ON April 15, 2015, a major inferno broke out at the Mamman Kontagora House, housing Federal Mortgage Bank on Marina Street, Lagos State.
Reports said the inferno emerged from the sixth floor of the 22-storey building and spread to the 11th-floor before firefighters put it out.
The incident did not raise much dust because the building hosted other institutions, and the bank was not facing serious controversy that could attract suspicion at the time.
The fire burnt the office of the aide of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, where the bank’s management supposedly had sensitive information.
Thousands of Nigerians apply for the National Housing Fund at the bank, among other engagements with the bank
The fire reportedly broke out at 1 a.m., and it was put out before dawn.
The organization has since sent its workers home.
Affected workers are those from the director’s cadre downwards.
The bank has also launched an investigation into the cause of the inferno.
Insiders told The ICIR that the fire could have done more harm to the building than just the aide’s office and the Board’s Room, which the bank said the fire consumed.
The disaster came when the bank is facing litigation over the alleged sack of its auditors.
A video documentary focusing on the ordeals of whistleblowers in Nigeria shows how the bank allegedly punished its auditors for exposing a variety of contract frauds at the bank.
The auditors are the Unit Head, ICT, Processing, Audit and Special Investigation Murtala Aliyu Ibrahim, and his boss, Teslim Anibaba.
According to the documentary, the bank punished the auditors for turning down the management’s request to approve illicit payments.
The documentary said while Anibaba was suspended, Murtala was sacked in May 2017, as directed by the then Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola.
Anibaba was later recalled and transferred from the bank’s headquarters to its Port Harcourt office. When he protested, his transfer was changed to Kaduna.
Anibaba has since resigned his appointment, but Ibrahim was eventually recalled in December 2018.
He was asked to resume in Jalingo, Taraba State office of the bank. His efforts to transfer to another government agency were not successful.
He was sacked for the second time on September 26, 2019, according to the documentary.
Meanwhile, through its Committee on Petitions, the National Assembly heard Ibrahim’s case in 2020. The matter is currently in court.
Mortgage bank’s management set bank ablaze – Group
Meanwhile, the National President of Nigeria Appropriation Development Initiative (NADI), Kashim Bello, has accused the bank’s management of complicity in the inferno.
According to him, the management set the building on fire to burn sensitive documents.
In a statement, Bello said its findings showed the inferno had destroyed several sensitive documents, especially in the office of the Special Adviser to the Managing Director and extended to the Board Room before firefighters put out the fire.
“The curious question is why would such an outbreak occur in the most sensitive departments and offices at FMBN Headquarter?
“The fire incident is coming at a time when the bank is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Works to implement a retirement plan in a bid to stay afloat, thereby extending their stay in office.”
He, therefore, called for a thorough investigation into the incident.
No damage to vital document, bank says
The bank has said the fire caused no damage to its vital documents.
In a statement by its group head, corporate communications, Lawal Kauri, the bank said the fire started on the 3rd floor, and it was quenched through the combined efforts of the Fire Services in the FCT and bank’s staff on the ground.
The bank said the fire did not go beyond the third floor, adding that a combined team from the FCT Fire Service, insurance companies, and in-house experts were assessing the extent of damage the fire did to the building.
The bank said it was yet to know the cause of the fire.
Consequently, the bank asked its workers from senior managers downward to remain at home till Monday when it would tell them when to return to work, the statement stated.
History of infernos on Federal Government buildings in Abuja
On May 20, 2020, there was a fire incident at Abuja’s NIPOST headquarters. On April 17 that year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters in the nation’s capital was in flame.
On April 15, 2020, a fire gutted the Corporate Affairs Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
The incident occurred days after the office of the Accountant General of the Federation went into flame.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning Clem Agba said the inferno did not affect the government’s documents.
He said the government already had all its information, part of which the fire burnt, online, and it could access it anywhere.
But the main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), expressed shock with the incident and called for a thorough investigation into the disaster.
In a statement through its then National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, the party had said the inferno occurred when the PDP was making repeated calls for a forensic audit into “the hazy” oil subsidy regime.
The party said the call was in addition to demands for an investigation into allegations of fraud and diversion of COVID-19 intervention funds and the social investments programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari government since 2015.
“Already, the National Assembly, riding on the gale of demands by Nigerians and championed by the PDP, has raised queries on spendings in respect of social incentives programme.”