The House of Representatives has directed the management of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to immediately reinstate the suspended Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Collins Michael Yakubu-Hammer, over the crisis trailing the indiscriminate promotion scandal in the agency.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion on the ‘Need to investigate reported cases of victimisation, anti-labour activities in NAN’, sponsored by Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs, Hon Babatunde Lawrence Ayeni, who solicited for the House intervention by ensuring that justice is done.
In his lead debate, Hon Ayeni who frowned at the flagrant disregard to relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Public Service Rules and Labour Act, condemned in strong terms the level of impunity being perpetrated by some civil servants within the public service.
While stressing the need to investigate the promotions carried out by the Agency over the past five years, Hon. Ayeni underscored the need for the recovery of benefits illegally accrued to the affected staff and to impose sanctions.
“The House observes that all public establishments established by the Act of Parliament are under obligation to comply with the extant provisions in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which guarantees the freedom of Association and hold opinion.
“The House is worried that the current situation in the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a Public Institution saddled with the responsibility of disseminating government’s activities has been overwhelmed by politics in terms of promotion of staff.
“The House gathered that a set of workers who are not deemed for promotion have over the years been elevated to various higher offices in breach of due process and provisions of Section 7 subsection 020702 of the Public Service Rules (PSR)1.
“That certain officers in NAN have in recent times embarked on the victimisation of top Executive Members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) who in conjunction with other affiliate Unions of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) protested against the illegal promotion in 2021 that generated so much tension in the Organisation.
“The House affirmed that the purported transfer of the NUJ Chairman (NAN Chapter) was in contravention of the provisions of Section 9 subsection 6(a) and (b) of the Nigerian Labour Act, CAP LI, 2004 and Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“The House is concerned that some staff who enjoyed double promotion within a period of one year, contrary to the provisions of Section 7, subsection B and C of the Public Service Rules (PSR) and Part IV, subsections 10, 17, 18, 19(iii) and 24 of the Public Service Rules as it relate to appointments, promotion and Discipline issued by Federal Civil Service of the Federation.
“The House observed that the fallout of the illegal promotions has impacted negatively on the morale, loyalty and commitment of hundreds of staff who have been shortchanged by such unpatriotic acts.
“The House is disturbed that despite the involvement and mediatory efforts made by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment; Federal Ministry of Information and Culture; Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC); Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Council and FCT NUJ, the said senior NAN staff who are hell-bent of victimizing their contemporary who are Union Leaders, arbitrarily suspended the NUJ Chairman, in contravention to all known conventions and labour practices in the country.
“The House is disturbed by the recalcitrant attitude of the senior staff who are abusing their exalted positions to intimidate, harass and frustrate the NUJ Executive members especially the Chairman by way of posting him to without formal notice and went to the extent of suspending him while on approved annual leave.
“The House gathered that the senior NAN Officers resolved to post the NUJ Chairman out of Abuja where one of the beneficiaries of the illegal promotion hails from, thereby posing threat to the NUJ Chairman’s life, and subjected him and his Family to emotional, psychological and financial distress.
“The House is disturbed that the action of the senior staff who are allegedly involved in this inglorious act, also contravenes the agreement reached by NAN management and Unions on July 27, 2018, where the NAN management agreed never to victimize any Union Leader and members as a result of labour struggle in the Agency.
“The House is also worried that the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of News Agency of Nigeria has been a lay-back in ensuring a serene environment for NAN workers over the disturbing labour crisis,” he noted.
In his intervention, Deputy Majority Leader, Hon Peter Akpatason lamented over the spate of illegal employments across major MDAs as well as promotion exercises to underserving staff while others remain in the same positions for as long as 10 years.
“I am very concerned about some of the issues raised by this motion because they have become recurring issues in our system. Oftentimes Constituents will come to you that there’s recruitment going on somewhere. If you try to investigate, you’ll hear, the story there’s nothing going on. But when you dig deeper, you’ll discover that a sort of recruitment took place in such an organisation. Sometimes they call it, replacement and in the name of replacement, you see 50, 100 people coming into an organisation.”
He also expressed concern over the development where the beneficiaries of the illegal recruitment are posted to choice places and first get promoted ahead of those who have served for long years in the same Organisations.
While frowning at the ripple effects of such impunity on productivity, Hon. Akpatason called for expansion of the scope of the investigation with a view to ensure that everywhere such malpractice is noticed, perpetrators of such illegal acts should be brought to book.
“Until we begin to deal ruthlessly with this situation, we will continue to be under undue pressure to go and fight for promotion for our Constituents in an organization, whereas ordinarily, they deserve to be promoted,” the former NUPENG President noted.
“To this end, the House resolved that the suspended NUJ Chairman should be recalled immediately from Plateau State to the Headquarters where he has served meritoriously, pending the conclusion of the investigation.
“The House also directed the NAN Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief to ensure immediate payment of all outstanding beneficiaries to the NUJ Chairman (NAN Chapter) and ensure that he is not victimized in any way knowing well that he owes all the Staff care of duty,” Hon Ayeni urged.
To this end, the House mandated the joint Committees on Labour & Employment, Information and other relevant Committees to investigate the anti-labour actions in the News Agency of Nigeria and other allegations relating to illegal promotions over the past five years and recover all benefits that might have been enjoyed by their allies.
The House also urged the joint Committees to recommend necessary sanctions for anyone found culpable, which may include declaration as unfit for managerial positions any of the officers involved in the inglorious actions, demotion, dismissal and prohibition from holding forthwith any office that may further empower them and their cohorts to frustrate human capacity development and human dignity.
The joint committees are expected to invite the Head of Service of the Federation, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment with a view to ensuring the sanctity of the Public Service.
To this end, the House mandated the joint Committees on Labour and Employment, Information as well as all other relevant Committees to ensure compliance.