Staff of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) have petitioned the National Assembly, the Code of Coduct Bureau (CCB) and the Presidency over allegations of corruption and victimisation against the Registrar-General, Alhaji Garba Abubakar.
Writing under the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), the staff gave a list of alleged corrupt practices, victimisation of staff, and preferential treatment to favoured staff for promotion, among others.
But the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) insists that the allegations made by the AUPCTRE, which it described as a former Union, were baseless and motivated by self-interest of some few officials of the ‘ex-Union.’
The petition to the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, dated January 11, 2021 titled “Petition against the Registrar-General, CAC, Alhaji Garba Abubakar on abuse of power, financial impropriety and alleged commercialisation of promotion examination in the commission” was signed by the acting secretary general of AUPCTRE, Mr. Musa Ukpo.
Part of the petition reads: “It has been discovered that the Registrar-General of CAC, has used a front company called the … of Centage Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, to inflate consultant fees for tax reconciliation on FCT Abuja Payee Tax Liability for 2018 and 2019 at an exorbitant amount of N43,072,046.67 million via PV no. 131817/2595 and PV no. 181818/2596 both dated 13th August, 2020 respectively.
A defence of the Registrar-General released by the CAC and signed by its Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Duke Ukaga, explained that the tax consultancy contract saved the organisation N600 million.
He disclosed in a statement that the tax consultant was engaged long before the appointment of the present Registrar General and his fees were based on the percentage of savings made to the Commission as contained in his engagement letter. “The Consultant was able to renegotiate the Commission’s tax liability with a saving of about N600 million,” he said.
The aggrieved staff, in the petition, revealed an alleged impropriety to the tune of over N63 million.
“There is an alleged financial impropriety with regards to training fee of board members to the tune of N63,769,500. The payments were made to … Ltd of Isyaku Avenue, off Liberia street, Kaduna State in two installments. The first was on the 13th July, 2020 with PV no. 111290/2206 where N31,023,000 was paid while the other payment was made to same company on the 14th July, 2020 with PV no. 120368/2206 to the tune of N32,746,500,” the workers wrote in their petition.
But Ukaga said the allegation is unfounded. “Since assuming office as the Registrar General, Alhaji Garba Abubakar, has ensured that trainings are competitive and carried out in accordance with the laid down rules and regulations. The training referred to was fully residential with over 60 participants.
The staff alleged further: “As against the provision of section 13 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, LFN 2004, there are serious cases of abuse of power, some of which include: Breach of section 40 of the constitution, ILO Convention 154 (1981), 29 (1930), and sections 23-25 of Trade Union Act, LFN 2004.
“Unilateral decisions that affect staff welfare such as stagnation, alteration of promotion policies, refusal to pay staff promotion arrears of 2019 despite the availability of funds and budgetary provisions, stoppage of all staff loans schemes, including those of the cooperative societies, coercing of staff to forcefully resign their membership of the union and imposition on them the membership of another union of his choice, stoppage of union monthly deductions.”
CAC’s response to the allegations against its head, also posted on its website, noted that the anger of the AUPCTRE stemmed from the loss of N2 million check-off dues by the union.
“The allegations are figment of imagination of the AUPCTRE who could still not accept the reality of losing check up dues of over N2Million monthly from the Commission following the stoppage of check up dues deduction in respect of senior staff.
“The Commission would not have bothered
to respond but for the blatant falsehood demonstrated. The write up is a cheap blackmail, a figment of the writer’s imagination. It smacks of mischief, an attempt to ridicule the Registrar-General and the Commission,” it said in its statement.
On the allegations that the promotion examinations for 2019 and 2020 in the commission were commercialized; and vacancies not declared in Human Resources and Finance departments in the appropriation year yet Abubakar filled them with his favourite against the budgetary provision, making it a breach of the appropriation act, the CAC explained its position.
Its explanation: “The 2019 promotion examination was held in 2020 and no budgetary provision was made for the payment of promotion arrears dating back to 1st January, 2019.
“The Board had the option to make the promotion to take effect from 1st January, 2020 but decided to retain the actual date of 1st January, 2019 so that the beneficiaries would maintain their seniority particularly when the 2020 promotion examination was being held about one month after. The total arrears would have been over N560million if the financial benefit was to start from 1st January, 2019.”
It said further: “The 2019 examination was held on the 10th October, 2020 at JAMB CBT Centres in Abuja, Kano and Lagos.
A total of 394 staff sat for the 2019 promotion examination. The result of the examination was published the same day at the Commission’s website upon receipt from JAMB.
“At the end of final collation, a total of 258 candidates were successful and promotion letters were issued to the staff upon approval by the Board of the Commission. It is highly mischievous for anybody to claim that the process was commercialized.
