The Federal Government has come under heavy criticism over the appointment of a sacked director as permanent secretary and the non-reinstatement of the auditor that blew the whistle on him.
Mr Louis Edozien was removed as Executive Director, Technical Services at the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) in 2014 for presenting neither discharge nor exemption certificate from National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The anomalies in Edozien’s credentials were exposed in a report by Mrs. Maryam Danna Mohammed, who was NDPHC’s General Manager (Audit and Compliance).
Others sacked from NDPHC for not presenting their NYSC certificates or evidence of exemption based on that report submitted in 2013, were Mr Anthony U. Muoneke (Executive Director, Finance and Administration); and Miss Ije Onejeme, (General Manager, Contract Management).
The NDPHC, a Federal Government enterprise, was established in 2005 to serve as the legal vehicle to contract for, hold, manage and operate the assets of Nigerian Independent Power Project (NIPP).
But while Edozien found his way back as Permanent Secretary, Power, in November 2015, Mrs Mohammed was disengaged in 2016.
Beside his stint at NDPHC, Edozien did not work in the civil service all his life.
Sources told Daily Trust that Edozien was appointed permanent secretary in spite of the recommendations of the security agencies especially the DSS, adding that highly placed officials in the presidency facilitated the process.
On the NYSC certificate issue, one of the officials said it was not a criterion for appointment as a permanent secretary. “Unlike the last exercise which involved written examination conducted by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, those done earlier were at the prerogative of Mr President,” one of the sources said.
However, a serving permanent secretary, who does not want to be quoted, wondered how a non-career civil servant, sacked from a government agency for failure to produce NYSC discharge certificate or certificate of exemption, could later be considered to occupy the highest position in civil service.
“Something is fundamentally wrong; the civil service rule is unambiguous; it says if you are a graduate and do not have NYSC certificate, you cannot work in government. Even the private sector is not expected to flout this rule,” he said.
Daily Trust reports that the one-year NYSC scheme is mandatory for graduates under 30, while those above receive exemption certificates. Those who served in the Armed Forces or the Nigeria Police Force for more than nine months are also exempted.
How ‘whistle-blower’ was disengaged
On June 10, 2016, a letter signed by the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, dissolved the entire Executive Management of NDPHC led by James Abiodun Olotu.
“All executive directors of the company and the General Manager (audit) are directed to hand-over immediately to the most senior officer in their respective departments,” the statement read.
With President Buhari on medical vacation in London at the time, Mrs. Mohammed wrote a complaint to then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on 21st June, 2016 contesting her disengagement but there was no response.
She wrote another one to President Buhari, dated 28th June, 2016, in which she complained about being “wrongly sacked.”
She said in the letter, “The SGF also directed me to handover to the most senior officer in my department even though I am not a member of the dissolved executive management, but a staff of the company with 24 years of unblemished career.”
Mrs. Mohammed said there was no correspondence from the Presidency prior to the disengagement and no disciplinary committee set up to investigate any wrong doing.
“Curiously, there are 12 other general managers of the same status as me that were allowed to remain in their positions; obviously because they are staff of the company and not members of the dissolved executive management,” she said.
“I, therefore, strongly believe that some persons that may have felt aggrieved with some of the decisions I took in the line of my official duty are now taking advantage of their closeness to some powerful officials in your government to unjustly and unfairly persecute me,” she said.
The office of the SGF could not be reached for comment.
Auditor not reinstated despite Buhari’s directive
President Buhari responded to Mrs Mohammed’s letter. On October 25, 2016, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, based on the directive of President Buhari, sent a letter to the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, directing that Mrs. Mohammed should be reinstated.
“In this connection, I wish to convey to you, Mr. President’s approval vide a meeting with the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on the 12th October, 2016, for the reinstatement of the Staff (petitioner), Mrs Maryam Danna Mohammed,” the AGF said in a letter dated October 25, 2016 addressed to the Chief of Staff to the president.
However, findings by the Daily Trust reveal that the directive has not been complied with till date.
The Coordinator of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Chido Onumah, said, “The president was mentioned in the case; something to the effect that his orders were ignored. In the first place, I am not sure it is the duty of the president to order the sack of an officer at the level of a general manager in a government agency as conveyed by the letter written by the former SGF. The president must show some resolve in this case and not allow the impunity to continue,” he said.
The NDPHC has a Board which consists of the vice president as chairman; six governors- one from each of the six geo-political zones; the ministers of finance, power, works and housing; petroleum resources and justice as members.
Mrs. Mohammed, a native of Borno State, started her career in the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) in 1992; but was offered exclusive secondment to the Niger Delta Holding Company in 2011 and later transferred her services to the company on 1st July, 2011.
‘Auditor should be reinstated’
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), accused the government of “rewarding crime and punishing whistle blowers.”
This is just as current and former civil servants told Daily Trust that appointment of Edozien as permanent secretary was an abuse of civil service rule.
CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the appointment of Edozien was surprising to many Nigerians.
“This is not what Nigerians expected from this government because the action encourages impunity and is a sign of injustice and disrespect for our laws; rewarding people with integrity deposits,” he said.
He also condemned the “groundless decision” that led to the sacking of Mrs. Mohammed.
“We are worried that rather than giving deserved commendation and reward to the staff concerned, the management resulted in undemocratic move to frustrate and disengage her from job, as against the promise and policy commitment of the present administration to protect and reward whistle-blowers in all ramifications.
“We demand total demonstration of readiness for the protection of whistle-blowers from victimization in the country, including the staff concerned, a mother of orphans that further endorses the extent of her vulnerability in the society,” he said.
CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, said the failure to reinstate Mrs. Mohammed was a minus and does not connote there is an anticorruption war in place.
“Not only has she been punished, but it is particularly saddening that the alleged culprit sacked from NDPHC has gotten a plum job of a permanent secretary,” she said.