A multifaceted corruption scandal is threatening to tear the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State, apart. The FMC is one of the South-West most important tertiary health institutions.

At the centre of the raging storm is its Medical Director, Prof. Adewale Musa-Olomu, who was accused of irregularity in date of birth and abuse of office.

We gathered that Musa-Olomu took over the reins of leadership of the hospital on June 1, 2017 for a term of four years.

His letter of appointment was issued and signed by a former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was in charge of the nation’s health sector at the time.

However, the tenure of the medical practitioner was reported to have been fraught with varying allegations.

Aside the controversy around his age, the MD was alleged to have employed his son, Babatunde, and in less than a year of the son’s appointment, he allegedly granted him study leave in a European country, with pay.

Worthy of note is the fact that the board members were divided over the allegations against the MD.

Documents seen by this reporter indicated that within the period that Musa-Olomu was the MD, the hospital’s payroll increased with over 1,700 workers.

The hospital bought a refurbished Computerised Tomography (CT) scanner, but at the price of a new one.

The machine, bought with N230m, was said to have developed a fault four months after installation.

Musa-Olomu, who denied the allegations, said the issues were being brought up by his detractors who wanted to deny him a second term in office.

The embattled medical director, who accused the hospital’s board of compromise, said he had proof that those behind his indictment were paid huge sums of money to bring him down.

Age irregularity

It was gathered that the Abeokuta-South, Ogun State indigene, has two different declarations of age documents.

Information on the official website of the FMC, Abeokuta, where Musa-Olomu’s profile was displayed, showed that he had his residency training in General Surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State.

He later joined the services of the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital in 1999.

Records at both hospitals revealed that he was born on January 6, 1960.

In fact, he wrote the date of birth himself on an application form to be a consultant surgeon at OOUTH.

A declaration of age document, dated February 24,1978, sworn to at the High Court of Justice, Abeokuta, Ogun State, and obtained by our correspondent, also confirmed that he was born on that day.

However, his record at the University of Ilorin, from where he joined the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, showed that he was born on January 6, 1964.

A statutory declaration of age, sworn to at the Customary Court, Kisi, Oyo State, said the new change occurred on March 2, 2009.

According to an FMC official, Musa-Olomu has now adopted 1964 as his new year of birth.

He noted that without the adjustment, the MD would have attained 60, the mandatory service age of retirement, in 2020.

Indeed, two persons, identified as Mr Abdulahi Abiodun and Mr Sunday Anisere, petitioned the FMC’s board of management, drawing its attention to the discrepancy.

The hospital’s board, led by Dr Abdulaziz Mahuta, while acting on the two separate petitions, set up a committee to look into the allegation of age alteration, among several others.

The five-man panel started its assignment on March 24, 2021, and concluded its report on April 12, 2021, holding both physical and virtual meetings.

Musa-Olomu, in his defence before the committee, claimed that the 1960 year of birth was the record given by his mother, while 1964 was the record of his father.

He also explained that as a university professor, he was covered by Section 4 of the University Acts, adding that his retirement age had moved to 70.

However, the committee’s report, reviewed by the board, showed that the MD started his secondary school in 1973.

It averred that Musa-Olomu, based on the 1960 record, began his secondary school at 13, while the 1964 date he switched to “for reasons best known to him” would mean he started at nine.

According to the board, the FMC, Abeokuta, is not a university, and Musa-Olomu’s appointment to the post of medical director is under the Federal Ministry of Health, which is governed by Public Service Rules.

It said there was enough evidence that Musa-Olomu “tampered with his age.”

“The fact that there are two different dates of birth used in his career progression contravenes the extant circular ref. No. HCSF/PSO/004/T/66 dated 3rd February, 2009 (vide Annexures VIII). The incumbent should be made to realise the implications of his actions within the purview of the law, especially the administrative and legal consequences,” the board added.

The cited document, which was signed by a former Permanent Secretary, Ammuna Lawal-Alli, for the Head of Service of the Federation, forbids alteration in date of birth.

