- Association began life in CAC as family business
- Opaque multiple certificates, PhD from non-existing university
- Bill drafted to perpetuate family in position for life
It started out as a husband and wife registered association, for which the chief aims at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) at registration included: “to promote the study of and provide instruction in forensic audit and investigation field”; and the “promotion and conduct of a system of examinations, and or training, the issue of certificate, the award of prizes and distinctions for merit and the conferment of distinguishing diplomas or classifications.”
The Association of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria still largely goes about with these key mandates, except that it has taken it a notch further, and certain developments some weeks ago – a public hearing at the National Assembly, during which it was called out as a family-led operation and, therefore, not likely to meet the strictest conditions and standards for a professional body for the grant of a charter to monitor, evaluate and establish standards in such a specialised field of knowledge. It is pushing for a bill for the association to get a charter status and it is doing this by seeking the full weight of the hallowed Senate to bring this about. The Bill is now at the Committee stage, where it is thought some thorough work is being done to interrogate all the issues and angles to this matter.
Already, many say, if it were to happen that the bill is passed by the 8th NASS, it would be unprecedented, and would have set the stage for an avalanche of such requests from families and friends. It would have sent the signal that families and, perhaps, any association, can initiate bills to regulate their businesses in the wake of such a development.
This is the damning conclusion from a month’s long investigations by a group of investigative journalists who got on the case following a tip off on a bizarre legislative process unfolding at both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
AFIA, registered on June 17, 2016 at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) by Victoria Ayishetu Enape and her husband, Pastor Joseph Enape, is currently receiving what appears to be unqualified support of the federal lawmakers, who appear to have endorsed the family’s bill for a charter status that would empower it to regulate the activities of forensic and investigative auditors in Nigeria.
Victoria Ayishetu and Pastor Joseph Enape, together with others, are behind the move by the National Assembly to pass the bill for the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors (CIFIA).
The bill was first read at the House of Representatives on Thursday 22 February 2018 and is also currently undergoing scrutiny at the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters, after its second reading at the Upper Chamber.
If the bill is passed as currently composed, then the federal lawmakers would have set the precedence for numerous others falling into that category to seek their endorsement.
AFIA is resting on the support of both the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan and Andy Uba, the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, to regulate forensic and investigative auditors in the country. The bill has now called to question the National Assembly’s legislative procedures and due diligence in the making of a law.
The lawmakers could have argued that AFIA started as an association, just like others and following that, it is now pushing for a regulatory status. However, unlike AFIA, others that had scaled through the National Assembly have been known to have drawn their membership from known and established practitioners of a profession.
The objectives of AFIA, according to CAC documents, among others, are to provide a professional association for forensic, auditors/cyber forensic specialist/forensic investigators; to provide for a better definition and advancement of the profession of forensic auditors/cyber forensic investigators by the promotion and conduct of a system of examinations, and or training, the issue of certificate, the award of prizes and distinctions for merit and the conferment of distinguishing diplomas or classification; to develop and improve the techniques and practice of forensic auditors/forensic investigators and to promote the study of and provide instruction in forensic audit and investigation field; to provide and maintain high standards of professional etiquette and conduct; and to promote a specialized organisation for qualified and experienced forensic auditors/forensic investigators and accountancy students and to do all such other things as from time to time may be necessary or desirable to maintain and advance the status and interest of the profession.
The trustees of the association at incorporation on June 17, 2016 were Victoria Ayishetu Enape, and one Pastor Joseph Enape, who is also the secretary and believed to be her husband as only one address was given for both trustees.
On April 3, 2017, by a resolution of AFIA’s Trustees, Joseph Grace Ilemona of House C42, Area 2, Garki Abuja, was appointed as a trustee and this brought the number to three, including Vitoria Enape and Joseph Enape, also described as a businessman. The Trustees’ form of the association dated 17 October 2017 shows the trustees to include Victoria Ayishetu Enape, Pastor Joseph Enape, and Joseph Grace Ilemona.
