3rd April, 2016
There is a gang up against Segun Awolowo, the CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), and grandson of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, by powerful group in NEPC, a Federal Government agency.
According to findings, the lawyer is being victimised for seeking to ensure that a high level of professionalism is achieved in NEPC, an agency like most other government establishments bedeviled by tribal brawling, crass ineptitude, and corruption.
The group in the NEPC opposed to his reforms is said to bee largely constituted by Northerners who see NEPC as their personal preserve, and that the position of NEPC CEO should only go to someone from their part of the country.
Sources said Segun Awolowo’s tenure has been marred by intrigues and problems. Within three months into his assumption of office as ED/CEO of the NEPC in November 2013 following his appointment by former President Goodluck Jonathan, four directors in the institution retired. Three of them are said to be from the Northwest.
The vacuum created by the exit of the four Directors upon Awolowo’s resumption posed a lot of challenges. It was said that he had to direct the available substantive directors, M. O. Ibrahim, H. O. Otowo and Sidi Aliyu to play supervisory roles for departments that didn’t have substantive directors.
A directive he later overturned to test the capacity of the Deputy Directors in handling their respective Departments.
Sources further stated that the group of Northerners is playing ethnicity card unabashedly, alleging that promotion in NEPC has tilted in favour of “Yorubas” under the leadership of Segun Awolowo, whereas the situation suggests otherwise.
According to an insider, “Segun Awolowo met Mr. M. O. Ibrahim, one of the Southerners they complained about as the Director, Office of the CEO/Incentives when he assumed office in 2013. He was placed in that position by the previous CEO and later by the Governing Board.
“It is a coincidence that Mr. M. O. Ibrahim is from the South-West, and he happens to be the most Senior Director after the retirement of the four (4) other Directors. From NEPC records, Mr. A. L. Ako was the most Senior Director when Mr. David Adulugba was the CEO from 2008 –2011. They were both from Benue State. Mr. A. M. Lawal, who handed over to Awolowo became the most Senior Director from 2011. He is from Zamfara State. These are mere coincidences.
“Mr. H. O. Otowo, was the Director OCEO/Incentives from 2009 to 2013, when the Governing Board brought in Mr. M. O. Ibrahim. If the aggrieved staff had this in mind all along, why didn’t they complain then and why now?
“The claim that Mr. Ibrahim falsified his age is ridiculous and untenable. The information from his personal file and International passport indicate that he was born on 9th September, 1956.
“So also the allegation that three out of the four existing Directors, Mr. H. O. Otowo, Mr. Sidi Aliyu and Mohammed A. Ibrahim were promoted at the time when there was no vacancy for the promotion of Director (2009) was not true. In fact, it was the NEPC Governing Board that conducted and approved their promotion.”
The insider who is in the know of the raging intrigues against Segun Awolowo, further revealed that “It is not true Mr. Tijjani K. Zakari was deliberately denied writing promotion exam for the year 2011. This is a ploy to destabilise NEPC. Tijjani K. Zakari was employed in 1998 and placed on Grade Level 12 when he transferred his Service from Katsina State while on Grade Level 10.
“The regulation is that he should have been employed one step lower i.e. GL. 09, in which case he might not have been an Assistant Director now. (And nobody petitioned against him for this undue advantage). He was promoted to the post of a Chief Trade Promotion Officer with effect from 1st January 2005, and subsequently promoted to the post of an Assistant Director with effect from 1st December, 2010.
“How could this officer qualify for promotion to Deputy Director in 2011? This is mere fallacy that ordinarily should be penalized.
“It is germane to mention that the lateral conversion of Mr. Rufus Durodoye to officer cadre was done along with fourteen other eligible officers. The alleged exclusion of Hassan Bala from being considered in 2014 is a high level of absurdity.
“Hassan Bala was deliberately excluded from the 2014 promotion exercise and at the same time claiming that he was invited and participated at the event. Hassan Bala transferred his service from Lagos International Trade Fair Complex with effect from 11th November, 2009, and accepted the conditions as given for his appointment by the NEPC Governing Board. He accepted the conditions in writing, but thereafter, without reference to the Board, Mr. Bala Hassan obtained a letter from the then Director Admin & Human Resources backdating his effective date to 1st January 2006 when he had not joined the services of the NEPC. The letter was later nullified by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
“They are also alleging that Mrs. Opeyemi Abebe was seconded to an organisation which had no relationship whatsoever with activities of the Council and the Nigerian nation.
“This is not so. Mrs. Opeyemi Abebe was seconded to the Canadian Embassy for the position of Trade Commissioner in line with PSR 020502 (iv) which states inter alia ‘Secondment of an officer to the service of another Government, or Approved body or recognised International Organisation at his own request shall be for a maximum period of two years in the first instance after which the officer must apply for extension, seek for transfer or return to his former post’. Her schedule of duties are in clear tandem with Trade Promotion activities,” sources explained.
