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General News of Monday, 20 November 2023


Job racketeering: Ripples at Character Commission over Reps’ delayed report

Dr Muheeba Dankaka Dr Muheeba Dankaka

Three months after the House of Representatives conducted its probe into the alleged job racketeering by federal agencies, tongues are wagging at the Federal Character Commission (FCC) over the continued silence on the report, Daily Trust findings reveal.

While the commission’s chief executive is being accused of ‘settling’ the lawmakers to give her a soft landing, commissioners, under the aegis of ‘integrity group’, are calling for her suspension to pave the way for proper investigation.

Both the FCC chairman and the leadership of the House of Representatives have denied the allegation.

Daily Trust reports that the House had, in July, launched a probe into activities of government agencies responsible for employment with a view to ensuring that the constitutionally required principle of federal character was reflected.

Specifically, the House had resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to ask the FCC to provide details of appointments undertaken by MDAs between 2015 and 2023 covering the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

This was sequel to the adoption of a motion titled, “Need to compel the Federal Character Commission to diligently discharge its constitutional and statutory mandate and responsibility,” sponsored by Paul Nnamchi.

“The FCC has virtually abdicated its constitutional and statutory responsibilities and degenerated into personality clash of interest amongst its commissioners as was the case about a year ago.

“The constitutional injunction is that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice, which also propagates national integration and abjure discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties,” he had said, in his lead debate.

Startling revelations during probe

Daily Trust reports that when the inquiry involving the FCC came up at the House, mind-boggling revelations surfaced, putting the chairman of the commission, Hajiya Muheebah Dankaka, on the spot.

She was accused, by some of her staff, of running the commission like a ‘sole administrator’ and being in the thick of the job racketeering at the commission.

Her former protocol officer, Kolo Haruna, had told the House how he used to collect amounts of money from those paying for jobs on behalf of the chairman and lodged same in his account.

‘Integrity commissioners’ demand action on reps’ report

Some commissioners at the FCC under the auspices of ‘integrity group’ have raised concerns over the delay by the lawmakers in making the outcome of their findings public, alleging attempts to sweep the report under the carpet.

“We are worried that the report is being delayed; we expected that by now it would have been adopted for the next line of action to be taken.

“Remember that during the public hearing of the House Committee there were a lot of revelations on sale of job slots at the FCC. It was in view of this that 29 of us (commissioners) passed a vote of no confidence on the chairman,” said a member of the integrity group.

While calling on the leadership of the House to come clean on the matter, the Federal Commissioner from a state in the North-East, who sought for identity protection, also called on the presidency to institute an independent investigation into alleged malfeasance at the commission.

In the same vein, the Federal Commissioner representing Enugu State, Ginika Florence Tor, said the House owes Nigerians explanations on the status of its probe report on the FCC.

She said it was an aberration that the commission’s chairperson was still sitting on her seat while being investigated.

While accusing her of running the FCC as a personal estate, she said: “As I speak, I don’t even know if I’m really representing Enugu State because we are not involved in decisions that ought to be taken during our plenaries. The essence of federal character is defeated because the chair is running this place like a sole administrator.

“The Tinubu administration should do the needful; she should leave the seat to pave the way for proper investigations even if it means suspending all of us because we are currently redundant.”

Similarly, the Federal Commissioner representing Delta State, Moses Onowakpo Anaughe, expressed worry over the delay in releasing the probe report by the House, stressing that a lot was revealed during their public hearing about the Commission.

“The chairman was fingered by some job racketeering agents who came to testify. The revelations surprised many of us leading to a meeting where we passed a vote of no confidence on her.

“Therefore, if they are truly our trustees, I urge the National Assembly to do the needful. I also call on the presidency to set up an independent committee to investigate happenings in the FCC,” he said.

A commissioner from the North-West, who preferred to be unnamed, said: “If you followed the testimonies of some of the agents involved during the probe, it was clear that the FCC was run like a personal entity where jobs were either sold to the highest bidder or preferentially given to children and wards of highly placed politicians.

“The revelation by one Haruna Kolo, who exposed the high level of corruption with details of cash payments by indigent Nigerians, especially selling slots running into millions of naira since her assumption of office is a huge embarrassment not only to the Commission, but indeed government”, said the source.”

Another commissioner from the South-South, who also preferred to remain unnamed, wondered why the job racketeering probe report was being kept under wraps over three months.

“We suspect that like many other similar probes, the outcome of this one may have been compromised and might never see the light of day,” he said.

We’re in Sambisa, redundant – FCC directors

Some of the staff at the commission, including directors, who spoke to Daily Trust, said the current state of affairs at the commission had rendered them dispirited and redundant.

A director, who wished to be protected for fear of being victimised, accused the chairman of maladministration, saying she had rendered them redundant by engaging the services of consultants who have taken over administrative roles.

“The only functional place here is the fifth floor on block ‘A’ that houses the chairman’s office. The rest are just there.

“She selects a few directors to work with while consultants are made to undertake the job of those who are not in her good books.”

An intermediate staffer at the block ‘C’ also said they were redundant as the place was no longer exciting to work “because staff are not carried along.”

“This place (block ‘c’) is referred to as ‘Sambisa Forest’ because some staff who are not in her good books are sent here to remain redundant,” said the staff who sought for identity protection.

Allegations baseless – FCC Chair

Responding, the Executive Chairman of the FCC denied all the allegations, saying they were untrue.

Speaking through the Director of Media and Public Affairs, Chuks Okoli, the chairman said: “I don’t believe somebody has gone to influence the outcome of the report. We were all invited by the Reps to make our submissions and we are waiting for their findings.”

He, however, admitted the engagement of consultants and that there had been a frosty relationship between the commission’s chairperson and the integrity commissioners.

Okoli said the Public Service Rules give the commission’s chairman power to employ as many people, including consultants, as she could to help with specific tasks.

“The consultants are within her powers who are engaged to perform specific functions,” he said.

On the allegation that decisions were being taken by the chairman unilaterally without convening plenaries, he said plenaries were being held regularly through circulars inviting the commissioners, adding that: “They (commissioners) also go on monitoring.”

Allegation of compromise, killing probe report false – Reps spokesman

The spokesman for the House of Representatives and Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Akin Rotimi, described the allegation that the House has been compromised to kill the job racketeering probe report as false.

He said the report was undergoing the routine legislative processes and would be submitted for consideration in due time.

He said, “Far from it. If for anything, this 10th Assembly is one that is keen on performing its constitutional mandate towards the security and welfare of all Nigerians in an effective manner. Therefore, whether it is lawmaking, representation or oversight, the House is committed to seeing that every assignment is carried out diligently.

“I should also add that the House wasn’t under any form of external pressure to investigate the subject in question. This means that having responded to the motion moved on the subject and constituted an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations, it is difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the House will kill the same report or prevent it from seeing the light of day.

On the current status of the report and why it has not been submitted, the House spokesman said, “It is undergoing the routine legislative process and will be released in due time.