•Audio clip reveals Bakut saying he gave 10 secret job slots to HOS
•Governing Council denies granting approval for recruitment
Editor’s note: President Muhammadu Buhari has finally appointed Mr. Bakut Tswah Bakut, from the acting capacity to substantive Director-General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR). Buhari’s endorsement of Bakut was in spite of flurry of controversies and alleged misconducts trailing him since assumption of office. This, according to stakeholders, leaves a question mark on the anti-corruption mantra of the current administration.
With his appointment being settled, one expects that the Institute would sail through its mandate of “promoting peace and security internally within Nigeria and externally in Africa; conducting research into the cause, patterns, dynamics, actors and forces behind conflicts and insecurity in Nigeria and Africa”.
Sadly, this may not be so as the crisis that has bugged down the IPCR from maximising its functional capabilities is still prevalent.
Global Sentinel has reported how the Institute since Bakut assumed Office in August 2018, has been on either lockdown or slow motion due to supremacy battle between him and members of the governing council who were to supervise the activities of IPCR.
GS report also revealed that at the core of the crisis rocking the Institute apart from the alleged refusal of Bakut to submit himself to the Governing Council for scrutiny include: questionable recruitment and appointment, alleged corrupt conducts, suspicious qualifications and suspected forgery case.
The investigative report noted that with evolving conflicts and insecurity across the six geo-political zones of the country and the then highly anticipated general election, the Institute with the core mandate to “promote research and facilitate conflict prevention, management and resolution within Nigeria and Africa”, has no substantive Director-General and Governing Council Chairman as President Buhari was as at then yet to renew the tenure of Prof. Oshita Oshita after the expiration of his first term in office.
But this gap has now been officially filled with Bakut’s appointment, which according to a statement by the Resident Information Officer of IPCR, Mr. Michael Abu, took effect from December 27, 2018.
“The appointment was conveyed in a letter with reference: SGF.6/S.7/T/187, dated 6th May, 2019, signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha,” Abu said.
He added that in the letter, the SGF wrote: “I am pleased to inform you that Muhammadu Buhari, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, has approved your appointment as Director-General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution for an initial term of four (4) years in accordance with Section 9 (3) (a) of the IPCR (Establishment) Act, 2007.”
According him, Bakut has pledged his unalloyed support to the Federal government and commitment to repositioning IPCR for greater service to Nigeria and Africa.
Abu stated that the newly appointed IPCR Director General also expressed appreciation to President Buhari for the appointment, saying it was a demonstration of the commitment of his government towards the promotion of peace and national unity.
“Bakut also commended the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its understanding and support when he held sway in an acting capacity since August 8, 2018,” he added.
Nevertheless, President Buhari’s decision to endorse Bakut has rattled several stakeholders who are doubtful of his qualifications and competence to run the affairs of such important institutions at this critical period of worsening security crisis in Nigeria.
Some of them who spoke to GS on the condition of anonymity expressed deep shock at the President’s decision, lamenting that “this is how incompetent people get appointments in Buhari’s government these days”
“What a shame! Is this how appointments are now secured under Buhari’s Presidency?”
According to the dissenting voices, the Presidency seems not to have done due diligence in normalising Bakut’s leadership with many unanswered questions about his qualifications, conducts and competences still hanging on his neck.
Controversial professorship mirrors qualifications doubtful qualifications
Contained in the statement on Bakut’s appointment as IPCR Director-General, was that he is “a doctorate degree holder in International Relations, had since August 7, 2014, fulfilled the necessary requirements for professorial position as satisfied by external assessors”.
“Chairman of the IPCR Governing Council on 18th December 2018, approved him as a Professor of International Relations and African Studies,” Abu further said.
However, in the course of this investigation some members of the Council questioned the authenticity of the reported professorship, wondering how such apex academic attainment would be solely conferred or approved by the ‘Council Chairman’.
Those well versed in the workings of the Institute were adamant that the ICPR Council Chairman, Sen. Mohammed Abba Aji, did not only lack the capacity and powers to approve such but doing so on December 18, 2018 only two days before his voluntary resignation on December 20, 2018 without inputs of other members of the Council is suspicious.
