The General Secretary of Aviation Roundtable (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu, has criticised Mrs. Salamatu Umar-Eluma for her refusal to move to the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) where she was recently redeployed from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). Mrs.Umar-Eluma was Director of Human Resources at FAAN.
In an interview with SaharaReporters, Group Captain Ojikutu said the controversy generated by Mrs. Umar-Eluma's redeployment to the AIB was unnecessary. The ART General Secretary explained that Mr. Umar-Eluma was not the only top management staff of FAAN or aviation agency redeployed in the restructuring exercise in the aviation sector. He wondered why others affected did not refuse to move to their new duty posts or ascribe their redeployment to victimization.
Group Captain Ojikutu stated that deployment, re-deployment, and promotion of civil servants are routine occurrences in the civil service, warning that such should not be attributed to extraneous reasons
“Why can’t we discuss issues like airport certification and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) re-classification? Why can’t we discuss airlines' travails and the incursion of foreign airlines into our domestic routes? Why can’t we discuss the recurring debts of our airlines? Why can’t we situate the NCAA reported ticket sales earnings with the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) revelation that air transport contributes over $8.2billion or N4.5trillion to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? These are issues for me and not the redeployment or sacking of some individuals,” he said.
Relatedly, a leader of the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), who preferred anonymity, also expressed disappointment at Mrs. Umar-Eluma's refusal to comply with the outcome of the restructuring exercise.
The union leader accused Mrs. Umar-Eluma of always invoking the name of Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, whenever developments in the industry are at variance with her personal interest. The ATSSSAN leader also accused her of having had a hand in the sack and redeployment of many staff of aviation agencies to even non-aviation agencies.
The union leader urged Mrs. Umar -Eluma to follow civil service rules or resign her appointment. He noted that a reorganization similar to what happened in FAAN has just taken place in
the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). None of the affected NNPC officials, he said, made a fuss or protested their redeployment.
“This is not the first time that people were redeployed. Even in the past, she played roles in the sack and deployment of some staff and heaven did not fall. Mrs. Umar-Eluma needs to be cut to
size. If she is allowed to have her way, a bad precedent will be set. She should simply obey civil service rules from which she has benefited over the years,” he said.
Last week, SaharaReporters broke the story of redeployment, engagement, and promotions in FAAN and other agencies. In all, 55 persons were affected by the exercise in FAAN alone.
However, since her redeployment to AIB, Mrs. Umar-Eluma has refused to resume at her new position. Instead, she wrote to request a year leave of absence without pay.
SaharaReporters gathered from a Ministry of Transport and Aviation source that a few days before the letter conveying her redeployment to AIB was issued, Mrs. Umar-Eluma had already, via a letter, applied for leave without pay and her request was granted by FAAN Managing Director, Mr. Saleh Dunomah.