50 CSOs to Tinubu: Commence corruption investigation against former NAQS’ CG, Isegbe

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Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, numbering 50, under the auspices of Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria, COCSON, Monday, called on President Bola Tinubu, to commence investigations against former Comptroller General of Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, NAQS, Dr Vincent Isegbe, over alleged gross misconduct, corruption and sabotage while in office.

The Coalition made the call for Isegbe’s investigation in a petition addressed to Mr President and signed by National President, COSON, Obiora Bartholomew; North Central Vice President, COSON, Ada Onoja; North West Vice President, COSON, Mohammed Audu; South West Vice President, COSON, Olakunle Olusegun; South East Vice President, COSON, Okonkwo Michael; North East Vice President, COSON, Isah Ahmed; South South Vice President, COSON, Udeme Akpan; and National Secretary, COSON,Hussein Ibrahim.

While commending Tinubu over his moves to stem the tide of protracted insecurity challenge that has adversely affected Nigerians, and his move to restore Nigeria’s lost glory by revamping the economy and unity of the country, pointed out that Isegbe’s alleged actions were completely a clear move to sabotage the efforts of Mr President to restore and renew hope of Nigerians under the ‘Renewed Hope’ Agenda prompted by the president.

They said: “The Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria (COCSON), write to express our deep concern regarding the actions of Dr. Vincent Isegbe, the Director General of the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS). We believe that he has committed gross misconduct, abuse of office, bribery, and corruption during his tenure.

“As you are aware, the NAQS is a government agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. Its primary duties and functions include inspecting and carrying out tests on animal and plant products entering or leaving the country to ensure their safety, facilitating international trade in agricultural products, and protecting public health.

“However, Mr. Isegbe, in violation of the Procurement Act, has flagrantly abused his office while in service, and sidelined legitimate quarantine staff.

“He has instead engaged the services of illegal casual staff, in collaboration with CTU police officers, to facilitate the illicit export of donkey skin to China.

“These casual staff, operating under the pretense as quarantine officers, were deployed to various donkey sellers’ camps and highways to arrest and confiscate donkey skin from traders.

“They seize the skin, detain the owners, and unlawfully transfer the confiscated goods to vehicles and containers for export to China. Often, they stage media events, burning a small portion of the seized donkey skins to create the illusion of compliance with federal government policies, while diverting attention from their illegal activities.

“Multiple incidents lend credence to these allegations. On August 3, 2021, two containers of seized donkey skin worth N350,000,000.00 were intercepted on their way to China. Similarly, on April 5, 2023, 245 pieces of donkey skin valued at N11,025,000.00 were confiscated.”

Meanwhile, they also accused the erstwhile CG of transforming the NAQS into an instrument of
extortion and fabricators of lifurther made it known that allegedly, ‘Additionally, on June 7, 2022, 303 pieces of donkey skin worth N13,635,000.00 were seized. Notably, on June 22, 2022, a staggering 4,500 pieces of donkey skin worth N202,500,000.00 were confiscated from Marabar lddah in Kaduna State.

“These acts of corruption and abuse of power have continued, with further instances of seizure and extortion occurring as recently as June 2023.

“Under Mr. Isegbe’s leadership, the NAQS became synonymous with the exploitation of innocent Nigerians. The agency’s purported aim of curbing the illegal international trade in donkeys for fear of extinction is a smokescreen, as the majority of the donkeys are imported from neighboring countries like Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso.

“Instead of providing licenses to legitimate businesses, Mr. Isegbe and his associates have withheld these opportunities, condemning many young Nigerians to poverty, unemployment, and ultimately perpetuating the country’s current insecurity crisis.
The coalition also unraveled and alleged that highly qualified animal quarantine officers, including veterinary doctors with over 15 years of experience were without a defined schedule.

“Mr President Sir, we implore you to take immediate action to address the corruption and abuse of power within the NAQS.

“We urge you to investigate these serious allegations against Mr. Vincent Isegbe, Director General of the NAQS, and hold him accountable for his actions.

“We request that a thorough audit of the agency’s operations be conducted to restore public trust, and that all legitimate and eligible donkey traders be provided with the necessary licenses to foster legitimate trade and job creation.

“By addressing these issues, the Nigerian government under your leadership will not only eradicate corruption within the NAQS but also harness the potential revenue generation opportunities associated with a regulated and properly governed donkey trade. This will undoubtedly contribute to job creation, reduce unemployment, and mitigate the current security threats plaguing our great nation.

“Your Excellency Sir, We trust in your commitment to good governance, accountability, and the welfare of all Nigerians. We believe that by taking action against Mr. Vincent Isegbe and his corrupt practices, you will ensure a brighter future for our country.”

Reports have also detailed a culture of intimidation and victimization within the NAQS. Those who have spoken out against the misconduct have faced transfer to undesirable locations or rendered redundant, with their roles sometimes reassigned to subordinates and casual staff. Daily Independent newspaper, on December 19, 2019, exposed Mr. Isegbe’s violations of the procurement act, contract scams, abuse of power, and highhandedness.

The coalition also unraveled and alleged that highly qualified animal quarantine officers, including veterinary doctors with over 15 years of experience were without a defined schedule.

“Mr President Sir, we implore you to take immediate action to address the corruption and abuse of power within the NAQS.

“We urge you to investigate these serious allegations against Mr. Vincent Isegbe, Director General of the NAQS, and hold him accountable for his actions.

“We request that a thorough audit of the agency’s operations be conducted to restore public trust, and that all legitimate and eligible donkey traders be provided with the necessary licenses to foster legitimate trade and job creation.

“By addressing these issues, the Nigerian government under your leadership will not only eradicate corruption within the NAQS but also harness the potential revenue generation opportunities associated with a regulated and properly governed donkey trade. This will undoubtedly contribute to job creation, reduce unemployment, and mitigate the current security threats plaguing our great nation.

“Your Excellency Sir, We trust in your commitment to good governance, accountability, and the welfare of all Nigerians. We believe that by taking action against Mr. Vincent Isegbe and his corrupt practices, you will ensure a brighter future for our country.”