…swindles trainees, shortchanges govt in laptop acquisition for participants
…embezzles millions of naira, says there is no money to register trainees for Oracle certification exams
…she is one of the commissioners the governor said secretly supported APC – Govt. House source
The Commissioner for Science and Technology, Dr (Mrs) Elizabeth Obot is currently enmeshed in a high level fraud scandal that may be hard for her to wriggle out herself. The Commissioner has allegedly siphoned monies meant for the successful training of participants of the Oracle database training organized by the state government for unemployed youths in the state.
According to investigations by TheMail, the commissioner has swindled close to 200 participants as she plans to frustrate them by presenting only 19 participants to the governor as those who were successful in the training.
According to our findings, funds were released to her to buy 215 laptops (one for each participant) but she defrauded the state government by only procuring 150 laptops which she has refused to release to the trainees for usage.
It could be recalled that in August 2015, One Hundred (100) unemployed Akwa Ibom graduate youths were selected by the Ministry of Youth and Sports cutting across all the 31 Local Government Areas of the state to commence as first bath of the government sponsored workforce development program tagged “Oracle Database Programme” but due to pressure and interests from politicians, the implementing ministry for the programme, Ministry of Science and Technology accommodated more participants plus participants drawn from Forum of Former Local Government Councillors.
In all, 215 participants were trained by the resource person “an Oracle Training Partner” AIVED International Limited brought in from Lagos State to handle the training.
The training lasted for two weeks between 17th – 31st August, 205 after the flagoff of the program by the Governor on the 17th of August, 2015 at Ibom e-Library.
Findings by TheMail show that during the 2-weeks training, participants complained of lack of Personal Computers (PC) as over 90% of the participants who were unemployed graduates lack laptops computers.
Being a very practical ICT course which required continuous home practice after trainings, the participants appealed for the provision of personal computers (laptops) as a very important amenity required to enhance their studies, practices and continuous access of their electronic kits/notes (e-kits) provided to them by the resource persons.
The Ministry of Science and Technology, however at the last day of the two weeks training provided a stipend of Twenty Thousand Naira only to each of the 215 participants who came from various parts of the state to cater for their transport and feeding allowance throughout the two weeks training.
This newspaper learnt authoritatively that the money budgeted and released to Dr. Obot was N100,000 per head but she ended up giving the participants only N20,000.
After the two weeks training, the leadership of the participants pushed the demands of the participants to the Governor through the Ministry of Science and Technology demanding for provision of laptops for all the 215 participants to enable them study and practice the materials for the course provided by the resource persons as all were electronic based (e-kits, practice dummies). The participants went further to also appeal to the governor for his sponsorship for the two professional exams Structured Querry Language (SQL) and Database Admin 1 required to earn the participants an Oracle certification.
TheMail exclusively gathered that the governor approved these demands and went ahead to release required funds to the Ministry of Science and Technology for the procurement of laptops and sponsorship for the two exams and the message was accordingly conveyed to all participants by Dr. Obot in a meeting she held with the participants on Thursday 17th December, 2015.
A source who attended the meeting told TheMail that the Commissioner then told the participants to resume at the Ibom e-Library on the 11th of January, 2016 for presentation of their laptops and commencement of a two week revision training before embarking on the certification exams proper.
This paper learnt authoritatively that on the said date, all participants resumed and assembled at the slated venue as advised by Dr Elizabeth Obot only for the commissioner to shun the meeting, sending the ministry’s ICT Director to inform the trainees that Governor Udom Emmanuel has directed that laptops will only be given as a reward/incentive to participants who pass their Oracle Certification examinations plus a handshake from the governor.
Findings from government house sources revealed that the governor did not give such instruction, a pointer that it must have been a gimmick by the commissioner to swindle the Oracle trainees.
The commissioner’s representative told the participants that they can freely make use of the computers at the e-library of which ICT Room 1 at the E-library was allocated for all the Oracle Participants for usage throughout the two weeks revision exercise before the certification examination.
Although most of the participants frowned at the development considering the distances they will need to travel down to the e-library every day within the two weeks revision class without any provision by the ministry. The participants saw it as sending a child to school and promising to buy him/her the textbook or materials the child requires for a particular subject/course only after passing the subject/course.
All participants however abided by the conditions of the ministry by looking beyond the issue of laptops. Over 100 hundred participants responded every day to the two weeks revision classes as advised by the ministry coming from various local government across the state even without any provision for transportation and feeding allowance in which the ministry claimed were catered for. The rest of the participants who could not make it every day during the revision class made efforts to obtain soft copies of the practice dummies as provided by the ministry for practice and studies.
After the two weeks revision class, the ministry came up with the idea of arranging a mock exam with almost 300 questions to be answered within one hour for the participants with a view of registering only participants who will pass the mock exam for the main certification exams. Findings by TheMail reveal that even with this plot to prune down the number of participants to be given the main certification exams, over 60 participants passed the mock exams. We learnt on good authority that the ministry only registered 20 for the first SQL certification with the intention of re-registering these same twenty participants who have passed the first exams for the second exams – Admin 1.
Sources in the Ministry told TheMail that the commissioner plans to present these twenty participants to the governor as those successful in the first batch of the Oracle database training out of the over 200 Akwa Ibom Youths.
TheMail learnt on good authority that the ministry has sent sms to the 20 persons, informing them that the Oracle Certification Exams will be held this week in Lagos.
