There are palpable fears and disquiet at the just established Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate as the Agency, led by the Executive Secretary, Sharon O. Ikeazor, has shunned all entreaties and directives from both the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the resolution from the Red Chambers of the National Assembly to recall five sacked Directors following their alleged irregular appointments ab-initio.
The affected directors are Godson Ukpevo, who until his disengagement was in charge of Civil Service Pension Department; Uloma Uruakpa of Customs, Immigrations and Prisons Pension Department; Taiwo Ogundipe, Parastatals Pension Department; Atiku Saleh Police Pension Department; and Roz Ben-Okagbue of the Pension Support Service Department).
Trouble started when in March, 2017, Ikeazor sought for the approval of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, for the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the staff audit verification report of February 2017 that was on the invitation of the Executive Secretary, conducted by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
Based on that report, the agency got to know that the employment of the five directors, three years after, were irregular and contravenes section 020205(a) of the Public Service Rules, which quotes in part: “To be eligible for appointment into the federal public service, every applicant must not be less than 18 years and not more than 50 years of age.”
The Economic Confidential gathered that based on the report, the directors were sacked and asked to refund salaries and emoluments earned within the period of engagement and pay same to the Federal Government treasury as contained in the personnel records audit by the Auditor General of the Federation, dated July 15, 2015.
Dissatisfied with this treatment by PTAD, the directors wrote a petition to the Minister of Finance appealing for reinstatement, adding that their appointment ab-initio were not of their making.
When the Ministry of Finance ignored their petition, they approached both the Red Chamber of the National Assembly and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
On the part of the National Assembly, via its letter dated January 26, 2018, with Ref. No. NASS/CNA/106/Vol.10/014 and addressed to the SGF, the Red Chamber resolved: “In view of the fact that the nation is battling to have its citizens actively engaged in gainful employment, the appointments of the four directors (Atiku Saleh Danbatta and three others) be regularized by converting them to contract staff, especially as their conversion would not be a breach to the Public Service Rules.”
The same letter was also written to the Executive Secretary same date with Ref. No. NASS/CNA/106/Vol.10/015, asking the agency to take necessary action on the Senate Resolution, attaching relevant votes and proceedings for their guidance and information.
On the part of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a letter dated November 27, 2017 with Ref. No.59240/S.11/C.1/136 was addressed to the Executive Secretary on the subject matter, pointing the way forward.
But nothing concrete has been done by Ikeazor.
The SGF in the letter specifically stated: “That in order to resolve this issue that has the potential of painting a negative image for government and trigger industrial/labour disharmony, your agency should adopt the recommendation of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) to convert the Director’s pensionable appointment to contract appointment, as your organization cannot entirely be absolved of blame in the issuance of the invalid appointments.”
The letter was signed by the Permanent Secretary (General Services Office), Dr. R.P. Ugo, on behalf of the SGF.
Earlier on October 31, 2017, the SGF, through its legal unit, had sent a letter to PTAD with Ref. No. 59240/S.11/C.1/88, pointing out clear dangers of giving a preferential treatment to one of the directors above the others.
In the letter, the SGF said: “Whatever treatment given to one of the affected Directors (Jimmy Adeyemi Offor) should be extended to all the directors in the spirit of equity and fairness,” and also wave the refund of salaries for the past three and half years since the irregularity of the employment of the ex-directors was no fault of theirs and they actually earned the salaries paid, apart from adopting the recommendation of the OAGF and OHCSF to retain the petitioners on contract appointment to engender industrial harmony in the organization.
Until press time, all efforts to reach Ikeazor and other relevant management officers proved abortive as they neither picked the call nor responded to short messages.