Facts on the ground(published right) indicate that Northerners dominate NEPC, and has a substantial share of high ranking officials in the agency.
Investigation revealed that Segun Awolowo’s other sin is that he contracted the coordination of the NEPC staff promotion exercise that previously was done in-house to another government agency, Centre for Management Development(CMD), and the exercise was allegedly not in favour of Northerners.
It was gathered that he inherited huge backlog of promotion from the previous management, and there was absence of a Governing Board, which ordinarily conducts promotion exercises for the Directorate Cadre.
The insider also said “So the first promotion exercise under his watch was conducted in August 2014, and the second one in July 2015. This was done with a view to clearing all the arrears of promotion, so that subsequent ones could be conducted as at when due.
“The issue of alleged jerking up of pass mark to 70% and 75% as against 60% as stipulated in the Civil Service was used against him. The Guidelines for Appointments, Promotion and Discipline in the Civil Service stipulates under Part IV – Promotion Number 5 Paragraph 2 that ‘Eligibility for promotion shall depend on meeting the minimum score of 60%and satisfying all promotion criteria, including availability of vacancy.
“The import of this is that scoring minimum of 60% is one of the criteria and it is not final determinant for promotion and besides, the Senior Staff Committee (SSC) has the prerogative to determine the cut-off mark, in line with contemporary realities.
“In order to ensure fairness and give all candidates equal opportunities and level playing ground, Centre for Management Development, a Federal Government Agency was appointed to conduct the interview. The decision has a lot of advantages, which include fairness, speed, fool proof of leakages/insider abuse.
“If an unbiased Government approved external body conducted the exercise, and some officers are making untrue allegations as we are witnessing now, perhaps the worst would have happened if handled by internally constituted SSC, considering the fact that, even before the exercise, some staff had expressed their lack of confidence in the Committee.”
Sources said it was Awolowo’s refusal to put up with deliberate incompetence, and attitude of entitlement displayed by the aggrieved party that made them to disparage him, and accused him of corrupt practices.
Few days back, the NEPC CEO was pictured on a private jet heading to Abuja, and rumour mill said he was junketing around the globe, and bleeding the agency dry.
However, investigation revealed that Awolowo flew for free on the private jet owned by his friend (name withheld).
The source also said “There is no way the Council can deliver on its mandate if the CEO does not travel, and efforts are not made to take advantage of the existing opportunities, locally and internationally. The need to diversify the economy can only be achieved by being active participant in non-oil export relevant events both at home and abroad.
“Part of the mistakes of the past is failure to engage actively the development partners in realisation of the Council and the nation’s goals. The reports of all these engagements and empirical and verifiable benefits in terms of MOUs signed and contracts entered into by the private sector operators are contained in the respective operational files and well captured.
“Segun Awolowo does not single-handedly allocate funds without recourse to the Fund Allocation Committee as alleged by the aggrieved party. The true picture is that on assumption of office, each time they received funds the Fund Allocation Committee (FAC) would meet to allocate the funds. This exercise was religiously followed in spite of challenges as they have to postpone meetings for members to attend.
“It was, however, observed that every meeting produced similar allocation pattern and as an antidote to the recurrent delays experienced in the attempts at making the Funds Allocation Committee to meet, he had to use his discretion to make funds available for the smooth running of the Council by applying already established pattern from several meetings of the Committee.
“There is nothing like contingency, the miscellaneous provision is a stop gap measure to keep office running at all times and virtually all operational departments have benefited from it. The anticipatory approvals were always ratified by the Fund Allocation Committee.”
It was gathered that the allegation that Segun Awolowo is using fleet of cars, six in number including a siren blaring pick-up van is wicked, ridiculous and irresponsible.
On his arrival at NEPC, impeccable sources said he met both at the Headquarters and Zonal Offices, some rickety vehicles including two parked, used Land Cruiser SUVs purportedly meant for the ED/CEO and the Chairman of the Governing Board, and set in motion machinery to refurbish the vehicles. However, on several occasions they broke down on the road.
This necessitated the purchase of staff buses, hilux pick-up project vehicles and two cars to replace the 10-year old Land Cruisers. And the staff buses (both refurbished/repaired) and hilux pick-up project vehicles were deployed to NEPC Zonal Offices.
It was further gathered that the alleged payment of Segun Awolowo’s personal assistants by NEPC is a false claim likewise Sure-p fund alleged to have been embezzled.
Findings revealed that the three Technical Assistants to the ED/CEO were neither on the payroll of the Council nor were included in the Senior Staff Committee (SSC) that conducted the 2014 promotion.
“They are with the NEPC to add value as there is need for private sector inputs in the agency’s activities. The three technocrats are sponsored by three banks, namely, United Bank for Africa Plc, Zenith Bank and Skye Bank and draw their salaries from the banks, and not NEPC or Segun Awolowo,” the insider who pleaded for anonymity said.