Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja and Sunday Ani, Lagos
A succession crisis has enveloped the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Lagos over the appointment of an acting Director General.
The standard regulation on succession in the non-appointment of a substantive head of any Federal Government agency demands that the most senior officer takes over in acting capacity. It is a position recently confirmed in a memo by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha.
But the outgoing Director General of the NIIA, Prof. Bukar Bukarambe on retirement had opted to hand over to a Grade Level 13 officer instead of the most senior officer on Grade Level 15, a development that has thrown the institute into crisis.
Daily Sun learnt that before the ex-DG retired, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had written to the management of the institute advising it to adhere to standard regulations in the appointment of an acting DG. But Bukarambe had breached this regulation by handing over the baton of the interim manager of the NIIA to Dr. Efem Ubi who is alleged to be on Grade Level 13, instead of Prof. Fred Aja Agwu who is on level 15.
It was learnt that the decision has not gone down well with staff and other concerned stakeholders as the agency has been factionalised. Last Wednesday a member of the NIIA governing council stormed the institute and created a scene while trying to ensure Dr. Ubi took over.
Daily Sun visited NIIA headquarters, yesterday, and met with Dr. Ubi who insisted that the immediate past DG handed over to him and that until there is a counter-instruction from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he remains the acting DG.
“As you can see, there is no problem here. Everybody is doing his or her job without any issues. If I am asked to leave this office today, I will, because I am not fighting with anybody. But, until then, I will continue to discharge my duties conscientiously,” he said.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mustapha Suleiman, said it was unfortunate that the crisis happened.
He said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, upon the expiration of the tenure of the immediate past director-general of the NIIA, did not appoint anyone in acting capacity.
Said Suleiman: “The minister didn’t appoint anybody to act. There is a standard regulation about handing over in such a situation and that was what the ministry did; he conveyed the instruction as per that standard circular issued by the SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) that you are supposed to handover to the most senior person as long as he or she does not have any disciplinary case. It is a very clear regulation.
“So, it is at the implementation level that if you have issues, you are supposed to get back to the ministry. These officials of NIIA didn’t do that. As far as I know and the minister knows, nobody reported what transpired. If there are issues, we don’t expect people within the agency to take the law into their hands and decide who is to be. They are supposed to refer back to the ministry and say these are the challenges we are having and the ministry will direct as appropriate.
“The regulation has to be applied. It has to be implemented, but it is left for the agency to inform the ministry formally about the status of the agency. We have written to them officially, so it is for them to report back and say this is what they have.”
Asked who would be responsible for the feedback, Suleiman said the agency has a structure, insisting that either the Governing Council or the administrative structure in the agency needed to confirm to the ministry, its challenges.
“Usually, what they should have done was to ask for the nominal roll, see who is the most senior, ask for the files of those who we believe or they believe had disciplinary cases and then, a decision will be conveyed to them. But all these up and down; you know they have already factionalised the agency which we learnt last week and which we are going to address this week definitely.”
On the involvement of a member of the governing council of the NIIA in the crisis, Suleiman said it was not a very good situation to have people really getting involved in an official situation and personalise it.
“That is why the official channel of communication should be respected. The ministry cannot just act because somebody is doing video on the street. There is a standard procedure for doing everything in government and NIIA is an institution of government. There are rules and regulations governing the institution; there are rules and regulations governing transactions within the institutions and they are all governed by government regulations,” Suleiman said.