Pro­mo­tion scan­dal rocks NEPC

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The Nige­rian Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil (NEPC) is cur­rently mired in an in­ter­nal cri­sis over the pro­mo­tion of di­rec­tors, deputy di­rec­tors and as­sis­tant di­rec­tors car­ried out last year, our re­porters gath­ered.

Some staff of the coun­cil are ac­cus­ing the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Oluse­gun Awolowo, of bias and “pro­mo­tion of staff from his eth­nic­ity”, es­pe­cially those in the direc­torate cadre.

Eighty mem­bers of staff of the coun­cil were pro­moted in the 2015 ex­er­cise con­ducted by the Cen­tre for Man­age­ment Devel­op­ment (COM­MAND) but the ex­er­cise was de­scribed as flawed.

The pro­mo­tion was al­legedly dogged by con­tro­ver­sies rang­ing from sec­tion­al­ism, eth­nic­ity and re­li­gious bias. For in­stance, all the 13 pro­moted staff in the direc­torate cadre have the same re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion.

Among the pro­moted staff in the direc­torate cadre, Northeast has 1 (Taraba), North-west has 1 (Kaduna), North-cen­tral has 2 (Kogi & Benue), South-west has 5, South-south has 2 while South -east has 2.

Over­all, the pro­mo­tion in all the cadres showed that North-east has 13 pro­moted staff, North- west 9, North­cen­tral 21, South-south 10, South-west 15 and South-east 12.

The coun­cil had ear­lier told staff due for pro­mo­tion in the direc­torate cadre of 51 va­can­cies but the list was later trimmed to 24, lead­ing to the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of many can­di­dates with­out laid down pro­ce­dure.

Twenty-seven ag­grieved staff of the coun­cil ac­cused Awolowo of “il­le­gally pro­mot­ing eth­nic­ity” in the process of the pro­mo­tion and run­ning the ad­min­is­tra­tive af­fairs of the coun­cil.

The Min­istry of In­dus­try, Trade and In­vest­ment had is­sued a let­ter ap­prov­ing the pro­mo­tion on Au­gust 14, two days af­ter the coun­cil sent the re­quest for that.

But the ag­grieved staff, in sep­a­rate pe­ti­tions to the min­is­ter and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said the re­sults of the ex­er­cise showed clear “anom­alies, flaws and ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.”

They said staff mainly from the South-west favoured by the ED/CEO were awarded marks even higher than the max­i­mum marks to be pro­moted, even when other se­nior staff scored higher marks.

The pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the re­port on the 2015 pro­mo­tion ex­am­i­na­tion re­leased by the CMD ob­tained by Daily Trust, showed that five mem­bers of staff scored above the max­i­mum marks in the three cat­e­gories of the ex­am­i­na­tion.

A staffer in the ac­counts de­part­ment pre­vi­ously on Grade Level 10 scored 20 in Cur­rent Af­fairs where 10 was the max­i­mum mark ob­tain­able as shown in the al­lo­ca­tion of marks by the CMD re­port.

An­other staffer from the ad­min sec­tion on Grade Level 10 scored 65 in the pro­fes­sional ques­tions, even as 50 was the max­i­mum in the sec­tion. A Trade Of­fi­cer on Grade Level 14 also scored 17 in Cur­rent Af­fairs in spite of the max­i­mum at­tain­able 10 marks.

Equally, in two in­stances, two staffers who the pe­ti­tion­ers said had been friends, recorded same scores and marks in all the six dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and ended up with same fi­nal scores that qual­i­fied them for pro­mo­tion.

To challenge the pro­mo­tion and the CMD re­sults, the ag­grieved staff on Novem­ber 2, 2015 pe­ti­tioned the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and prayed that the whole ex­er­cise be can­celled and a proper one be car­ried out.

But while the House had re­ferred the mat­ter to its Pub­lic Pe­ti­tions Com­mit­tee headed by Rep Uzoma NkemAbonta (PDP, Abia), there was no fur­ther ac­tion from the min­is­ter over the is­sue.

The com­mit­tee or­dered the coun­cil to stay ac­tion un­til in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­cluded, but the pe­ti­tion­ers ac­cused the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of vi­o­lat­ing the law­mak­ers’ or­der by is­su­ing them queries. Sev­eral in­vi­ta­tions to Awolowo to hear his own part ex­tended by the rel­e­vant House com­mit­tees were said to have been ig­nored.

This prompted them to fur­nish the com­mit­tee’s chair­man with an­other let­ter dated April 19, 2016, ti­tled: “Re­port of non-com­pli­ance with the di­rec­tives of the Pub­lic Pe­ti­tions Com­mit­tee and rel­e­gat­ing the pow­ers of the leg­isla­tive arm of gov­ern­ment.” The pe­ti­tion­ers said the CEO was at­tempt­ing to dis­miss them by first is­su­ing them queries.

