An investigation by SaharaReporters has revealed that Mr. O.A Ojo, a director in the National Assembly Service Commission at the center of a scandal in which fake documents were used to evade the payment of appropriate customs duties on a Range Rover imported for the use of Senate President Bukola Saraki, benefited from irregular and questionable promotion that catapulted him over numerous of his seniors in the civil service.
Some members of the Senate have demanded an investigation of the scandal, focusing particularly on Mr. Saraki’s possible role in generating fake documents for the clearance of one of his many cars, and the loss of revenue to the Nigerian treasury occasioned by such sharp practices.
Our sources disclosed that Mr. Ojo, whose fingerprints were all over the scandal, was for some inexplicable reason elevated above colleagues with seniority in qualification or service. An architect by training, the controversial director signed the letter addressed to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to demand the release of the Range Rover, which cost N298 million, after customs officers seized the car. In the letter, Mr. Ojo stated that the car was for use in the convoy of Senate President Bukola Saraki. The NCS had impounded the car on account of the use of fake documents to pay customs duties that were significantly lower than the appropriate fee.
Documents exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters showed that Mr. Ojo was promoted from the rank of Deputy Director to acting Director and then to Director within one year. Two civil service sources told our correspondent that the man’s dramatic and unusual elevation represented a form of reward for Mr. Ojo’s extraordinary loyalty to corrupt political office holders. Our sources cited Mr. Ojo’s letter to the NCS as the kind of “service” he often renders to public officials who wish to cut corners and deprive the Nigerian treasury of legitimate revenues.
“[Mr. Ojo] is a well-known beneficiary of the corruption in the National Assembly, and his accelerated promotion has been marked by several irregularities,” said one source.
Documents obtained by our investigators revealed that, on December 2, 2016, Mr. Ojo was appointed as Secretary, Directorate of Procurement, Estate and Works. The promotion came via an internal circular (NASS/CNA/46/ Vol. 1/222) dated December 2, 2016 and signed by Mr. M.A Sani-Omolori, Clerk of the National Assembly. The appointment came even before the resolution of a controversy related to his previous promotion.
On January 1, 2008, he had been promoted from the Directorate level to Assistant Director. Then, in January 2012, he was again promoted to the post of Deputy Director. A year and nine months later, Mr. Ojo was elevated to the post of acting Director by the National Assembly Service Commission. He was appointed as a replacement for Mr. Ojeh A. Dickson, who had submitted a notice of his intention to proceed on pre-retirement leave. Mr. Ojo’s appointment as acting director was made via a circular (NASC/SS/PF/1378) dated November 24, 2014 and signed by Mr. M. E Onu, Director in charge of Promotions, Discipline and Appeals, on behalf of the chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission. The same month, Mr. Ojo was promoted to the post of substantive Director.
In a curious twist, the letter conveying Mr. Ojo’s promotion was backdated to January 1, 2013. Our sources remarked that the promotion was highly irregular, noting that Mr. Ojo was rewarded at a period during which he was neither serving in an acting capacity nor eligible for promotion, as he had spent barely one year as Deputy Director.
Our sources added that the letter conveying Mr. Ojo’s promotion to full director was even more bizarre as his predecessor, Mr. Ojeh Dickson, was at the time still in the service with the National Assembly Service Commission. “That meant that Ojo was above the man he succeeded,” one source said.
According to the same source, “If Mr. Ojo’s promotion was based on the period he served as acting Director, then his date of promotion, by service rules, should be with effect from 2014 and cannot in any circumstance be January 1, 2013.” He and other sources argued that the date Mr. Ojo’s promotion took effect, January 1, 2013, was dubious. They demanded scrutiny of the exercise.
“We strongly believe that Mr. Ojo was unlawfully promoted ahead of his seniors to serve the purpose of some corrupt individuals at the National Assembly,” one of the sources stated, echoing the views of several who spoke to our correspondent.