ACCOUNTABILITY IN LEADERSHIP – Exposing Financial Impropriety in CIPPON ( 2008 to 2019) – Tunde Obokhai

One of the hallmarks of any good leader is accountability. Accountability occurs when leaders deliver on their commitments to those they are leading. Leadership accountability shows when leaders are seen to do what they will do showing others they can be trusted to do what they say they’ll do. Trust is one of the most important results of accountability in leadership. When a leader is accountable, it means such a leader is willing to make commitments and be responsible for his actions. This promotes trust between him and people he is leading.

One very important area that leaders are expected to be accountable is in handling the finance of the organization they are leading.

In any context, leaders are to ensure that a good financial administration is put in place in such organization to enhance financial accountability. Handling of the finances of any organisations should be such that financial tasks are carried out by more than one person to reduce error and fraud. There should also be proper recording of accounting activities that can cross checked by external auditors from time to time

A cursory look at the activities of the Executive committee of the council of CIPPON (2008 to 2019) led by Alhaji Mohammed Lawal shows absolute lack of accountability. Alhaji Lawal and his team failed in practically all fronts in effectively leading the Institute during their tenure. This was evident in their disregard to the tenets of the ACT establishing the Institute

Most disturbing is the lack of accountability in the handling of the Institute finance. As a leader you have a responsibility to protect all money of the Institute which includes members registration fees, annual dues, donations etc. A good leader is expected to hold and protect such funds on behalf of its members, ensure judicious spending and accurate record of all financial activities carried out on behalf of the Institute.

As a concerned stakeholder in the industry after some interactions with the Lawal led Exco at the outset of their tenure I observed that this council especially Alhaji Lawal and his very close associates in the council were more interested in what they can acquire for their well-being than what they can do for the advancement of print business in Nigeria. This was also evident in the use of force by Alhaji Lawal through closure of print shops and court suits to get members and their companies to be licensed as practitioners in the industry.

I also observed that there was nothing you can lay your hands on that the council did to support the professional or economic well-being of any stakeholder in the industry. These and several other activities of the Lawal led council pointed to the fact that there was an underlying desire by Alhaji to use the Institute as a means of meeting his personal financial needs and that of some other close associates in the Institute as long as they are alive.

In 2018, I stumbled on some financial documents of the Institute that confirmed my fears. The documents revealed enormous disregard to accounting guidelines in the handing of the finances of the Institute. It revealed how Alhaji managed the institute’s fund like his personal estate

To stem this trend, a petition was written to EFFC to investigate financial activities of the Council of Alhaji Lawal between 2008 and 2018.

During the course of the investigation by EFCC, it was discovered that the institute’s fund   was used to reimburse Alhaji Lawal and some council members for expenses incurred by them during the struggle for the Charter of the printing industry. This was a surprise to me because I am aware that a lot of stakeholders in the industry contributed money towards the pursuit of the charter status for the industry.  So why will a few people who have been elected by the people and saddled with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the institute for the everyone now use their privilege position as leaders to reimburse their contribution. The investigation by EFCC also revealed the use of the institute’s fund for activities like payment for seating allowance for Alhaji Lawal for attending court sessions in legal cases instituted by CIPPON against companies supposed operating in the industry without being licensed. The outcome of the investigation by EFCC did not only reveal outright disregard to basic accounting guidelines in handling the institute’s fund but also the use of most of the institutes fund for the welfare of Alhaji Lawal.

With these discoveries a very sane mind will conclude that the reason Alhaji Lawal is fighting to remain in office as President of the institute is not because he truly has the interest of members of the institute at heart but for his own personal interest. The lack of accountability exhibited by   Alhaji Lawal between 2008 and 2018 is enough for him to lose the trust of members of the institute. At this point, one would have expected Alhaji Lawal to bury his head in shame and withdraw into retirement instead he is busy pursuing a lost battle to reclaim his position as President of CIPPON.  The truth is that going by the findings of EFCC a case of misappropriation of public fund has been established against Alhaji Lawal and except there is plea bargain which will entail him refunding all misappropriated fund back to the institute.

The experience of Alhaji Lawal should serve as a lesson or deterrent to everyone holding the position of leadership in any association or group within or outside the printing industry. Leadership demands certain responsibilities, one of which is accountability especially in handling the funds of the association or group. You are not a leader to yourself or for your own interest but for the interest of the people who elected you into that position. The days where followers fold their hands and leaders get away with act of lack of accountability and disregard to laws guiding the operation and management of groups and associations is over. There are still people who represent the conscience of the people who uphold transparency and integrity in the printing industry and who are ready to use government agencies like EFCC, ICPC etc to check corruption and wrong handling of people’s fund.

A word is enough for the wise.