A director with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has reacted to comments credited to the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), accusing the Director-General of the ITF, Mr. Joseph Ari of ‘nepotism, wrongful appointments and marginalisation of Muslims in the running of the agency’.
Suleyol Fred-Chagu, Director, Public Affairs Department, in a response on the workings of ITF stated that Fund takes exception to orchestrated efforts to malign, impugn and whip up negative sentiments against the ITF and its functionaries through outright lies and calculated misinformation as contained in the MURIC release.
He adds, …”in order to correct the erroneous impression that the publication may have created in the minds of Nigerians, we are constrained to react that:
1. The Director-General is a devoted Christian, whose lineage, including his direct siblings is populated by both religions. As a result of this, he does not believe in nepotism and tribalism and does not indulge in religious bigotry. Indeed, the DG is a detribalised Nigerian who has formed long lasting and enduring relationships cutting across all faiths and tribes in Nigeria.
2. With regards to what the group alleged to be “Christianisation” and “Plateaurisation” agenda of the DG in the ITF, we want to place on record that this is far from the truth and a product of the imagination of the writer as the recruitment exercise conducted in February, 2019 that they hinged their allegations on, followed all due processes and was co-ordinated by the Federal Character Commission, which even issued a letter of compliance to the Fund after the exercise. It must equally be noted that the DG recused himself from the examination\ interview sessions that were conducted by a panel that comprised officials of our parent ministry- the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Federal Character Commission and the ITF Governing Council, which is headed by Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, OFR- a detribalised Nigerian among others.
MURIC further cited the constitution of the Fund’s Management to buttress its baseless accusation of ‘Christianisation’ of the Agency as only four Muslims were appointed into a fifteen-member management body during his first tenure while five are currently in the team of seventeen in his second term”. This is also sadly untrue. The reality is that as a consummate and experienced administrator, the DG has ensured that all zones are represented in management, which is the first time such has happened in the history of the organisation.
However, it will be necessary to note that there will be disparities in the constitution of any management due to the fact that other considerations namely: seniority, merit, vacancies apart from spread of representation are factored into the process. It will also be necessary to remind MURIC that the ITF system is close to 50 years with a well-developed chain of command that has been structured to the point that the succession process into management has been well entrenched and embedded in the organisation such that no Chief Executive can circumvent the process and impose favoured candidates. In addition, the process involves the ITF Governing Council and the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the DG, therefore, could not have sought to “Christianise” the ITF especially management, even if he wanted to.
3. On the allegation that the appointment of the Director-General did not follow due process, we wish to state that the DG withdrew his services from the Plateau State Civil Service and joined the ITF in 2007 (not 2006 as suggested by the writer). He did not retire as suggested by MURIC as he had not served up to 35 years of service, nor was he of retirement age.
His first promotion as Director came in 2011. The termination of the appointment of the DG in 2015 was said to be in line with the tenure policy for Directors that served up to 8 years. However, when the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation discovered that he had only served 4 years as Director, it ordered that the DG be reinstated. It was after his reinstatement, that Mr. President graciously appointed him as the DG/CE of the Industrial Training Fund.
It must be stated that since his appointment, the organisation that hitherto was restive suffering from poor perception and performance is now excelling. Indeed, it has transformed into one of the key organisations that are contributing significantly to the attainment of the policy objectives of the Federal Government in line with its mandate.
As a result of this, the DG/CEO is now acclaimed as the architect of modern ITF and has won numerous awards and accolades from all quarters.
“In conclusion, every one that knows the DG understands that he does not believe in nepotism and tribalism and does not indulge in religious bigotry.
“MURIC’s release is therefore a sad commentary directed at a personality whose interest is to run a public institution based on the values of public trust, meritocracy and integrity.”
Recall that MURIC in a statement issued on Friday by the director and founder of the organisation, Professor Ishaq Akintola, had said, “A lot of rigmarole is going on at the ITF, Jos, Plateau State. Nepotism is at its peak in this agency as wrongful employment of Plateau indigenes is the rule of the day. Muslims suffer marginalisation in a reckless Christianisation and Plateaurisation policy in the agency.
“In the first place, the appointment of the present Director General of the agency, Mr. Joseph N. Ari, did not follow due process. He was first employed into ITF in 2006 as Deputy Director on a permanent and pensionable basis after retiring as a Permanent Secretary in the Plateau civil service. Sequel to complaints about this irregularity, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment investigated the matter. It was established that he was receiving pension from the state’s civil service. The ministry therefore terminated his appointment and ordered that all money paid to him by ITF should be refunded. But this was not done. In an administrative abracadabra, however, the same Mr. Joseph N. Ari was announced as the new Director General in 2016. This was done in total disregard of civil service rules.
“This flagrant violation of rules in his appointment emboldened Mr. Ari towards administrative arrogance with the belief that he is a sacred cow. He Christianised his management team as only four Muslims were appointed into a fifteen-member management body during his first tenure while five are currently in the team of seventeen in his second term. Of the 487 staff employed by him in 2019, only 90 are Muslims. This is just 18.48%. Christians were 81.52%. Muslims enjoyed just 20% of staff training and development.
“Besides, Mr. Ari has been pursuing an aggressive and unapologetic Plateaurisation policy. Indigenes of Plateau State were made to flood ITF even though most of those appointments were irregular and inappropriate. Some of the indigenes were allegedly asked to obtain illegal certificates of indigeneship from other parts of the country like Bauchi, Nasarawa, etc after realising that the quota for Plateau State had been filled and exceeded.
“While we are aware that there may be certain priviledges accruing to indigenes in the name of ‘catchment area’, it is our contention that such priviledges should not be at the risk of sacrificing excellence on the altar of mediocrity. Neither should it ignore basic civil service rules. The ITF story raises more questions than answers and only a full-scale inquiry can reveal the truth.
“For instance, is it true that a man who had retired from the Plateau civil service and was receiving his pensions was again employed on permanent and pensionable basis at ITF? Is it also true that the same man who was recommended for termination of appointment by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment was still made the Director General of ITF?
“We contend that ITF which was established under Decree 47 of 1971 (amended by ITF Act 2011) is today a den of irregularities and a federal agency where civil service decorum is on permanent sabbatical. It is now very glaring that those who accuse others of nepotism and marginalisation are actually the worst culprits. The mother of all nepotism is in ITF, Jos. We therefore call for a full-scale investigation into the management of affairs of this agency from the period that Mr. Joseph N. Ani was appointed into the agency (2006) after retiring as permanent secretary in the Plateau civil service.”