The board also said the action was a breach of Section 020108 of the Public Service Rules (2008), which read, “Date of birth recorded on appointment by an officer shall not be changed throughout the career of the officer. Any contravention shall be regarded as an act of serious misconduct.”

 Abuse of office

Musa-Olomu’s son, Babatunde, was employed as an engineer in the works department of the hospital on October 19, 2018.

Eleven months after his employment, the MD allegedly approved him for a study leave in a German university. The leave was with pay.

According to Public Service Rule 100223, study leave is to be granted to a confirmed serving officer.

Investigations conducted by the hospital’s board showed that four other officers were granted leave to study: two outside the country and two in the country, around the same time.

Out of the three going outside the country, only Babatunde’s leave was with pay.

Due to the petition of abuse of office against Musa-Olomu, his son was said to have refunded the salaries – N2.4m – which he collected during the period.

Refurbished CT scan

A  64-slice CT scanner was bought by the hospital at N230m and installed on May 7, 2018. The hospital was said to have been billed N235m for the medical equipment and is still owing N5m.

It was, however, allegedly discovered that the scanner had been used on patients elsewhere before it was brought and installed at the hospital.

In about four months after installation, the machine broke down due to power surge.

The gadget supplier, Dr Ben Itsuokor, was said to have been interviewed by the board in a telephone conversation.

Itsokor, who is based in London, United Kingdom, said the scanner got damaged due to “wrong specification of the UPS jointly given by the contractor’s engineers.”

However, the board chairman was said to have confronted him with the different dates of manufacturing of the machine components.

The board then wondered why an old CT scanner was bought at the cost of a brand new one.

A document obtained by our correspondent stated that on January 15, 2020, the board decided that the supplier should repair the machine at his own cost but the scanner was repaired with money drawn from the hospital’s account.

The board, in its recommendation, demanded an audit of the circumstances of the transaction and why the hospital’s funds were used to repair the refurbished CT scanner.

Our correspondent called Itsuokor’s UK line many times on Monday to react to the allegation, but he did not take his calls.

There was also no response to messages sent to him on WhatsApp, which were read as indicated by the double blue tick.

Some parts were manufactured in 2006, others in 2009.

A label on the machine said it is the property of “Ruthland Regional Medical Centre”, a community hospital in the US.

A faint pen marker indicated that the scanner might have been in use since January 27, 2010.

Vertu Medical, a London, United Kingdom-based diagnostic imaging company, in an article it published on its website on October 20, 2020, stated that a refurbished 64-slice CT scanner cost between £80,000 and £120,000.

As of May 2018 when the FMC machine was supplied, the exchange rate was N480 to £1 at the interbank market.

At £120,000, the refurbished scanner may have been bought for N57,600,000.

Block Imaging, a diagnostic company based in Michigan, United States of America, in an article it also published on its website on August 8, 2019, titled, ‘GE CT scanner cost,’ said a refurbished VCT 64 sells for between $120,000 and $140,000.

As of May 2018, $1 was N361 at the interbank market.

At $140,000, the refurbished machine cost N50,540,000.

From the two different companies and their estimates, the refurbished GE CT scanner and installation fees could not have cost more than N60m.

A top official of GE West Africa, who spoke to The PUNCH, said only a brand new CT scanner cost N235m.

Employment without due process

Documents obtained by our correspondent revealed that as of December 2018, six months after Musa-Olomu became the MD, the hospital nominal roll stood at 2,590.

However, by April 30, 2021, the total number of staff paid by the hospital was 4,303.

This means between December 2018 and April 2021, the FMC Abeokuta, had employed 1,713 workers.

Our correspondent gathered that between the time of Musa-Olomu’s appointment and now, more than 2,000 people had been employed by the hospital.

Financial records of the hospital obtained revealed that as of April 2021, the hospital paid about N933m as salaries.

Between February and April 2021, the hospital spent N2.3bn on salaries, which included workers on the IPPIS and those not captured on the IPPIS.

