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FG suspends NAICOM’s N4bn building purchase, probes process

FG suspends NAICOM’s N4bn building purchase, probes process

The controversy surrounding the move by the management of the National Insurance Commission to buy an uncompleted building in Abuja at the cost of N4 billion has taken a new turn, as the Federal Government has ordered the suspension of the purchase until further notice.

Apart from the suspension, the Minister of Finance, whose ministry supervises the agency, has also raised a panel to probe the entire process relating to the purchase of the uncompleted building, which was presented by the management of the commission to the Federal Executive Council as a “Suitable Property for the dual purpose/use for the NAICOM Academy and New Office accommodation” for approval.

The probe panel is headed by the Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry and the committee is expected to unravel if due process was indeed followed by the management in trying to buy the uncompleted structure and if the amount quoted is commensurate with the property.

The suspension of the purchase followed some controversial decisions taken by the management in the third week of August to beat the August 25 2022 deadline for the withdrawal of the cash from the account of the commission domiciled in the Central Bank, which did not go down well with the board and staff of the agency.

While the management insisted on withdrawing the cash, the board acting on the advice of the Director of Finance and Administration, DFA, opposed the withdrawal on the grounds that there was no cash backing for the Federal Executive Council’s approval and that the building in question was not commensurate with the whooping N4 billion.

The staff also argued that withdrawing such amount at this time of the year, could stall their salary and other payments, threatening to go on strike if the fund was taken out at this time.

But in ignoring the financial advice, the management angrily redeployed the Director of Finance and Administration to Lagos and handpicked a junior officer to act in her place  and went ahead to change the signatories to the agency’s account.

However, when the finance minister got wind of the furore, she quickly ordered the suspension and probe of the purchase of the building located in Gudu, in the outskirts of Abuja.

Following her order, the DFA was recalled on Wednesday back to the headquarters of NAICOM in Garki Abuja.

But the management of NAICOM in an unsigned statement made available to Sunday Vanguard, insisted that the agency followed due process in buying the building.

The statement said: “That the management of NAICOM through the Minister of

Finance, Budget and National Planning presented to the Federal Executive Council

presided over by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, an unfinished

property for approval to be acquired as NAICOM Academy and office

accommodation following the approval by the immediate past Governing Board of

the Commission. All documents relating to the property clearly state that the property was in an

unfinished state.

“The Commission had prior to the FEC approval, obtained a “No Objection” from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) following the valuation of the property by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing .Adequate due diligence was conducted on the property.

Provision was made in the 2022 approved annual budget of the Commission for the purpose of acquiring the building for the Commission.

“The building is to serve the dual purpose of housing the newly established NAICOM Academy which is an initiative of the present leadership of the Commission to address knowledge gap in the insurance sector regulation and supervision not only in Nigeria but across Africa and beyond and also serve as the new head office of the Commission.

“In order to address the problem of low insurance penetration, entrench the culture of insurance in every part of the country and enhance the effectiveness of its surveillance in all the geopolitical zones of the country, the expansion of the Commission’s infrastructural facilities is inevitable thus the Commission requires a befitting office accommodation to curtail any future office space crises.

“This clarification has become necessary to clear any doubt in the minds of the public with respect to the process followed by the Commission in its efforts at acquiring the property,” NAICOM management said.

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