•Ex-federal director demands justice, seeks Buhari’s help
By Tessy Igomu
He sauntered into the newsroom clutching an office file filled with various documents. As he took his seat beside the reporter, Mr. Latif Adebayo Bello meticulously leafed through the files, arranging each document according to dates and precedence on the table.
“All I want is justice. Justice for trying to uphold the truth; for requesting for accountability and trying to ensure that the anti-corruption war of this administration is not sabotaged,” he muttered
Bello, a Director in the Department of Research, Planning and Statistics at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, claimed that he was forcefully retired from the civil service without adherence to due process. He also alleged that his compulsory retirement was an act of victimisation against him for standing on the side of truth, stressing that the disciplinary procedures as laid down in the public service rules were not followed.
He’s calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and other senior officials of the administration to give him the opportunity to defend himself. He also wants the retirement order withdrawn.
Bello said his ordeal started in 2012 with the withdrawal of the statutory responsibility of his department. The episode, he said, climaxed in 2015.
According to him, he had questioned the credibility of a false status report on projects and programmes, which he received from the Director General of the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, which stated that MDGs programmes had been organised for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2013 and 2014.
The report, Bello explained, showed alleged false expenditures carried out within the time. He noted that prior to the time he received the report, the centre organised an MDGs programme at Shere Hills, Jos, between January 25 and 29, 2015 for the North-West, North-East and North-Central zones of the country.
He noted that before the programme, the Federal Government had mopped up the account of all parastatals and ministries, leaving them with zero allocation. So in writing his report, he addressed the fact that no MDGs programme was held in the previous years and raised pertinent questions that sought answers to how the 2015 MDGs programme was financed.
Part of Bello’s report, dated July 9, 2015, and which had an official stamp from the DG’s office acknowledging its receipt, said there was the need for the management to give a comprehensive breakdown of the N72, 500,000, expended on the Jos MDGs programme, as against an earlier memo that stated that he centre spent just N32.5 million. This was even as he noted that the report for the programme was five months late, which was against civil service ethics.
“There was difference on the purchase made in 2013 and no MDGs programme was held in that year and as such; pages 283, 284,302 and 303 in the MDG file (HQ/CON424 VOL III) was false. The money paid for the publicity could not be justified, as there was no advertisement for the programme. I requested that the over eight million naira spent on feeding, grants and transport for participants should be spelt out so that we could know how much was given to each participant. I also wanted the source of the fund in January 2015 to be explained in the report because the Federal Government had mopped all funds by December 2014. So, I formally requested to know where the centre got 12 million naira used for the programme in 2015 as the Federal Government had not released any fund for capital project. I discovered that the MDG and capital project were mixed up in the same file and should have been separated for clarity and transparency. The essence of the comprehensive report, I noted, was to assist on future planning and execution of the programme,” he said.
Bello noted that after the DG failed to respond to the memo, he was compelled to write to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in August 2015.
He said in the letter that the statutory responsibility of monitoring and evaluation of all the projects executed by the centre was not carried out for three years. The letter also alleged that the concept of checks and balances was not adhered to, as the office of the DG carried out procurement while the Tenders Board carried out monitoring and evaluation.
The letter, among other things, prayed the two anti-corruption agencies to ensure that the responsibility of every department in the centre returned to status quo as well as investigate the re-appointment of the DG and recover all outstanding money on monitoring and evaluation from 2011 to 2014. He also prayed the agencies to investigate MDGs expenditures; falsification of work documents by management staff and acts of indiscipline, including getting promoted without sitting for promotional examinations.
Bello noted that based on the letter to the anti-graft agencies, the DG wrote to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth Development, alleging that he was insulted and assaulted on various occasions by Bello.
He recalled that he was invited on Monday, September 7, 2015 to appear before a five-man committee set up by the Permanent Secretary on allegations of misconduct levelled against him. He was also told to appear before the panel with copies of the work-plan of his department, work-plan implementation reports, proposals submitted to management and all relevant documents, relating to the work of his department.
His words: “In the letter signed by the Deputy Director, Appointment, Promotion and Discipline, M. I Yakubu, I was accused of disorderly conduct to the DG, constituting nuisance through my insinuations, being habitually rude and disorderly, threatening the DG and other management staff and being inefficient, as the Director of Planning, Research and Statistics.
“During the interview with a four-man committee instead of the five stated in the letter, I was not asked anything, relating to disorderly conduct. At the end of the day, they said I looked like a gentleman and was asked to go.”
Bello said he was shocked when he later received a letter dated October 29, 2015, with the reference FMY/GEN/130/S.S/1/69, and signed by Head, Human Resources Department, Abdullahi Basharu, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary. The letter notified him of his compulsory retirement from the public service.
He informed the reporter that he subsequently wrote a letter to the Permanent Secretary through the Director General of the centre, appealing his retirement. “The action against me is humiliating, unjust, unfair and embarrassing, having served the country meritoriously for 33 years since joining the public service as Higher Executive Officer on October 1, 1983.”
Following his appeal, the Nigeria Civil Service Union, FCT, Abuja, also wrote to the SGF, condemning the retirement.
The union said it was convinced that both the allegations levelled against him and the interview panel were all grand strategies to punish him for being a whistle blower in the centre, adding that the disciplinary panel lacked the power to recommend his sack.
But the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, in its reaction on December 9 last year, called for a consideration of Bello’s appeal in the interest of the service.
Another letter on December 17, 2015 from the Department of Discipline and Appeals, Federal Civil Service Commission to the Minister of Youth Development also called for Bello’s matter to be revisited.
Yet another letter dated January 27, 2016 to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), asked for evidences that Bello was placed on suspension before being compulsorily retired.
Bello said in spite of all these, nothing is being done to address the injustice. He said he would soon he heading to court.
“All I want in this matter is for justice to prevail, that I be recalled and for all my rights restored as well as my salary that had been stopped, paid in full,” Mr. Bello asserted.