“While considering the report on the promotion examination, the Board expressed concern over the exponential growth in the number of staff on certain rank which was completely disproportionate to the total number of staff in the Commission
and its implication to staff cost and the entire structure of the Commission.
No responsible organization will allow two (2) grade levels in the staff structure to account for over one-third of the total workforce and 40% of staff cost.
“It was on this basis that the Board approved maximum manning levels for officers at the levels of Directors (GL17), Deputy Directors (GL16), Assistant Directors (GL15), Principal Managers (GL 14) and Senior Managers (GL 13).”
Nonetheless, the union is appealed to the presidency to prevail on the Registrar-General to stop his victimisation of its executives and rescind the threat to transfer them outside the headquarters.
They alleged that he has been witch-hunting them with outright sack from the commission.
The union said staff who have already been transferred from the headquarters and likely to be sacked include Suwidi Sani Kabir transferred to Abeokuta, Didam Laraba Joel (married woman) transferred to Lokoja, Glen Tabak Altine (married woman) transferred to Jos; Buba Yusuf Dauda transferred to Enugu, Ibrahim Musa I. Kirfi transferred to Yola. Bello Fanini transferred to P/Harcourt, Abdulkadir Y. Giade transferred to Akure while Sadiq Shehu was transferred to Ilorin.
Others include Bivan Stephen transferred to Zamfara; Labaran Sunday transferred to Damaturu, Egbelo Perpetua Eneh to Kaduna, BABA Tanimu, Nasiru B. Dembo and Muhammad Sani Binji to Lagos; Rabe Mai’adua, Ibrahim Isa and Umar Farouk from Kaduna to Abakaliki, Abuja and Uyo respectively, while Doffi Atoshi to Calabar, Amina B. Mohammed (married woman) from Yola to Abuja; Mohammed Nainna to Umuahia; Haruna Mohammed to Awka; Abbas Abdullahi to Jalingo; Waziri Isa and Abubakar Sarkin Fulani to Damaturu.
However, the commission maintains that transfers are routine matters in the Commission as enshrined in the Staff Condition of Service, in the course of duty a staff may be posted to any of the Commission’s offices around the country.
The union in a letter to the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari dated March 5, 2021, titled ” The struggle of AUPCTRE against corrupt practices in public service with a special focus on CAC” was signed by the acting general secretary, Musa Ukpo.
The AUPCTRE accused the Registrar-General of “illegally dissolving the union executive, banning them from operating.
They also accused him of transfering all executive members of the union) to different parts of the country to weaken the union”
The union consequently prayed “That Alhaji Garba Abubakar be directed to reverse his punitive transfer against CAC workers” and “be directed to respect constituted authorities”
But the spokesman for the commission explained the face-off on the unionisation of staff.
His words, “The general public may also wish to note that by the decision of the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Suits Nos. NICN/ABJ/125/2019 and NICN/ABJ/103/2019, the Courts have ruled that AUPCTRE is a Junior Staff Union. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment had long before the judgment advised the Standard Organization of Nigeria of that position by its letter dated 27th June, 2018. On the 27th of May, 2021, the NIC reaffirmed its 2019 judgment to the effect that AUPCTRE cannot unionize senior staff in Public/Statutory Corporations.
“In compliance with the Court Order and the position of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Management withdrew its recognition of the leadership of the AUPCTRE Local Chapter in the Commission because it comprised only of senior staff contrary to the decision of the court.”
He said junior staff have been advised to elect new leadership for the Branch adding that a group of senior staff have since joined the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies which is the only recognized Union for senior staff.
On the issue of welfare and promotion which the union complained bitterly about, the CAC said its Management does not have the power to increase staff salaries and allowances without the approval of the Board and in consultation with the National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission.
On other matters of welfare, the commission states: “Since the introduction of Treasury Single Account, the Commission did not have a separate Revolving Loan Account as was the case in the past.
“The Commission had been approving and granting loans from the revenue account and loan recoveries were not properly accounted for.
“Some members of staff have become over exposed due to indiscriminate borrowing from Commercial Banks and the Staff Cooperative Society with total deductions in most cases in excess of 33 1/3 percent contrary to the Condition of Service and Public Service Rule.
“The Commission has just created a Revolving Loan Account pursuant to the approval of the Board and the budgeted sum will be credited into the account as cash flow permits.
“On Staff Cooperative Loans, these are matters between the members and the Cooperative Society. Management does not get involved in the activities of the Cooperative Society other than deducting the contributions of staff and remitting to the Society as part of ways of instituting saving culture amongst staff.