Others are Joseph Gideon Ikojo of B5 NNPC Quarters at Area 11, Garki, Stephen Abuh of 15B Ajere Close, Garki 2, Abuja, Professor Bayero Sabir Muhammad of B1 Nangi Close, Kano state, Okoro Onyegbula Eddybrown of 34, Navy Estate, Abuja, Iloba Grace Onumu of Plot 39, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja, Ibrahim Usman of 30 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Way, Utako Abuja and Abuh Okpanachi, a staff of Salem University, Lokoja.
A formal appointment of the additional individuals as trustees was only made on March 18, 2018, in apparent response to some issues that were raised at the National Assembly.
There are concerns about the process for the planned transformation of AFIA into a Chartered Institute, especially the granting of a professional status to the association without proper scrutiny of its history and the claim of its principal actors to be certified professionals. For instance, many with a good understanding of what leads to the conferment of a professional and charter status to a body, say the scrutiny should start by subjecting the principal actors and promoters to the acid test of qualification, practice and experience, especially what standards regulators in Nigeria and across the world see as basic expectations for consideration as professional and chartered body.
For instance, what makes an auditor in the financial and accounting profession? For a professional and chartered body that can have right to certify individuals through examinations, what does the Financial Reporting Council, which has some practice determining powers for auditors, say regarding who can be given an all clear to sign a financial audit report? What are the requirements that qualify one to practice? Victoria Ayishetu Enape, who is acting as the arrow head of AFIA, along with her husband, is an accountant in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).
As a staff in the OAGF’s office, Enape is a federal worker who is still in service, but is doubling as president of AFIA. Although the Bill for a charter status is still working its way at the National Assembly, our investigation shows that the group has appropriated and are already using the name in its dealing with members of the public. The form it issues, for what it calls ‘induction’, sells for N15,000 a time and it is for three categories – Associate membership, Chartered membership and Fellow. And the form is clearly named Chartered Institute of Forensic & Investigative Auditors of Nigeria. At its registered office located on the second floor, Efab Plaza, Suite D63, Garki, Abuja, two male operatives working the system, selling forms and providing information; and who sold the form to our investigators, boasted that they were taken the passage of the bill for granted, hence the printing of all their materials with the status of “Chartered”.
Besides the N15,000 for which it is selling the form, we found that it is on a high recruitment drive with what seems like a monthly or quarterly, “Training/Induction of New Members” programme, for which it charges N185,000 as induction fee for Associate Membership and N285,000 for Chartered Membership. Our investigators found that it has recruitment system where an intensive induction course is organised, usually lasting just days, after which candidates are inducted as either Associates or Chartered members (again, this is against the fact that it has not yet been granted legal chartered status).
But that the group has jumped ahead of the passage of the bill for a chartered status has left many wondering what, indeed, the ultimate motive of its promoters is. They say this is especially important because the group is illegally passing off itself as a Chartered body and is going ahead to engage members of the unsuspecting public, by collecting money for membership of a group that is yet to be officially recognised as a chartered body.
Besides, a receipt issued for the purchase of the membership form by our investigators shows two names: Association of Forensic and Investigative Auditors (AFIA) Canada on the one hand, and Eva Distinct Worldwide Consulting Company with company registration number RC1100790 with head office at Suite FC 17, Old Banex Plaza, Wuse 11, Abuja.
However, when we visited the website shown on the receipt, in the “About Us” information section, it described the company as, “a registered private company in Nigeria under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 with registration number 2243880.”
“This is particularly disturbing,” said one educationist. “This should raise a red flag, that something is not just right here and that promoting an educational body and seeking the National Assembly’s stamp through a bill is taking the whole country for a fraud,” she concluded.
Operatives at the Suite D63 Efab Plaza office of the group told our investigators that the passage of the bill was a foregone conclusion, hence the appropriation of the Chartered status. They are recruiting massively unsuspecting members of the public, especially young Nigerians who think that they offer a genuine route to attaining professional qualifications in a special area of accounting. This is ahead of the passage of the bill and assent by the President. One source close to the National Assembly told our investigators that, “This clearly, is an affront on the legislative process.”