An anonymous group in the hospital, Concerned Health Workers Citizens, accused Musa-Olomu of not complying with public service rules and circulars on guidelines for appointment into Federal Public Service.

“He solely recruited the personnel without any internal/external manpower, planning and budgeting, advertisement publications, recruitment interviews, and procedural approvals from relevant MDAs. Not even recourse to the board of management, which is the body saddled with that responsibility,” the group said.

A committee set up by the hospital discovered that there was also a syndicate in the hospital bringing in workers indiscriminately.

A three-man committee, consisting of Dr Fidelis Ojeblenu (Chairman), Mr Paul Olutunde (Member) and Mr Segun Orisajo (Secretary), fingered two doctors at the hospital as leaders of the syndicate.

The doctors, according to the committee, collected money from those seeking employment and offered them appointment letters.

In its findings dated January 2021, the committee said, “No apparent screening of candidates. If there is any at all, it is limited to the office of the medical director and part of the admin.

“The committee noted the existence of a syndicate in the system which operates by engaging prospective candidates mainly through phone and all transactions are concluded on phone. Payments are made either by transfer or through faceless individuals usually not revealed to the candidates.

“Confirmation of payment is made before the appointment letter is handed over to the candidate or his/her proxy. The candidate hardly knows the identities of members of the group. This trend has been going on for some time now.”

The committee identified five members of the syndicate at the hospital, which included establishment and admin officers and a clerical officer in the MD’s office.

It recommended them for sanctions ranging from redeployment to letters of warning and suspension.

Health ministry shuns board’s report

Our correspondent gathered that the FMC board’s report on the different allegations against Musa-Olomu and its recommendations were forwarded to the Ministry of Health for action.

Based on a circular from the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, only the ministry can approve disciplinary action against the chief executive officer of any government parastatal.

The Chairman of the FMC board, Mahuta, sent several letters and reminders to Abuja, seeking the suspension of Musa-Olomu, all to no avail.

Instead, the ministry responded to petitions addressed to it on the matter.

A letter obtained by our correspondent and signed by the Secretary, Investigative Committee, Ministry of Health, Ajayi Olajumoke, showed that the FMC Head of Administration was invited to answer questions on the matter.

The letter, titled, ‘Falsification of Age and Other Petitions Against Prof. Adewale Musa-Olomu, Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta: Invitation to Appear Before an Investigative Committee,’ was dated May 7, 2021.

A source said the board was disappointed that the ministry did not act on its report.

“The board filed its report and wrote a letter to the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, presenting all the evidence with public service rules that were breached. This was done in April 2021, and we wrote at least three reminders to the ministry. But the board was ignored.

“In March, we requested permission from the minister to suspend the MD pending the determination of the case against him. Instead, the board received a reply from an assistant state minister of health that we should go and reconcile ourselves.

“We said how could we do this when we did not initiate the petitions? We are not fighting the MD. The board said that if that is their response, they should put it into writing, but no response,” the source said.

Division in FMC board

The FMC board constituted a five-man committee on March 24, 2021 after it received petitions against the MD.

The committee consisted of a representative of public interest, Elder Gabriel Akpan, who was the Chairman; the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Olutomi Coker; representative of professional bodies, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaji; representative of public interest, Alhaji Tijani Momoh, while a representative of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Evans Udoekane, served as secretary

The panel looked into several allegations against Musa-Olomu, including “falsification of age, abuse of office, and procurement and installation of a used CT scanner.”

On April 12, 2021, a report that was jointly signed by the team members (except the commissioner who reportedly attended the meeting once) was forwarded to the hospital board to signify completion of the assignment.

Some amendments were made to the document and a final report emerged with six signatures dated April 16, 2021.

The final report was signed by the Chairman, Board of Management, Mahuta; Deputy Chairman, Benedict Godson; members, Alhaji Bukar Damaturu, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaji, Dr F.E. Ojeblenu and Mr A.O. Vaughan.

Two other members, Dr Betiku Benson and Dr Sarah Usman, had virtual participation and were said to have concurred with the report.

