There is palpable fear and disquiet at the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, as Executive Secretary of the agency, Sharon Ikeazor, has shunned all entreaties and directives from Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and the Senate to recall five sacked directors, following their alleged irregular appointments.
The affected directors are Godson Ukpevo, who until his disengagement was in charge of Civil Service Pension Department; Uloma Uruakpa (Customs, Immigrations and Prisons Pension Department); Taiwo Ogundipe (Parastatals Pension Department); Atiku Saleh (Police Pension Department), and Roz Ben-Okagbue (Pension Support Service Department).
Trouble started when in March, 2017, the Executive Secretary sought the approval of Minister of Finance for the immediate implementation of recommendations of the staff audit verification report of February, 2017, conducted by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF.
Based on that report, the agency got to know that the employment of the five directors three years after, were irregular, and contravened section 020205(a) of the Public Service Rules(PSRs).
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 Federal Government treasury, as contained in the personnel records audit by the Auditor General of the Federation, OAGF, dated July 15, 2015.
Dissatisfied with this treatment by PTAD, the directors petitioned the Minister of Finance, appealing for reinstatement saying their appointments were not of their making.
When the Ministry of Finance ignored their petition, they approached both the Senate and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF.
On the part of the Senate, via its letter dated 26th January 2018 with Ref.. No. NASS/CNA/106/Vol.10/014 and addressed to the SGF, it resolved that: “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 of 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.
On the part of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, 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 had been done by the Executive Secretary.
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 directors’ 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 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.
Efforts to reach the Executive Secretary and other relevant management officers at press time yesterday, proved abortive as they neither picked the call nor respond to short messages.