The role of Enape, who claims she holds a PhD from Southern Delaware University, United States, has also raised a red flag. We found that Southern Delaware is not among the accredited universities in Delaware, United States, raising serious questions and for which many say deserves scrutiny.
First, her role in championing the association and speaking for it ought to have put the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (0HSF) and that of the OAGF on notice by now as to whether or not a worker in the employ of the government is allowed to so act.
The deafening silence from both federal institutions and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF) is lending credence to some claims that the government may be tacitly behind this idea, which analysts believe will create even more divergence in accounting practice and profession in the country.
But what will come as even more shocking are the certificates being paraded by Victoria Enape, the president of the AFIA. She parades a number of membership certificates, and a Master’s and PhD degrees from Southern Delaware University. The MSc in Accounting was obtained in November 2008, while the PhD in Accounting was obtained in November 2012. According to the certificates, Enape who undertook her studies in the College of Business and Finance of the university, “satisfactorily pursued the studies and passed the examinations required…” for the award of both degrees. However, our investigation shows that there is no accredited university in Delaware, United States, called Southern Delaware University.
Further investigations showed that there is a website containing information about the university and in the “About Us” entry, its description of itself reads like a commercial pitch. “The Southern Delaware University is a state chartered non- residential distance learning institution that offers a wide variety of programs at undergraduate & graduates studies through the internet.
“We provide self-paced, 100 percent off campus programs for those individuals who cannot attend traditional, campus-bound programs due to personal, work, travel, geographic, or time constraints. Programs are provided in a do-able time frame, and at a reasonable tuition.” This reads like the many typical United States based ‘certificate-for-sale’ schools offering unsuspecting, crazy-for-PhD people around the world, especially in Africa.
When we did further investigation, we came across even more damning information concerning this university. At the following link https://www.degreeinfo.com/index.php?threads/southern-delaware-university.46483/ , which helps to answer people’s questions about schools that are advertised as genuine to unsuspecting candidates, we found this:
“Here’s another university I’ve come across recently, Southern Delaware University, www.sduedu.us. It seems as if their main market is West Africa. SDU is affiliated with a number of professional bodies in Nigeria, and, together with Newton Hills University of Science and Technology, Dominica and Saint Monica University, Cameroon, with the International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professionals. Newton Hills and SDU are also both affiliated with the Society of Accounting Education in Pakistan, a society that recognizes Pebble Hills University,” Mbwa Shenzi wrote on Jul 29, 2015, about three years after SDU awarded Victoria Enape her PhD, and about seven years after the same university gave her an MSc in Accounting.
“For what it’s worth, Newton Hills is one of the “8 Copthall” nest of ‘unwonderfuls’ to which I’ve referred in other threads — the last nest of them that still flies a Dominican flag. This one, however, uses the same address as that of “Delaware Intercorp Inc”. So they’re doing exactly the same thing from Delaware that has also happened from Dominica: incorporating and running an unrecognized institution using the address of the corporation’s registered agent. (And I don’t blame them for switching jurisdictions, since incorporating in Delaware is a lot cheaper!),” wrote Steve Foerster on Jul 30, 2015 in response to Shenzi’s concern.
“Hmmm… Never heard of them, and I go to Newark region all the time. Their phone number is from Seattle, Washington. What kind of number is “1-206-3375462 2”? (206) 337-5462 belongs, or used to, to a psychiatrist in Wellesley, MA as a fax,” said jhp on Jul 31, 2015, also contributing to the discussion on what was clearly becoming fraudulent to the forum.
Victoria Ayishetu Enape, who now goes about as the president of the association that has now conferred a chartered status on itself, even before the bill has been passed, flaunts her several academic and professional certificates in accounting, which seem to be drawing a flock of people and followership in Abuja; and appears to have mesmerised the National Assembly. A few weeks ago, the charm offensive caught the minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who was eager to offer presidential assent to the bill once it is passed by the National Assembly, prompting someone to quip: “How do government officials with huge responsibilities like Malami could make such wild statements without deeper reflection, especially for a matter as weighty as granting a charter meant for professionals to a husband and wife association?”
