It appears the curve of the war of attrition in the Niger Delta oozing from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is yet to flatten. Now, another can of worms has been opened in the matter of employment of a legal officer and later the promotion to a director of the legal department.
The Director, Peter Claver Okoro, wrote to Joi Nunieh, former acting MD and daughter of first Ogoni lawyer, to refund N1.96BN she allegedly spent without authorization as acting CEO of the Commission. Nunieh fired back saying she transferred Okoro (when she was CEO) to Bayelsa office based on security reports on some of his activities. She said Okoro was to be brought back and illegally promoted by the present Interim Management Committee (IMC) headed by the professor, Daniel Pondei; and that he is now witch-hunting her.
The NDDC countered this on Monday, August 17, 2020, giving details of due process in both employment and promotion of Okoro. The matter now seems to shift from the validity of the demand for the refund to the validity of Okoro’s appointment.
Nunieh had painstakingly stated how the process of the Lassa Fever contract took place and how some of the present members of the IMC 0especially Cairo Ojougboh) were part of the inspection and processes. She said it is rather the Pondei-led IMC that ought to refund over N4BN as per the National Assembly probe report.
In the letter by Okoro, she accused the director of legal of being promoted in contravention of the Public Service Rules (PSR). “It was part of the illegal promotions made by the present IMC, which was described by the representative of the Head of Service of the Federation (whilst giving evidence before the Senate Committee) as being
“strange” and in clear contravention of S. 020701 (viii) of the PSR, which provides that only the Federal Civil Service Commission (or a Governing Board as stated in the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000) has the responsibility to promote officers from SGL 15-17 on the recommendation of the Head of the MDA and not the EIMC.
“Okoro was imposed on and illegally employed by the NDDC, as a Deputy Director without an application letter, an advertisement for a vacancy, examination, nor interview for his employment only a few years ago, and in clear contravention of S. 020102 of the PSR which, provide that, only the Federal Civil Service Commission can make such an appointment to positions of SGL 12-17 based on the needs and availability of vacancies after due advertisements have been published. He has shown in his letter that he is not conversant with the sections of the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000, as he usurped the powers of the MD to write an external letter on behalf of the commission.” She did not explain if the MD has no right to delegate any of his functions to a director.
Reacting, the director of corporate affairs, Charles Odili, issued a statement on August 18, 2020, saying due process was followed in employing Okoro and all others. “The NDDC Management wishes to state that Okoro’s employment was approved by the Tarila Tebepah-led board, while his promotion was approved by the Victor Ndoma-egba-led board.
“We also wish to state that at the time Okoro joined the NDDC, the position of Deputy Director Legal Services was vacant. Hence, it was advertised prompting interested candidates, including Okoro, to apply. He wrote the appropriate examination, passed, and was subsequently interviewed before his employment. It is important to note that the entire exercise was backed by a board resolution. The process was transparent as the exams took place at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RUST) while the oral interview was held at Protea Hotel, Port Harcourt.
“Before joining the NDDC, Okoro was an Assistant Director in the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and he was adjudged the best candidate in the tests for the Deputy Director category. It is, therefore, diversionary to resort to attacking the credulity of our recruitment and promotion system.
“The management led by Pondei operates with laid down rules and procedures. Our stakeholders should rest assured that all our promotion exercises comply with the statutes establishing the commission and extant Public Service Rules.” Businessday