However, the Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Coker; the representative of the Federal Ministry of Health, Udoekanem; and representative of public interest, Momoh, were not present at the meeting.

The committee chairman, Akpan, also “took official permission to meet a flight schedul

Momoh, however, said the fact-finding committee cleared the MD of all the allegations.

While accusing the board chairman of doctoring the final report, he alleged that Mahuta was nursing vendetta against the MD for not granting a financial request.

He said, “We did our job thoroughly as a committee and at the end of the day, the MD was exonerated on all the charges. But the chairman got annoyed and said he must be indicted by force. He went into his hotel room and told the director of admin to send the secretary from his office to him, who now sat with him and changed the report to his own taste.

“The board chairman and the MD were close friends. He was always praising the MD. So, I was wondering why it was now that he wanted us to indict the MD even when it was clear we could not go beyond our limit. He said the past endorsements he made were politics.”

Momoh said he later led a delegation to the office of the minister of state and gave him the “true picture of what happened”.

He alleged that the chairman demanded N5m for surgery from Musa-Olomu, adding that he became disgruntled when the latter gave him only N2.5m.

Udoekanem, who declined comment on the matter, said he aligned himself with the committee chairman, Akpan.

Akpan told our correspondent that he had done his job, adding that the final report was at the discretion of the board.

When our correspondent confronted him with the allegations by Momoh, he said the board was not bound to adopt verbatim the committee’s report.

“They can choose to pick an extract from what we did and send it to the ministry; they cannot just send what we submitted,” he added.

The Board Chairman, Mahuta, denied doctoring the report in his hotel room, saying there were minutes to show the report was a collective decision.

According to him, Momoh only attends board meetings to collect sitting allowance without making contributions to deliberations.

He said the board, while reviewing the committee’s report, discovered gaps and mistakes and spent three days “re-doing their work because it was a lousy job and because they were bought by the MD.”

“After we were done with the final report, everybody agreed that we did the right thing. The health commissioner, we exchanged communications through telephone and she agreed. The committee chairman, the committee secretary, also agreed. Everybody was in alliance before the report was sent to the ministry,” he added.

Responding to the allegation of financial request from the MD, Mahuta said he had a heart disease and “spinal issues” that required surgery.

He explained that late 2020, he was advised to inform Musa-Olomu about his medical condition.

“I told him and he asked how much the bill was and I said N5.3m. He said the hospital would sponsor the operation and I thanked him.

“He gave me N2m in bits – N500,000 each time. The money is there and I will do the surgery in Kano. I decided to do it in Nigeria because as a consultant neurologist myself and an active Katsina politician, I was with Buhari and we promised the public to stand by them. There is no way I will collect money from Nigeria and go abroad to do my surgery. What he gave me was a privilege and not a right. So, why should I victimize somebody because he did not give me a privilege?” the chairman said.

Committee report vs board report

Our correspondent obtained the committee’s report, dated April 12, 2021, and signed by Akpan, Momoh, Gaji and Udoekenem.

Our correspondent observed that they sharply contrasted in their conclusion on allegations bordering on “age falsification, abuse of office and purchase of a refurbished CT scanner.”

On age alteration, the committee said the issue was complex, adding that it lacked “resources and statutory right” to investigate the criminal aspect. However, the board indicted Musa-Olomu, citing different public service rules and circulars.

On abuse of office in which the MD employed his son and granted him leave in less than a year of appointment, the committee said the N2,476,755 paid to Babatunde as salaries had already been refunded to the treasury. It tagged the allegation of abuse of office as frivolous and baseless.  But the board stated that the appointment had yet to be confirmed when Babatunde enjoyed the benefit, adding that the approval did not follow due process.

On the purchase of a used CT scan machine at the price of a new one, the committee concluded that the petitioner was misinformed, saying the device developed a fault due to the fluctuating power in the place it was installed. It noted that the scanner had been fixed and was serving its purpose and termed the allegation as “mere fabrication and unguarded rumour.”  However, the board decried the price of the machine and demanded an audit of the circumstances of its purchase.

