Monday, 10 March 2014
Immigration Staff Oppose Plan to Impose Shady Boss Backed By Patience Jonathan
Some aggrieved staff of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) have condemned plans to appoint a candidate with a questionable record as the substantive Nigeria’s Comptroller-General of Immigration (CGI).
The “anointed” candidate, Aches Stephen Fimibama, is currently an Assistant Comptroller-General (ACG). Mr. Finibama is believed to enjoy the backing of Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathan as well as a highly connected medical doctor who is his cousin and a member of President Goodluck Jonathan’s medical team.
The protesting workers, who call themselves “The Concerned Officers of the Service,” insisted that Mr. Finibama ought to have been compulsorily retired in 2011.
In a petition tilted “Deliver Us from This Leadership Crisis, Oh Lord,” the staff accused Mr. Fimibama of engaging in a deceptive maneuver in order to stay beyond his retirement period. They asserted that all his contemporaries in NIS had been retired since 2011.
The group described the controversial AGC as dubious, fraudulent and incompetent. They expressed shock that he had not only been allowed to stay beyond the mandated years of service but was being proposed to lead the Service at such a critical period.
The group’s statement disclosed that the immediate past controller general, Rose Chinyere Uzoma, had “virtually left the Service prostrate.” Ms. Uzoma was fired several months ago. Even so, the protesting workers noted that the search for “a suitable, credible and competent successor” to “tidy up the already bastardized service and justifiably correct the wrongs done by the immediate past administration” had left much to be desired.
“The scheming and underground maneuvers, which propped up three prospective candidates initially, is believed to be assuming a new dimension, dangerous enough to bring the Service to total collapse,” said the staff. They listed the shortlisted candidates as Rilwanu B. Musa, an Assistant CGIS, Ayo Oredipe (ACG) and Babandede Mohammed (ACG). Mr. Musa currently oversees the affairs of the Service in an acting capacity.
But the staff said they were worried by information that the Interior Minister, Abba Moro, had recently ordered that two other names be forwarded to his office for onward submission to the Presidency for consideration. They noted their embarrassment on learning that Mr. Finibama’s name was among the two recently added. According to the staff, Mr. Stephen is believed to enjoy the patronage of Mrs. Jonathan and a cousin of his who works on the president’s medical team.
The staff said they were “highly astonished by this late development,” adding that the choice of Mr. Finibama would be “another step taken towards the wrong direction.” They listed the reasons why the presumed frontrunner would not be “the redeemer of this Service.” For one, Mr. Fimibama, “ought to have proceeded on retirement from service since April, 2011 after putting in 35 years of service which included the actual working years he carried over from the Rivers State Government. Truly, he had been in the employment of Rivers State Government since April, 1976 before he voluntarily transferred to Nigeria Immigration Service as a deputy superintendent of Immigration on salary grade level 09.” The protesters disclosed that details of Mr. Finibama’s employment profile are contained in the Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (APER) forms he filled, signed and maintained for promotion purposes while in Service in 1987,1989,1990,1991 and 1992 in his own handwriting certifying that all information provided therein was correct and true.”
The petitioners added: “As [Mr. Finibama] progressed in the Service, however, the idea to criminally alter his records for self-fulfilling reasons occurred to him and [he] thus changed his date of first appointment from the original date of April, 1976 to 4th January, 1983. This matter was brought to light for immediate redress during the past regime of Mrs. Uzoma, but because he [is] believed to be enjoying the favor and protection of the First Lady of the Federation and because Mrs. Uzoma would not want to offend the First Lady who gave life to her dying regime, it was swept under the carpet.”
The protesting staff listed Willy Park, Umo J. Emmanuel, and Felicia Alasia (nee Nsiegbe) as some of Mr. Finibama’s contemporaries who were retired in compliance with Immigration and civil service rules. They declared that, rather than also retire Mr. Finibama, the Service under Mrs. Uzoma went ahead to promote him to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General.
The statement added: “Again, even though [Finibama] was said to have argued that he had resigned his earlier employment that took effect from 1976 with Rivers State Government and was reabsorbed again in 1983, before joining Nigeria Immigration Service, that argument obviously is not tenable. There was no documentary evidence to back it up in his official records at his point of recruitment or entry into the Service and therefore must be viewed as a dubious afterthought. A person with this dirty pedigree is certainly not worthy of being bestowed a position of this magnitude.”
In addition, the petitioning staff accused Mr. Finibama of incompetence during his stint as the comptroller in charge of the Rivers State Command. In their statement, “the entire institutional and disciplinary structures which his predecessor labored assiduously to build shamefully collapsed like a pack of cards due to his administrative ineptitude.” They added: “We wonder what a person who could not run a State Command with all the attributes of a disciplined para-military outfit successfully would do if vested with a higher responsibility as huge as that of a Comptroller General of Immigration Service at such a time when the country is facing enormous security threats and challenges.”
The staff called on the Nigerian government to “take a firm stand” to either confirm Mr. Musa as the substantive Comptroller General or widen the selection process by screening all officers of the rank of Assistant Comptroller General and above. They argued that the latter option would “create room for credibility and merit” and avoid the pitfalls of making an appointment “based on entirely ethnic and geographical” considerations.