Abba Aji resigned his position as the maiden IPCR Council Chairman, after he had decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the Senatorial Candidate for Borno Central in just concluded general elections, leaving the proceedings to other Council members including: Prof. Carol Arinze-Umobi, Mr. Peter Afum Agasokoa, Hajiya Jummai Mahoumed, Hajiya A.S. Yusuf, Chief Aloysius Nwibo, Hajiya Hauwa Baba Ahmed, Mr. Adeolu Adewumi, and Rt. Hon. Alex Ikor. This was not to be so as Bakut insisted that he can not recognise the Council members citing reasons which was contained in the previous report.
Speaking on the issue, an angry Council member said: “Bakut and his cohorts have robbed shit on our faces again with the last paragraph of that newspaper report. Imagine ‘Chairman of a Council solely approving the Professorship…”
“How can the Council Chairman approve by his sole authority and calculation without the knowledge of other members of Council”.
The source who explained how professorship title could be conferred also alleged that “even before former Chairman resigned, he tried to ‘bribe’ Chairman Establishment and compromise other Council members to endorse him for Professorship. That was ignored and never deliberated upon at any Council meeting or resolved on it because it is not within our purview”.
“To be a Professor, the candidates must have supervised postgraduate students to a level, published in verifiable reputable international journals, assessed and approved by at least two external assessors but confirmed by a committee of an academic institution set up by a Vice Chancellor. In any case, the IPCR Act does not expressly confer on an individual to appoint a Professor”.
Global Sentinel had in its previous investigative report obtained a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), with a reference suggesting that the then Acting Director-General of IPCR climbed his academic ladder without the basic qualifications.
Sources informed that unlike other professionals in the Institute, his academic qualifications did not include a recognisable first degree certification.
“Bakut T. Bakut who claimed to have a PhD (2000) in International Relations without any NYSC discharge or exemption Certificate to become the Acting Director-General in August 2018,since then has ran the place as an emperor,”the petition had read.
Bakut was also accused by sources of possible forgery since he has two conflicting date of births having allegedly claimed to be born in 1958 in his British passport while his Nigerian passport had 1962 as his birthday.
Bakut who did not respond to inquiries this time around, however, didnt deny those allegations but explained that there were circumstances behind his academic qualifications and dual nationalities.
According to him, he fulfilled all requirements to have obtained his Master’s degree and PhD in the United Kingdom (UK) with British citizenship to boot. He said he has not committed any crime either with regards to the British and Nigerian laws respectively.
Old problems, fresh allegations
Previous investigations revealed that the major problems bedevilling the IPCR revolves around the supremacy battle between the members of the Institute’s governing Council and the leadership of Bakut who has refused to corporate nor recognise their supervisory roles. Other allegations in addition to the issue of questionable qualifications and suspicion of forgery with regards to his Date of Births as contained in his Nigerian and British Passports include: unilateral and controversial approvals, appointments and recruitment; financial infractions and corruption allegations; and absence of a substantive Council Chairman amongst others.
In the same vein, these allegations have persisted with a new dimension involving physical assault on staff, continued refusal to answer to members of IPCR Governing Council, secret recruitment, and using name of the Council to take decisions without their knowledge or approval as well as inability of both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) to call him to order.
According to findings, a directive by the Council was sent to Bakut on January 11, 2019, urging him to suspend proposed recruitment with subsequent reminder on January 28 but he went ahead to issue letter of appointment dated January 14, 2019.
To this end, the embittered Council members accused Bakut of issuing “illegal letters of appointment without due process and knowledge of Council”. And in an effort to resolve the cold war, the Council met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Geoffrey Onyema and Permanent Secretary, Mr. Mustapha Sulaiman, to officially notify them that “Bakut ceases to be recognized as IPCR DG because he deliberately refused to respond to all allegations”.
Global Sentinel also obtained an audio recording, which the sources claimed to has indicted Bakut of using the name of the Council to take ‘illegal’ decisions and allegedly promised to give Head of Service (HOS) 10 slots in the secret recruitment.
