Shola Adepoju, the former Director-General of Nigeria’s Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), has been accused of diverting government-owned vehicles for personal gain. The allegations, according to a report by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), a not-for-profit organisation, exposed the misuse of public resources in the institute and the possible legal consequences.
Adepoju, who led FRIN from March 31, 2015, to March 31, 2023, stirred controversy when he attempted to secure a third term as DG, violating the FRIN establishment act. The Act states that the Director-General can only serve a maximum of two terms, each lasting four years. Despite his efforts and connections, Adepoju was unbale to extend his tenure for a third term.
Undervaluation of FRIN vehicles
As Adepoju’s second term neared its end, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing conducted an inspection and valuation of vehicles owned by FRIN. But, the vehicles were undervalued, raising suspicions of foul play. FIJ’s inspection revealed that five vehicles, including Toyota Prado cars, a Toyota Hilux, a Volkswagen Beetle, and a Kia Cerato, were significantly undervalued. For instance, a Toyota Prado purchased in 2019 for N78 million was valued at only N7 million.
Beneficiaries of alleged illegal disposal
It has been alleged that Adepoju, along with Olufemi Michael Hastrup, the institute’s Human Resources Director, illegally acquired these vehicles. Hastrup was said to have purchased a Land Cruiser with an official number plate belonging to the office of the Director-General. When questioned, Hastrup claimed that due process was followed in the asset disposal, but he refused to disclose the purchase price.
The source further revealed to FIJ that upon leaving his position, Adepoju diverted the rest of the vehicles for personal use. The vehicles were reportedly sold at unreasonably low prices, casting doubt on the transparency of the process.
No auctioning advertorial
The Public Procurement Act 2007 outlines the procedures for disposing of public assets in Nigeria. Section 55(3) of the law emphasizes open competitive bidding as the primary method for selling public property. However, Adepoju and his collaborators did not adhere to these regulations and did not advertise the assets for auction. This has raised suspicions that the process was not transparent and may have been manipulated to benefit a select few.
Missing agricultural equipment
In addition to the vehicle controversy, several valuable agricultural equipment were reported missing after Adepoju left the institute. A document dated January 25, signed by Areo Olusola Samuel, Head of Department of Forest Product Development and Utilisation, revealed the disappearance of these assets. This further adds to the concerns of mismanagement during Adepoju’s tenure.
Job racketeering allegations
Previous accusations against Adepoju include illegal contract awards and job racketeering. The House of Representatives initiated an investigation into illegal recruitment and job racketeering in federal government agencies, with Adepoju being among the individuals and agencies under scrutiny, according to the report.
When confronted with these allegations, Adepoju said he was entitled to purchase a staff vehicle as an outgoing DG, but he didn’t provide definite explanations for the acquisition of other vehicles and their subsequent sale to collaborators, including Hastrup.
Possible legal consequences
If found guilty in a court of law, Adepoju, Hastrup, and others involved in the process may face at least five years incaseration without the option of a fine. They could also be summarily dismissed from government service.