Promotion scandal rocks NEPC
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