“This recording confirms the illegality he perpetuates using the name of the Council and even giving HOS 10 slots. We have since checked with HOS and she vehemently denied of any such demand or interaction with Bakut. In fact she asked us to formally write to her and we have done that,” a Council member said.
In a related development, Global Sentinel also obtained a letter by a staff of the IPCR addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, narrating how he was physically bullied and assaulted by Bakut’s Personal Assistant (PA) in his presence.
The petition by the Senior Research Officer, External Conflict Prevention and Resolution Department of IPCR, Mr. Al-Bashir Da-Cocodia, was dated April 29, 2019 and entitled ‘Petition: Criminal Assault and Battery’ appealed to the Minister for intervention.
Part of the letter reads: “I humbly pray and seek Your Excellency’s favour and the powers of your good offices as our supervising Minister and Ministry to intervene in some untoward happenings in the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution-IPCR (a parastatal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), that are now being repetitive and worsening.
“Since August 2018 that Dr. Bakut Tswah Bakut has assumed the reign of leadership of the Institute as Acting Director General (Ag.DG), there has been all sorts of issues and complaints and negative publicity for our dear organization. The AgDG’s attitude of constantly threatening staff members and his inability to manage people is also not bringing out the best of the workforce and environment, Sir.”
“Some three weeks ago, from the neighbouring office, I could hear yelling —Dr. Bakut was yelling, ridiculing and insulting a female Deputy Director (Mrs. Hephzibah L Achanya) in his office and capacity MD/CEO, threatening to send her to the North East.
“The Ag.DG’s bully tactics may not be the best for this Peace and Conflict Resolution Institute, Your Excellency. Sir, there are other numerous issues of high handedness and attitudes that devalue mutual respect and also un-exemplary statements against the leadership of the land and the President’s ethnic tribe by the Ag.DG. I should mention that Dr. Bakut is from Southern Kaduna and may have some reservations or sentiments over some recent National issues.
“Also, there has been numerous petitions written to ICPC over the issues of Bakut’s latest age declaration, British Citizenship, his possession of a British Passport and his acclaimed immunity to Nigerian Laws whilst seating in the capacity of a Director, now Acting Director General of a Nigerian Agency. Some newspapers and print media have also recently published stories on Dr. Bakut that are unbecoming of a government MD/CEO.
“Funds have been and are presently being mismanaged by this Ag.DG, Sir, some N19Billion was recently allocated to the coffers of the Institute in collaboration with the current National Assembly, for Zonal Intervention Projects (Z.I.P,) across the country, there is presently another N385Million that was recently remitted into the accounts of the Institute as part of the same Z.I.P. Contract scams and contracts awarded within the Institute’s Directors and choice staff members is what is going on here, Sir. Yet officers Claims cannot be paid, staff and office Impress is never looked into, no funds are dedicated to a single Monograph, Institute newsletter or Research publications for Research staff, no tissue papers, no toner ink for printers and copiers, even common paper for Researchers to work with is never available, no internet facilities to work with, most offices are so hot with no fan or Air Conditioning. Monies come into the office from the Federal budget and is misappropriated and mismanaged. It may be good for Your Excellency to take a roll call of staff issues in relation to the work environment here, Sir.”
“The Ag.DG’s inactions are equally worrisome. Upon signalled his P.A. into a meeting to assault my person and destroy my belongings, he did not instruct him to stop the Criminal act and up to-date has not deemed it fit to initiate action against his P.A. but rather has allowed business as usual and turned a blind eye. One wonders that if this physical attack may have led to (or later leads to) death or grave medical problems, the Ag.DG and Directors would still not have taken action?”
Meanwhile, as at the time of filing this report, there is no verifiable response and action from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to intervene in the situation.
Crux of the matter
Speaking on the matter, a concerned stakeholder said: “We need to be able to tell government that public service must not remain the same by condoning illegalities for too long.
“There is still hope of a salvaging few group of people in this country that believes in forcing government actors to be conscious of the consequences of their actions. Bakut’s appointment which is one among many these days has once again put a spotlight on President Buhari’s anti-corruption mantra and he must ensure to salvage his legacy by putting a stop in appointment of people with questionable qualifications and competences.”