Musa-Olomu told our correspondent that the matter had been ongoing since November 2020, adding that his accusers wanted him to lose his second term in office.

He alleged that some consultants at the hospital bribed board members with as much as N20m to chase him out of office.

On the age alteration, he said, “I was never indicted for age falsification. In fact, the committee set up by the board exonerated me.”

His lawyer, Oyedele, said the first declaration of age was sworn to in 1976 when Musa-Olomu was in Primary 6.

He explained that when he realised his true age, he had already left the service of the OOUTH in 2017, where he was the head of the department of medicine and surgery.

“In 2009 when he was not in the service of any government parastatal, it became known that the earlier age declaration was done in error. As of that time, he was seen to be older than his elder sister. That was when his father told him that there was a mistake in the age declaration done by his mother. His father then deposed to another age declaration before a Kisi Customary Court.

“The public service rule is that if any civil servant is to do any age declaration, it must predate his employment into the civil service. The 2009 age declaration was done before he secured employment with the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital in 2010 and University of Ilorin in 2011. In 2017, he was appointed MD of the medical centre. So, even in the eye of the law, the subsequent age declaration was done without any intention to get any benefit. His elder sister retired from the Ogun State Hospital Management Board in 2020 at the age of 60 and he cannot be seen to be older than her,” he added.

On abuse of office, the MD said he acted based on his discretion and the need of the medical centre.

He explained that several other medical officers had been sent on training by the management without anyone raising an eyebrow.

“The ministry says technology is improving and we are acquiring a lot of medical equipment, but when they bring them, there is nobody to repair them. So, why don’t you employ biomedical engineers?

“My son had interest in it and was to be trained in Germany. What I did to the people I mentioned earlier was what we did to him. We did not give him any scholarship. We were only paying (his) salaries like others. But when I saw the petition, I just said he should go and refund the salaries he collected.

“And my son, he’s the first in his class. That is what is paining me about this country. When you see merit, you want to kill it. It is mediocrity that we want to celebrate. Because of my son’s brilliance, they gave him a scholarship. When this boy comes back, he will be repairing equipment,” he added.

His lawyer said an extant regulation empowered the medical director to send workers on courses, especially in areas where the institution had needs.

On the issue of the refurbished CT scanner, the MD said he used his reputation and goodwill to secure grants of about $600,000 for the centre, adding that the money was used to procure different equipment for the hospital.

His lawyer said the refurbished machine was bought as a unanimous decision of the board, which included Musa-Olomo.

According to him, the procurement processes in government establishments require the involvement of several people.

“When he came on board, the discussion came about how to procure a brand new CT scanner, which would have come at a double price of the amount they paid for this one. They had a consultant, who advised them that since the institution did not have money to bankroll a new one, they should buy this one. They agreed to buy the used one,” he added.

On the alleged employment of over 1,700 workers, the MD said he followed due process.

He recalled that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospital staff, including nurses, doctors and other health attendants, resigned and left the country.

“If I did these things illegally, will the IPPIS come to capture them from Abuja? I would have also received queries from the authorities who are paying the salaries,” he added.

Musa-Olomu noted that he caught and reported the doctors involved in job racketeering at the hospital, adding that he also raised the panel that probed them.

“If I was the one behind it, will I do that?” he queried.

According to his lawyer, the IPPIS comes to the centre twice in a year.

He explained that workers not captured in the data seen by our correspondent would still be recorded before the end of the year.

Oyedele accused the board chairman of concocting the final report of the board, saying he would report him for professional misconduct and forgery.

He insisted that the report did not represent the findings of the committee.

Our correspondent learnt that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission had been petitioned over the matter.

A spokesperson for the ICPC, Azuka Ogugua, said she could not disclose what the agency was doing about the case.

“When we finish and it is made public, you will know,” she added.

By OLUWADAIRO EDUCATIONAL SERVICES

I am an experienced seasoned educational with training in early childhood and international education practices. I have worked in schools accredited by accreditation bodies and worked at different levels in both local and international schools.

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