He withdrew his services from the Sokoto State Ministry of Health and accepted the NPA offer, but two months into his employment, things went bitter.
Saifullah Muhammad was working with the Pharmaceutical Department of the Sokoto State Ministry of Health until July 22, 2019, when he was employed by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and was deployed to Port Harcourt Authority.
Before he joined the NPA, Saifullah was also negotiating a contract with the Government of Saudi Arabia to work with the King Abdulaziz Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. But when the vacancy came out at the NPA, the Port’s Managing Director, Muhammad Bello Koko and his Personal Assistant, Kabiru Abubakar Daniya persuaded him to accept the offer and work for his country rather than another country.
“I informed them about an ongoing conversation between me and the Saudi government regarding a contract job with King Abdulaziz Specialist Hospital and Research Center; I even showed them some of the mail messages. Despite that, they convinced me to accept the federal offer because it is a service to my country and will be a representation of my state in the organization,” Saifullah told SaharaReporters.
He withdrew his services from the Sokoto State Ministry of Health and accepted the NPA offer, but two months into his employment, things went bitter. By August 2019, he received his salary but while colleagues were paid their Hotel in Lieu allowance, he did not receive his.
“On investigation, I discovered I was not the only person affected but later other colleagues were paid which made me go further to find out why I was not paid my Hotel in Lieu allowance.”
But the Head of Appointment and Employment, Mr. Akintoye Kehinde, told Saifullah not to worry as they were still working on it. Meanwhile, by September and October, he received his salary but nobody still told him why they didn’t pay him his Hotel in Lieu allowance.
“I had to travel to the NPA headquarters in Lagos to meet the General Manager of Human Resources (GMHR), Y. G. Bukar, and narrated everything to him. He in turn called Mr. Akintoye and enquired about my narration. He (Akintoye) pleaded guilty. He (GMHR) then ordered Akintoye to go and release all my entitlements and clear all issues regarding me.
“Unfortunately, when we left the GMHR's office back to Akintoye's office, he told me ‘GM wants to help you so please you shouldn't tell anyone because there are other people with similar issues. I also have suspicion over your NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) Exemption Certificate and will be writing to the NYSC secretariat for verification’. I said no problem you are free to do so.”
But rather than write to the NYSC as he said, Akintoye started avoiding Saifullah. Whenever Saifullah contacted him, he would tell him not to worry and that he would still write to the NYSC. After a month, nothing happened and Saifullah was still not paid.
“And my sufferings were increasing because no one was giving me even a kobo,” he said.
Saifullah had no option but to report to the Assistant General Manager (Pharmacy), Ms Hadiza Sani Tahir, who called Akintoye and pressurised him until he finally wrote the letter.
But rather than send the letter to the NYSC, Akintoye dropped it with one Mr. Tony of the Accounts Section, who kept it as he claimed he didn’t know what to do with it. He however told Saifullah and Miss Tahir that he has a relative at the NYSC secretariat who would help speed up the process only if Saifullah could take responsibility for everything including transportation, to which he agreed.
Unfortunately, Saifullah went to the NPA liaison office in Abuja for four working days but there was no trace of the letter, hence, he informed Miss Tahir about it again and she called Akintoye who then told her the letter was still with Mr. Tony.
Although the certificate was eventually confirmed after a while and the report was sent back to the headquarters, “yet the management refused to use it”.
He said, “They continued their harassment and intimidation. A close associate of the MD, Abdulqadir Gusau, even threatened me with imprisonment, saying ‘if not because they pity me, they would have handed me over to police because of forgery’.
“I replied with 'if they would, I will of course prefer that because a policeman isn't a mad man. He will register the case before the court and the judge won't jump to a conclusion prior to the investigation’. They then halted the police issue.”
Saifullah did everything possible to get his issues resolved and his payments made but to no avail. Whenever he contacted the MD, Koko, he would promise to talk to Kabiru Daniya, and when Kabiru Daniya was contacted, he would refer him back to the MD.
“At a point, Bello Koko (the MD) started telling people that he doesn't even want to hear my name or about my case and as long as he is the MD in NPA, I will never work there. Kabiru Daniya also made similar claims that if he is in NPA, I will never work there.
“One day I received a phone call from a director who told me, ‘frankly speaking Saifullah, you don't have any administrative problem. None of your documents is faulty. Your issue is with Bello Koko and Kabiru Daniya. I will plead with them on your behalf’. He also confirmed doing so but nothing changed.
“The President of the Senior Staff Association of NPA, Abubakar Abdullahi, carried out his investigations and informed me he hadn't found any fault from me and swore by the power of Allah that he would deal with anyone involved in the issue. Surprisingly, he has been overpowered.”
Saifullah then contacted the new Head of Appointment and Employment, Hadiza Maiwada, as Akintoye had left the position but “she harassed me and told me my appointment has been terminated since”.
“I, therefore, asked her for the letter of termination because nothing like that happened verbally. But she ended the call,” he said.
Saifullah said the Rivers Port Manager and the Chief Medical Officer of Basket House Clinic in the Rivers Port were replaced with people who promptly acted on his matter and he (Saifullah) wrote a letter to Koko but the Rivers Port Manager, Muhammad Bello blocked it from leaving Rivers Port.
“He summoned me to his office and blasted me with different sorts of worrying words and also swore that no one would give me any kobo and that I should pack my belongings, come to him so he could give me transport money.
“A day after, I went to the office and continued with my job but as I was about to close, the CMO, Dr. Agbo summoned me in the presence of Matron and told her to bear witness that henceforth, I should stop entering my office because I was not their staff member.”
Saifullah maintained that if they must dismiss him, it must be done officially through an official letter as he was not employed verbally.
He reported the issue to their union president, Abubakar, who then directed the chairman and the vice-chairman, Port Harcourt chapter, to meet with the Chief Port Personnel Officer for interpretation of the actions of the Port Manager and CMO as well.
The Chief Port Personnel Officer said that no one has the right to terminate my job except the management and all correspondences have to pass through her office; that she has been in that office long before Saifullah resumed duty in Rivers Port and no official complaint had passed through her office, therefore, Saifullah was still a staff member.
Two years and eight months later, Saifullah has still not been paid his salaries and entitlements and has not been officially dismissed.
“It is contrary to the constitution of Nigeria and I don't want to be found guilty of any breach of law. That is the reason for my waiting and following patiently since October 2019. Despite all these, I still couldn't be served with the letter of termination of appointment so that I can pursue my future elsewhere and all my entitlements are held for no reason.
“I pleaded in person, through family elders, eminent personalities, high esteemed figures and co-workers but all efforts are fruitless.”
Speaking with SaharaReporters in tears, Saifullah said he could not pay his rent and take care of other expenses in Port Harcourt, therefore, he had to go back to his family in Sokoto but still without a job.
Presently, even feeding has become a serious problem for him, SaharaReporters learnt.
All attempts to speak with the Port Managing Director, Koko were not successful as the phone was not reachable. However, when SaharaReporters contacted his Personal Assistant, Kabiru Daniya, he said he was not authorised to speak with the press about the matter, and therefore asked our reporter to contact the media team of the NPA, Port Harcourt but refused to provide the media team contact.
SaharaReporters also called Mr. Akintoye several times but though the call connected, he did not answer. Also, this newspaper sent an email to NPA through its contact email but there had been no response at the time of filing this report.