Also speaking, a member of the Governing Council while summing up the thrust of their opposition to Bakut’s leadership of IPCR (before confirmation of his appointment by Buhari) said: “He has refused to respond to all the weighty allegations, particularly his letter appointing him even in acting capacity up till today none; he has adopted the tactics of dropping names of high level people to deceive the staff of IPCR.
“I can confirm that Council did not authorize the illegal recruitment and no Council member has a candidate there. The Head of Service is so irritated with the use of her name and office by him (in the audio). We are aware that most of the letters of appointment given were to girl friends and family members of his and close associates; Bakut has repeatedly and continued even openly with effrontery that he can and will bribe anybody to keep them shut and be on his side. The Council is also frustrated and unable to carry out its functions despite not being paid for meetings that government particularly the MFA is foot dragging on a decisive action to appoint a substantive DG that can move the institute forward thereby allowing illegalities and corruption to fester in the flagship institute.”
These views were also supported by another source, alleging that “Bakut has continued with his illegalities and corruption and the Ministry is foot dragging on a decisive step”.
“Indeed, recently the ICPC invited three Council members for questioning regarding allegations that Bakut paid monies into our accounts for a trip to South Africa that was eventually cancelled but we refused to refund the money. They told ICPC that our passports were not valid that’s why they cancelled the trip. The ICPC investigators were however shocked to hear from us when we presented our valid passports and bank statements without any traces of money from IPCR”.
Functions of the Council and the Institute
One of the consequences of the ongoing battles for supremacy between Bakut and Members of the IPCR Council on one hand, and the infighting and bickering in the Institute on the other hand is the inability to maximize its potentials and carry out its assigned roles and functions.
The concerned stakeholders also expressed doubts whether the IPCR, will ever live up to the reason for its establishment especially, with the prevailing situation.
While Bakut is yet to respond to inquiries, one of the Council members said: “The Institute is only functioning without input and oversight of Council due lack of transparency and accountability from DG.
“The far reaching implication of Bakut’s confirmation as substantive DG is that with all the series of reports and memos against his illegalities by the Council and Union to MFA/SGF that were deliberately ignored, Bakut will now be the one directing Council based on what he feels Council should know.”
Functions of the Council (Part II)
- (1) The Council shall be responsible for the determination of the overall policy of the institute and the formulation of long term plans and budget and ensuring the implementation of such policies and plans.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, the Council shall—
(a) approve the research and training programmes of the Institute;
(b) determine the fees to be paid for research, consultations, training and any other services that may be offered by the Institute; and
(c) promote or undertake such other activities as are expedient or necessary in the opinion of the Council for the discharge of its responsibilities under this Act.
Functions of the Institute (Part III)
- (1) The Institute shall be responsible for:
(a) promoting peace and security internally within Nigeria and externally in Africa.
(b) conducting research into the cause, patterns, dynamics, actors and forces behind conflicts and insecurity in Nigeria and Africa;
(c) publishing and disseminating case studies from its researches with a view to offering insights into the success or failure in conflict resolution and peace building;
(d) identifying these Actors, issues, historical phases, capacities and the balance of power of different groups in a conflict situation;
(f) getting practically involved in the task of mediation, conflict management and conflict resolution;
(g) encouraging the establishment of regional affiliates of the Institute in Africa and other parts of the world and fostering collaboration with those affiliates;
(h) designing strategies for funding people centered development programmes to support peace;
(i) providing Government with relevant policy options on fundamental issues required in designing an effective and durable peace process;
(j) initiating, encouraging, organising, hosting, arranging and conducting policy-relevant courses, national or international seminars, symposia, conferences, and workshops, training programmes and other actions that are incidental to peace making and peace building as part of its intensive effort in capacity building;
(k) carrying out other relevant activities that may be assigned to it by the President.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the functions specified in subsection (1) of this section, the Institute shall take over the functions, assets and liabilities of the body known and referred to as the Centre for Peace, Research and Conflict Resolution of the National War College established under section 5 of the National War College Act