At the meeting with the minister, Enape was clearly identified as Dr. Enape. As she’s not a medical doctor, it would be right to say she was recognised as the holder of a genuine, accredited PhD. Yet, there is no known Southern Delaware University in Delaware, United States, where she was supposed to have been awarded this doctorate. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives appear not to have asked critical questions about those behind this bill – in terms of fit and proper person tests.
Our investigators found that she is parading close to 20 certificates. A scrutiny of some of the certificates shows that four were acquired in 2012, and six acquired in 2011. This has raised questions on the OAGF about how frequent civil servants especially, Ayishetu Enape, who joined the office in 2010, are allowed to leave their duty posts to travel outside the country for studies. Enape would have frequently travelled outside the country between 2011 and 2012 for her academic pursuits.
However, there are some reservations on the awards of two fellowships from Chartered Institute of Professional Financial Managers, United States. The institute awarded her ‘Fellow, Chartered Financial Manager (FCFM)’ in June 2011 and another ‘International Post-Graduate Fellow’ in February 2012.
Also, the signatures on two different certificates are similar. Same person appeared to have signed both the certificate from the Chartered Institute of Professional Financial Manager awarded in June 2011 and the certificate from the Chartered Institute of Corporate Treasurers awarded in November 2011. The two institutions shared the same address in Wilmington, Delaware.
AFIA president, Ayishetu Enape, pledges that the institute will fight corruption, using advance auditing knowledge, including science and technology, to confront the sophisticated tactics that have helped fraudsters in outsmarting the existing traditional auditing in the country.
In using science and technology to fight corruption, Ayishetu Enape, must have been relying on her diploma in Computer Studies from Peace Computer Institute in Sagamu, Ogun State, together with a membership certificate from an Association of Chartered System Accountants in the United States.
Aremu Olufunsho, a chartered accountant told our investigators that everybody seems to want to form an accounting association nowadays in Nigeria. He wondered about the knowledge acquired by the members of the new group that made them peculiar from the two widely recognised bodies, ANAN and ICAN.
“It is a ploy to create an easy route for those that do not want to write qualifying examination to becoming practicing accountants,” and then moving on to the specialism of an auditor and being certified to practice with recognition by the Financial Reporting Council.
Both ANAN and ICAN are known to have formidable forensic audit schemes, the former with its Society for Forensic Accounting and Fraud Prevention and the later with its Audit, Investigations and Forensic Accounting Faculty.
National Assembly and the Bill
The federal lawmakers’ scrutiny and approval are highly required for a draft bill to be passed and consented to by the president. Thus, after the draft of the bill by a body which strongly believes that a law is required to regulate a particular industry, the next stage is the support of a federal lawmaker to enlist it at the National Assembly.
The first step is to get a draft which is submitted to the National Assembly by a sponsor who must be a federal lawmaker, if such a bill did not emanate from the Executive branch of the government.
After preliminary works, the bill then goes through the first reading at the plenary of the chambers, during which it is introduced to the lawmakers.
After further works by some joint committees, which always include the judiciary committee, together with the consultants, who are knowledgeable in the area, it is scheduled for public hearing to gather inputs from stakeholders in the sector or industry, which the law will affect, upon enactment.
Afterwards, it goes for second reading and it is committed to the committee for thorough scrutiny as well as incorporation of inputs from the stakeholders at the hearing. After this is done, it goes for the third reading and clause by clause consideration by the whole house following a report by the committee.
The bill for the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors enlisted some heavyweights in the National Assembly as sponsors. Notable amongst them are the Senate leader, the revered Ahmed Lawan and Senator Andy Uba.
For a bill that seeks to regulate the activities of forensic and investigative auditors in the country, the pedigree and integrity of the promoters, especially their qualification and training would be something of a serious consideration, say those familiar with the process of getting charter status for a training, education and standards focused body.
These and others have thus put a big question mark on the motivation behind the anticipated law and could further plunge the country into deep corruption from which efforts to extricate is still inadequate.