Reading the article captioned NECO Registrar Flouts Shekarau’s Directive on Disengagement from Service, I became more worried than ever before about the fate of the Nigerian child and education in the hand of leaders who willfully disrespect and disobey constituted authorities.
My findings revealed that the type of arrogance and disobedience being demonstrated by Prof. Promise Okpala is only possible if he has secured his appointment or re-appointment through the back door instead of following due process. And this was exactly what happened.
The former NECO Registrar, Prof. Promise Okpala, hinged his refusal to comply with the Minister’s directive to hand over on the fact that his current (second) term expires on 08 April, 2015. He considered the Minister’s directive “surprising and misleading” in view of the fact that he was a political appointee and not a career civil servant. He was supported and emboldened by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim who in a letter to the Minister, maintained that Prof. Promise Okpala is not subject to removal from office on any account prior to 08 April, 2015 except by Mr President at whose discretion the Registrar holds office.
This statement by the SGF is quite unfortunate. According to Part III 9- (3) (a) and (b) of the National Examinations Council (NECO) Establishment) Act, 2002, recommendation for appointment and, by implication, re-appointment as Registrar is the prerogative of the Minister. Conditions of service are also as may from time to time be approved by the Minister and definitely NOT according to the discretion of Mr. President or any other person. So it is obvious that Chief Anyim Pius Anyim’s stance from which Prof. Okpala derived confidence is a negation or contradiction of the relevant provision in the Act.
But then it was the same SGF that communicated news of Prof. Okpala’ re-appointment to him. In a letter referenced SGF.6/S.14/210 dated 03 February, 2012, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim wrote:
“ I am pleased to inform you that the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, has approved your re-appointment as the Registrar of the National Examinations Council for a second and final term of three years in accordance with the provision of section 9 (3) (a) of the National Examinations Council (NECO) , Establishment Act. CAP. N37, LFN 2002”. The (b) of the same provision clarifies that the re-appointment shall be “ on such terms as to emoluments and conditions of service (italics mine) as may be specified in his letter of appointment, and as may, from time to time, be approved by the Minister”.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the Registrar’s conditions of service are as approved by the Minister. This certainly gives the Minister authority and control over the Chief Executive of any parastatal under his ministry and any directive given by the Minister must be complied with by the Chief Executive.
Again Mr. President’s approval of appointment or re-appointment as Registrar should be on the recommendation of the Minister. Now that the then Minister, Prof. Ruqayyat Rufa’I declined to endorse Prof. Promise Okpala, on whose recommendation was approval of his re-appointment based? Obviously none. He simply by-passed the Minister and sought Chief Anyim’s help and support which he got and is still enjoying.
*Certainly NECO is not among the parastatals directly under the Presidency or Office of the SGF, so why this SGF’s interference in its affairs? This was not so in pre- Okpala era. And did we witness this type of interference in the affairs of other parastatals like NECO either by Chief Anyim or any of his predecessors? If not, why is the interference peculiar to NECO?
*The truth is that Prof. Promise Okpala’s re-appointment as NECO Registrar in April, 2012 did not follow due process and therefore was a fraud and illegality. Although the then Minister kept mum over this usurpation of her power, the fraud did not go unnoticed by some NECO staff. It was in the corporate interest of the Council that the sleeping dogs were allowed to lie.
Prof. Okpala exercised absolute power and authority since he had the impression that he was accountable to only Chief Anyim. In outright violation of provision section 11 of the Act, he administered the Council like his personal property. Appointment, promotion and posting for assignment were on political consideration favouring in most cases staff from his geo-political area. Many qualified, experienced and hard-working staff were removed from their posts and replaced with less experienced and in some cases newly-employed ones. Transfer became a weapon of victimization, persecution and intimidation. While no attempt is made to settle outstanding 28 night allowance of many transferred officers, the activity is on-going. All these were done with impunity.
Prof. Okpala’s ability to perform in two months what he was unable to deliver in ninety-four months is in great doubt. He should hand over as directed so that staff will concentrate more on the gigantic task of re-defining the future of the Nigerian child.
Meanwhile, the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the National Examinations Council, Prof. Promise Nwachukwu Okpala, today rubbished calls from some quarters asking him to proceed on terminal leave.
Okpala said: “I am still at work because I still have all the instruments as the boss.”
Okpala, while briefing journalists at the Council’s Head Office in Minna, the Niger State capital, said: “I have never proceeded on any leave and I have also never handed over to anybody.
“I am still at work because all the instruments that keep me here are still intact.
“If it is otherwise, I will quietly go on that terminal leave.
“I am still at work.
“I have not gone on leave.
“I still have the instrument granting me the permission to still go to work.
“Let me go through this instrument.
“On the 26th of January this year, I got a letter asking me to proceed on retirement leave with effect from 12th January, 2015.
“I received the letter on the 26th of January, but it was dated 23rd January, 2015.
“A response to that letter came from the Ministry of Education, drawing the attention of the Ministry that I am not suppose to proceed on retirement leave and that my appointment is a tenure appointment and I am a political appointee.
“That I am not a career civil servant.”
Okpala further disclosed that a copy of that letter was given to the relevant authorities, including the Board of the organisation.
He added: “There was also another letter from the Federal Government and the board was also copied, interpreting that I am a political appointee.
“I am not a career person.
“I am on tenure appointment.
“And that I should stay until the date of my expiration as Registrar.”
Consequently, Okpala said there was another letter from the same Ministry dated January 28, signed again by the Permanent Secretary, copies of which were sent to the Minister of Education, himself, the Board and Director of FINANCE.
He said: “There was a meeting of Board and Management.
“In that meeting on Thursday last week, the letter that was dated 28th January was served to everybody.
“It was a full board and management meeting and the letter from the Ministry reads that I should continue with the work I am doing.
“They called my Director of FINANCE, gave him a copy of this same letter and each of us stood up and pledged to work harmoniously with each other.
“What seems to be happening now is that they (perpetrators) are still working on that letter of 23rd January.
“They are still parading it that I must go on leave, but I am still at work.
“Not because I want to sit down tight, but it is because the letter asking me to continue work is still here.
“The skirmishes are being created by outsiders who are not our staff.
“You can see how quiet our premises is.”
Okpala further stated that the call for him to hand over to the next most senior officer is gimmicks from some quarters who want to create trouble.
Speaking on behalf of other Directors, the most senior officer, who is the Director of Human Resources Management, John Asuwe, said: “I am the most senior officer.
“We, the management team at NECO consider it important to correct some clarifications on whether the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of NECO is still on the seat or not.
“The real fact of the matter is that the Registrar, Prof. Promise Okpala, is still at work.
“He has never proceeded on any leave and had also never handed over to anybody.”
It should be recalled that the NECO chapter of the Non Academic Staff Union had insisted that Okpala proceeded on terminal leave in line with the status guiding the tenure and operations of NECO.