that all the cheques he issued for the payment of his own share of the initial deposit, were never presented for clearance. He issued cheques to the tune of N30 million, but sadly, the money could not be traced in the company’s account. And this much was established by the regulatory body, PenCom, during its investigations.

 

How was that possible?

 See, Chidi issued three different cheques of 10million each, of Guardian Express Bank, with nos: 221 and 227 and another Diamond bank cheque. Chidi came to my house one day and told me that his friend, Mr. Anammah, did not invest a dime in our company. Chidi subsequently attempted to appropriate to his company, BP Outsourcing Ltd, the N30 million shares in his name, and the N32 million shares in the name of Mr. Anammah. Mr. Anammah has since gone to court, also claiming that Chidi did not invest a dime in the First Guarantee Pension Limited.  Again, when two shareholders pulled out, Olisa Metuh and Nick Opara Ndudu, he issued cheques from the account of the company, to refund their money to them, yet he fraudulently appropriated their shares, as his own. It will interest you to know that Metuh, asked for a refund of his money, upon realization that Chidi had fraudulent intentions.

 

How much did you invest?

 I invested a total amount of N100 million in the business. Several others like Pat Asadu, Ghali Na’bba, Terngu Tsegba, George Ozodinobi and others also invested huge sums. Chidi Duru did not invest a dime in the company he is now claiming from inception. The initial N30 million he claimed to have invested was fraudulent as the cheques he issued were never cashed. This is criminal. For eight years, he ran the company as if it was his personal property. He ran the company without any regard for corporate governance code and ethics. He took the initial capital contributed by other Shareholders through the award of spurious contracts to himself, his company and his wife.

 Specifically, he awarded three contracts. One, Leasehold Improvements-whatever that means. He didn’t buy a new property, but he paid his company, Grand Towers, the sum of N150 million, for the said contract. It was awarded without any due process. Two, Office Equipment, this contract sum too was over N150 million. This is aside the contracts he awarded for the purchase of computers and IT Software.  Three, is the Lease of Vehicles- he did not buy those vehicles out-rightly, yet he claimed to have leased those vehicles for over N150 million.  Haba!

 He took money from the account of the company and paid off Olisa Metuh and Nick Opara and appropriated same shares to himself. He took money from the account of the company to pay for land in Lagos. He fraudulently paid himself spurious allowances running into millions of naira as Chairman of “board executive committee.” He bought generators and maintained same for his personal business premises and his house with funds belonging to the company. He used company’s money to pay for his “travels.” He used the company’s money to pay for his hotel bills, security bills, flight tickets and refund for “marketing expenses.”

 There are several other transactions, shrouded in secrecy and double invoicing.  He, with the connivance of his siblings, namely, Mrs. Joan Mbachu and Ugochukwu Duru, diverted brokage commissions on investment by the company, amounting to several millions of naira, to a Zenith Bank account, and from there to his personal account.  Going by the amended PenCom Act, this criminal act carries a jail term of five years. His sister in-law, Ugochukwu’s wife, who is a staff of Zenith bank, and who was also the Account Officer, has since been dismissed from Zenith Bank, on account of the fraudulent act. Chidi’s siblings were also dismissed by PenCom, from FGPL and their case referred to the EFCC, for criminal prosecution, in March 2012. Therefore, it is not only Chidi that should be jailed; the siblings too should be in jail. 

 And honestly, I am surprised that up till now, he has not been sent to the gulag. In fact, he was actually indicted by the National Pension Commission, PenCom, for all these infractions and referred to the EFCC for prosecution.

 

What happened next after the indictment?

 Following his indictment, Chidi, at the stakeholders’ meeting summoned by PenCom, in May 2011, pleaded with the agency, to give him a soft-landing and he offered to resign with immediate effect. His letter of resignation to PenCom was dated July 21, 2011. After the resignation, he subsequently got his lawyers to write, withdrawing the letter of resignation, and since then he’s been going about dishing out lies to the public.

 

How come it took you this long to challenge his claims?

 Importantly, we did not want to drag the name of the business in the mud, so as not to discourage retirees. Again, all along, I have been reluctant in granting an interview, for number of reasons. One, I trained as a banker and also worked as a banker before I left the sector. Our business in FGPL is similar to banking. At the hint of trouble in any bank, people rush to withdraw their savings. And this is very similar to that. Two, at the last count, there are 12 cases pending in court, and I do not want to run foul of the contempt of court. 

Three, the lady he has been maligning, I mean the PenCom DG, had insisted that we refrain from granting interviews, for the reasons that I have just listed. But when lies are repeatedly told, and it is allowed to go unchallenged, there is the tendency for the reading public to be tempted to believe it as the gospel truth.

 Funny enough, he is dishing out his tissues of lies from a hideout. He is on the run. The EFCC has been looking for him to arraign him in court for stealing and forgery. But I understand they can’t find him.

 In fact, one of his sureties, his biological sister, Mrs. Christy Chinyere Ekweonu, a Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, was arrested and detained for 11 days by the EFCC recently. Yet, the coward that Chidi Duru is, refused to come out from hiding. He should come out and clear his name, if he is clean, as he claims.  

 But we also understand that the Justice ministry has intervened in the matter and that PenCom is defying Court orders. How true?

 All those letters you see, emanating from the Ministry of Justice in his favour, were all the hand work of his sister. It will interest you to know that he has a sister working in the Ministry of Justice, that is the same Mrs. Ekweonu. Interestingly, she was also the one that stood as surety, for Chidi, when he was granted bail by the EFCC, after his initial arrest. She is the Director of Legal Reporting, in the Ministry.

Are you aware of petitions by Chidi Duru and other claims in the media that PenCom defied court orders?

 These were done for the sole purpose of getting the PenCom DG sacked. Since it is a new government, making changes here and there, he hopes the lady will get sacked, through the petitions. But the lady he is deliberately maligning was not the DG of PenCom when the Target Report, which indicted him and led to his removal from Board of Fist Guarantee Pension Limited (FGPL), was authored.

 Ironically, here is a lady, sitting on over Five Trillion naira, without any hint of scandal. If anything, the DG has helped to save First Guarantee Pension Limited FGPL and grew its Assets, from N38 billion to about N120 billion and made a profit of about N3billion in four years, from the red, in debt of N400 million deficit, when Chidi held sway, more like a Sole Administrator  for eight years. You know, when you fight corruption, corruption also fights back.

 

 Finally, tell us about the South African Investor

Now, I wouldn’t know the relationship between him and the South African investor, Novare Holdings, represented by one Derrick Roper. But what I know as a fact is that, Chidi, forged our signatures to fraudulently invite Novare Holdings, the South African investor, into the company.  

As if that was not bad enough, after misleading PenCom, through the forgery of our signatures, the Agency approved Roper, conditionally, as a part time director. But Chidi offered him an employment letter, dated June 15, 2010, as an Executive Director (Technical), with his emolument put at N20 million per annum, including benefits of 10 vacations to South Africa, each year, all to be paid by the company.

 Interestingly, he did not only forge our signatures to invite the Novare to our company, in fact, he went ahead to forge an Expatriate Quota, inviting the South Africans into the country. 

So, you see why he would not come out to face the law, but continue to wage shadow war against PenCom. If PenCom defied court order, there is something that is called contempt of court. And the court would have invoked it on the Agency long before now.