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The IMC dangerous moves in NDDC

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L-R: Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, Acting Managing Director, NDDC PHOTO:Asaba Metro

We want to alert Nigerians to the continued desecration of the administrative guidelines for government-owned institutions as provided for in the civil service appointment, promotion and discipline rules by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

While the compulsory leave and retirement handed some staff some weeks back caused a lot of furore across Nigeria, as the reasons were unconventional, the IMC appears not content, even dismissive of the questions raised by concerned Niger Deltans and Nigerians, as it goes ahead to distort the administrative guidelines at the Commission by promoting staff without interview or tests as provided for in the civil service rules.

It is important to know that as an agency of the federal government the NDDC is duty bound to abide by the general civil service rules where appointments, promotions and discipline follow laid-down procedures and are not subject to the whims of the management. Since NDDC was established 20 years ago, no management has tried to distort this position until the current interim management led by Prof D.K. Pondei.

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Prof Daniel Pondei, the acting managing director and head of the IMC was reported by The Nation newspaper of Saturday May 16, 2020, to have told the Presidential Monitoring Committee led by Akpabio that some of those who were asked to proceed on indefinite leave pending the outcome of the so-called forensic audit were indicted persons. In his words, as reported by the newspaper, “Following the advice of the Lead Consultant on the Forensic Audit exercise, the Commission placed certain members of staff on mandatory leave with full benefits, pending the conclusion and outcome of the on-going forensic audit. Some of the affected staff were those already indicted by anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC for acts of financial impropriety and corruption and whose continuous presence at their duty posts could interfere, impair, undermine or compromise the objective of the forensic audit exercise.”

It is interesting that the IMC has tried to spin the story of the sack of the senior staff from those who held top offices and could compromise the audit to those who have been indicted by the EFCC. The points to ask are: At what point were these staffers indicted by the EFCC? When did the EFCC investigate the said staff or the NDDC during which they were indicted? How did the so-called forensic audit firm get to be the one advising the IMC that staff of the agency have been indicted? The minister and his IMC are pathological liars who bend the truth at every opportunity to perfect their selfish agenda at the NDDC.

Some senior staff who were asked to go have just a few years left in service. Public Service Rule (PSR) No 020810 provides for the retirement of a civil servant who has attained the age of 60 years or 35 years in service but the IMC directed civil servants who have two more years or less to stay in service to proceed on compulsory retirement. The IMC first gave the impression that it only asked the affected staff to go on paid-leave for the duration of the so-called forensic-audit. And then a fresh reason surfaced: some of those asked to go have been indicted by the EFCC! Does Pondei know the meaning of Indictment? How can someone indicted for so long, a civil servant, still be in office? Even if that were so, under Rule 030301 of Section 3 of PSR which deals with misconduct, an officer must be informed in writing of the specific act of wrong doing or the improper behaviour inimical to the image of the organization charged against him which must be investigated and proved before any disciplinary action can be taken against him. In this case, we do not even know those indicted let alone whether there have been queries issued to anyone preparatory to action taken.

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We have noticed the lies that have spewed from the IMC and we have observed the role played by the minister of Niger Delta, His Excellency Senator Godswill Akpabio, in all these manipulations going on at the NDDC because he wants to bring in people personally loyal to him. He has said this himself at meetings with staff where he was castigating the staff as disloyal to him and accusing us of revealing the goings on at the Commission but we never thought it will get to the position where he would discard the rules of engagement. This is what he has done with the treatment of staff at the Commission.

Yet the latest is the arbitrary promotion of staff at the NDDC, with letters distributed to staff between April and early May 2020, without formal tests or interviews as have been the practice. While the Civil Service Rules/Guidelines which guide Ministries Departments and Agencies in the public sector provides that staff on Grade Levels 8 – 14 must spend three years on a position before promotion and those on Levels 15 – 17 four years, this rule has been thrashed by Akpabio and the interim management who even gave their favoured staff who have not spent the prescribed number of years double promotion, all without interview or test. What the minister has established at the NDDC using his rubberstamp IMC are two classes of staff – those who are favoured by Akpabio because they have been recruited for his personal agenda and the rest of us who dutifully follow our jobs without eye service.

The incestuous Governance structure put in place by Akpabio makes nonsense of any kind of checks and administrative oversight. This is because in addition to the fact that he nominated the IMC members, he is the Chairman of the Presidential Monitoring Committee, he is also the Supervising Minister and a member of the Advisory Committee. So, in all, when the Presidential Monitoring Committee gives the IMC a clean bill like they did during the advertised visit to the Commission reported by The Nation, it is like Akpabio giving himself a pass mark after directing all the actions of the Commission! This is why we welcome wholeheartedly the National Assembly committees that have been asked to investigate the sharp practices in the NDDC as part of their oversight functions.

What we have experienced is that the NDDC today is run by a four man clique of Akpabio; the acting MD Prof Pondei; Dr Cairo Ojugboh, who is the acting executive director projects; and Chief Bassey Eteng who is the acting executive director finance and administration; the rest of the IMC members and members of the Committees are like passengers made to give validation to the actions of the minister and the IMC. Yet, some of them are now speaking up, because in the end their reputation will go down with the others. After Dr Nunieh granted the interview where she spoke on how Akpabio was breathing down her neck to abuse due process in the payment of contractors and other administrative matters, one member of the IMC, who was just appointed into the expanded Committee in February, was reported by The Sun newspaper as saying that she has had nothing to do with the IMC for about two months yet money was being withdrawn in her name.

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According to the Sun newspaper of Saturday May 16, 2020: “Nagbo, in a telephone interview, said she had been away in the last two months in Abuja in the COVID-19 lockdown, noting that her functions have been carried out by the Special Adviser (SA) on Youths without her knowledge.” The newspaper continued that, “But, I just saw that when decision for financial transaction, or financial decision of the commission is being taken, I am not called for such meeting. “I have not done any women’s programme in the commission. I have not done any youths’ programme in the commission. Nobody can show anywhere in the press, where I have been seen doing women or youths’ programme.” This is the state of the NDDC under Akpabio today, where even some members of the IMC are complaining of being sidelined and being threatened by hired killers.

The same thing he has done with staff but because by the civil service rules we cannot talk publicly we suffer in silence. Many staff are being threatened by some of Akpabio’s people who are angry that the fraudulent deals by the minister and the IMC have been exposed, including threats to life. This is highly unbecoming because it is something we have never seen until Akpabio was appointed Minister of Niger Delta to supervise the NDDC.

The Civil Service Rules are very clear on the discipline of staff, yet Akpabio and the interim management have ignored them the way the minister ignored the NDDC Act that provides for a Governing Board, not an Interim Management Committee. While we cannot reveal ourselves because we are civil servants we are expectantly waiting for the investigation by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees to put a stop to these unwholesome practices by Akpabio and his interim management committee.

Signed
Concerned Staff of NDDC

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