This paper learnt on good grounds that the governor had recently instructed Dr. Obot to make sure that she registers all the trainees for the Oracle Certification exams.
We learnt authoritatively that on the 17th of February, 2016, the allegedly fraudulent commissioner called on participants ready to write the exams to re-submit their already submitted Oracle University issued examination vouchers which entitled all participants to a 25% discount of their examination fees. The participants were made to fill and sign blank vouchers bearing the company name of AIVED International Limited, the resource persons/Oracle training partner that handled training between 17th – 31st August, 2015. Most participants were skeptical about this development and asked questions why they should fill and sign a voucher at the ministry with blank amount column in it. TheMail learnt that over one hundred participants signed the blank vouchers.
The cost of certification exams which the participants are expected to write is of public knowledge. A visit to the website of Oracle by TheMail shows that SQL costs One Hundred and Twenty US Dollars (US$125) only while the second exam Administration Workshop 1 abbreviated as Admin 1 costs One Hundred and Fifty United States Dollars (US$150) only and not the sum of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000) per exams as claimed by the ministry in a press release.
We learnt that Commissioner defrauded the governor nay state government by inflating the costs of the exams and the laptop in order to enrich herself.
TheMail also learnt that all the participants were entitled to a 25% discount of these examination costs which had expired on the 28th of February, 2016 due to the ministry’s delays and the Permanent Secretary, Nestor Udoh’s unwillingness to release funds for these exams. Rather, Dr Obot and her partner in crime, Nestor Udoh are said to be looking for ways to screen out participants who are already qualified, hence denying them their privilege of taking part in their certification exams.
Recently, leaders of the participants had a meeting with the Commissioner, Dr Obot, demanding to know why their certification exam has been delayed. According to those who attended the meeting, the Commissioner told them that there is no money to register them for the exams. She however told them to choose between taking the exams and being given the laptop.
The leaders of the participants were said to have asked the commissioner where the money for their registration is as the memo presented and approved by the governor, the budgeting for the exams and laptops was for per participant. They woman is said to have been startled as she had no explanation.
The leaders reportedly told her to make a retraction to the new commentary on AKBC Radio which she sponsored. In the said commentary, it was reported that 215 participants were duly trained and given laptops. This is said to have infuriated the trainees who as at the time of filing this report are yet to receive their laptops.
TheMail has been told that the laptops have been given to law students while some were used during the last JAMB exams.
A government House source who spoke to TheMail on phone on Monday night said that the Commissioner, Dr. Elizabeth Obot is one of the exco members who secretly supported the APC during the Supreme Court battle. The source said that Dr Obot was placed on security watch by the governor. It could be recalled that the governor recently said that he has a list of those in his government who secretly supported and funded the APC in case of a re-run.
It is understood that Dr. Elizabeth gave the contract of the procurement of the laptops to her second son who is like a Personal Assistant to her. A source who was there when the laptops were offloaded at the Ministry of Science and Technology told TheMail that only 150 laptops were procured by Dr. Obot as she has siphoned money meant for the remaining 65 laptops.
We also learnt exclusively that Mrs Obot has given so much powers to her son as he now runs e-library while a certain Eno who is in charge of the place is a mere figure head.
Information at our disposal suggests that Mrs Obot who is originally from Ibiono Ibom LGA but married in Etinan LGA delayed the distribution of the laptops to the trainees in order to commandeer them if Udom’s election was nullified.
According to some of the participants who spoke to TheMail, the Commissioner insulted Akwa Ibom youths by saying that they are illiterates and cannot pass exams. They said that the commissioner said that most of the participants are welders, traders, mechanics, a statement they said is an insult to Akwa Ibom youths. They said that most of those who took part in the training are unemployed graduates, some with Masters degrees. The participants told TheMail that they demand an immediate apology from the Commissioner for insulting them.
Two participants namely Richard Francis and Martin Effiong have told the Commissioner to do the right thing. They also said they don’t recognize a certain Hon. Nkereuwem as their group captain, saying he is an imposter.
The said Nkereuwem James, a former Councillor in Mkpat Enin is said to have been enticed by the Commissioner to issue a press statement on behalf of the participants, stating that all is well.
“This Nkereuwem James is looking for recognition from the government. He is not a group captain. I don’t think he exists at all. We know one group captain”, said Richard Francis.
Some other participants who did not want their names on print urged the state governor take away the responsibility of implementing the program from Elizabeth Obot and her ministry. They said they prefer the ministry of Youth and Sports handling the program. They said that with this kind of frustration faced by the first batch of trainees in the hands of Dr. Obot, the governor may not be able to fulfill his promise of training 1000 youths in Oracle Database in the first term of his administration.
Another Oracle Database trainee by name Martin Effiong said “The only Group Captain we know that has been representing us since inception of this program is Paul Ekwere. We don’t know any imposter by name Hon. Nkereuwem James. THANK God the Executive Governor of our dear state has our class governor, Paul Ekwere’s phone number”.
The Commissioner is said to have told PDP State Chair, Obong Paul Ekpo that her problems are caused by Etinan people. The state PDP boss is said to have told her not to repeat such statement again because if the governor hears it, he may think she is not competent of running the ministry.
Meanwhile, some trainees of the program have told TheMail that if the situation does not change, they will be forced to write a petition to the House of Assembly and send an SOS to the governor to come to their aid.