By Sadiq Umar – The Census Watch, a non-governmental organization has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to pay attention to the on-going protest by some aggrieved staff members of the National Population Commission (NPC), describing it as suspicious and ill-motivated.
The group, which is a population monitoring body said it has carried out its own independent investigation into the crisis at the Commission, stating that the desperation by some aggrieved workers to support a particular senior staff for the position of Director General is the reason behind their recalcitrance.
Some union members on Tuesday continued to protest by locking up the entrance gates at the Commission’s head office in Wuse, Zone 2 Abuja despite interventions by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Monday.
The two umbrella labour union had directed NPC workers under the Joint Action Committee, JAC, to sheath their sword pending a meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, noting that the issues could only be resolved with dialogue.
“We want to assure you that we have taken up the issue, it will be devoid of sentiment and politicization,” TUC President Bobboi Kaigama had told the protesters on Monday.
Census Watch, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Dr. Silvanus Okafor said “Dr. Ghaji Bello had earlier served meritoriously, there was no single complaint against him.
“So, there can be no justifiable reason for the continued protest by a few aggrieved staff members since the issues of staff welfare has now been addressed by the Commission” he said.
In a chat with journalists in Abuja Tuesday, a Federal Commissioner representing one of the Southern states, expressed regret that “a few staff members have been allowed to hold government business to ransom in a sensitive office like NPC.
At the meeting of January 25, 2018 between the Union leaders, management and the Minister of Labour, the matters relating to Staff Welfare were resolved. The meeting agreed that greater attention be paid to the clearance of the outstanding staff allowances such as repatriation, burial, duty tour, among others.
“The Commission is dedicating 20 per cent of the first quarter and subsequent overhead costs releases to outstanding allowances, that issue was resolved and that being so, why should a few sponsored guys be allowed to continue to intimidate the rest of staffers who are ready to resume work,” the Commissioner queried.
He said the matter of re-appointment of the Director General, Dr. Ghaji Ismaila Bello is beyond the purview of the Commission, as according to him, Section 1, (31) and sub-section (2) of NPC Act 1989 allows for a reappointment for a second term if the President so wish and that is what he done.
Explaining further, he said: “It is a fact the man (Dr. Ghaji) is frugal with spending but that is not in itself an offence. The Commission’s monthly overhead has consistently dropped from N31 million to the recent N26million throughout 2017.
“Even at that, the amount was not regular as the Commission received overhead allocation for only 7months in 2017. With a staff strength of 4,680, 36 State offices, and 774 LGA offices, in addition to 451 Ad-hoc registrars and 247 project drivers, tell me the magic any DG can perform. And remember also that we have 37 full time Federal Commissioners of which l am one and a full time Chairman.
So, if now the welfare matter has gain such attention, l believe we need to move forward instead of coming up with spurious allegations to dent the image of the Commission.
“Let me also state this, even from the interventions by NLC and TUC, it is clear that the few vocal staff that are creating problems have no evidence of financial impropriety against the DG.
“Purchase of vehicles that was raised is beyond the director general, it was a FEC approval (Federal Executive Council). And those vehicles were supplied by Globe Motors as approved. Indeed, the DG duty is to implement decisions taken by 36 Board members or FEC in order to deliver on the mandate of the Commission. And remember also that the Commissioners report to the Chairman and not DG.
“On the issue of transfer of Director of Finance, perhaps it is not known that these are staffers of the Accountant General’s office. They are answerable to AGF.
So, Bello is that last person that can be accused of corruption, he is diligent at his work and that explains why President Buhari considered him for reappointment.
The point here is that the aggrieved unionists should allow reason to prevail and stop behaving in a manner that could compromise the integrity of a very important institution like NPC. We know the one sponsoring this and l think we should in the interest of peace allow time to implement decisions already reached on the matters.