The queries had a uni­form date of April 7, and less than a week later, the com­mit­tee chair­man, Rep Uzoma Nkem Abonta, lined up the re­port of his find­ings for pre­sen­ta­tion to the House.

The House had in its Or­der Pa­per of April 13 listed a “Re­port of the pe­ti­tion by ag­grieved staff of the Nige­rian Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil against the man­age­ment of the coun­cil.”

How­ever, the re­port could not be tabled be­fore the House due to a per­ceived di­vi­sion among mem­bers of the com­mit­tee.

Some of the com­mit­tee mem­bers claimed no knowl­edge of the re­port and its fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions and ac­cused the chair­man, Rep Abonta, of sin­gle­hand­edly com­ing up with his own rec­om­men­da­tions.

The House how­ever stepped down the re­ceipt of the re­port and man­dated its Com­merce Com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther al­le­ga­tions against the out­come of ear­lier re­port and re-en­gage the war­ring fac­tions in view of the pe­ti­tion­ers’ al­le­ga­tions.

Daily Trust learnt that there was pres­sure on the com­mit­tee chair­man to read­just the rec­om­men­da­tions from his com­mit­tee mem­bers, to which he even­tu­ally suc­cumbed.

The House then re­ceived the re­viewed re­port from the Pub­lic Pe­ti­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man and on Wed­nes­day, May 18, added an­other rec­om­men­da­tion to the three of­fered by the com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee rec­om­mended that the House should urge the Nige­rian Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil to:

(i) Re­flect Fed­eral Char­ac­ter prin­ci­ple in the ex­er­cise,(ii) Pro­mote all of­fi­cers due for pro­mo­tion, and

(iii) En­sure that no of­fi­cer is pun­ished or vic­tim­ized for his role in writ­ing the pe­ti­tion.

The law­mak­ers, who nor­mally close from the cham­ber at around 3pm, stayed up till 5pm for the heated re­port’s con­sid­er­a­tion, and added an­other rec­om­men­da­tion that the ED/CEO must re­vert to sta­tus quo pend­ing the com­ple­tion of on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the House.

A num­ber of mem­bers at the cham­ber spoke on what tran­spired at the coun­cil vis a vis the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the House.

Rep Ahmad Babba Kaita, who is a mem­ber of the pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee, warned the House of the sen­si­tive na­ture of the is­sue and the need to tread the path of jus­tice.

“This is a mat­ter that we should be very care­ful about and is a very se­ri­ous is­sue. A lot of com­mit­tees tried to talk to him (the ED/CEO), but he re­fused to show up,” he said.

Rep Mo­hammed Tahir Monguno, also a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, told the House:

“I’m a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee. This com­mit­tee had on sev­eral times given him (Awolowo) op­por­tu­nity to come and de­fend him­self but he re­fused.”

Rep Her­man Hembe won­dered why there was no rec­om­men­da­tion of sanctioning the ED/CEO since it was es­tab­lished that he had de­fied the House’s or­ders and di­rec­tives.

Even­tu­ally, the House agreed that a fi­nal op­por­tu­nity be of­fered Awolowo for fair hear­ing be­fore it takes a fi­nal de­ci­sion on the mat­ter. In his re­ac­tion, the NEPC’s spokesman, Joe Itah, told Daily Trust that 135 mem­bers of staff par­tic­i­pated in the pro­mo­tion ex­am­i­na­tions and 103 were pro­moted. He said if any mem­ber of staff was not pro­moted in the ex­er­cise, it would be that he or she failed the ex­am­i­na­tion con­ducted by the Cen­tre for Man­age­ment Devel­op­ment (CMD) or passed but could not be pro­moted due to lack of va­cancy.

The list of staff pro­moted in 2015 which Itah pre­sented to the Daily Trust as ev­i­dence in­di­cated that 53 pro­moted staff were from the North while 50 oth­ers were from the South.

He re­futed claims that the NEPC boss favoured staff from his eth­nic group, ad­ding that both Chris­tians and Mus­lims made the pro­mo­tions at the direc­torate cadre as against the pe­ti­tion­ers’ claims that only Chris­tians made it. He said the pe­ti­tion­ers doc­tored the re­port of the ex­am­i­na­tion as the orig­i­nal re­port was signed, dated and stamped un­like the one they added to their pe­ti­tion, ad­ding that no­body scored higher than the max­i­mum marks ob­tain­able.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Oluse­gun Awolowo

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