â€¢ Defies appeals by law firm, plans secret recruitment exercise
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) at the weekend commenced the distribution of disengagement letters to workers, who were employed under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY gathered that the price regulator has also defiled the request made by Falana & Falana Chambers demanding the confirmation of the employment of temporary staff, most of whom were engaged between 2010 and 2012.
Investigation revealed that rather than confirm the temporary staff, the agency is planning a fresh recruitment exercise to replace them in order to address the shortage of manpower, arising from the increase in the number of depots across the country.
THISDAY gathered that the acting Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Mr. Victor Shidok, had requested the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to approve the sack of certain category of the agencyâ€™s workforce.
Shidok, who was the Assistant General Manager in charge of Operations, had taken over under controversial circumstances in February 2016 from the then outgoing Executive Secretary, Mr. Ahmed Farouk.
The then General Manager in charge of Administration and Human Resources, Mr. Moses Mbaba was said to be the most senior staff in the agency and ought to have taken over, going by the directives of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir David Lawal.
The appointment of Mrs. Sotonye Iyoyo as the acting Executive Secretary aÂ few days after the exit of Ahmed had saved the situation.
However, Shidok was appointed in acting capacity in November 2016 to replace Iyoyo, whose appointment had also led to protests by the PPPRA branch of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) for being an outsider.
In one of the letters written by Shidok to Kachikwu with reference Number A.3/8/647/C.206/Vol.III/584, and dated April 20, 2017, the PPPRA boss argued that all staff of the agency on mandatory appointments must be relieved of their appointments.
It was learnt that Falana & Falana Chambers had written a later dated August 5, 2015 requesting the PPPRA to confirm the employment of temporary staff, implement their promotions and also pay all their arrears of entitlements and benefits.
The law firm also wrote a follow-up later dated September 3, 2015 to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources; Senate President and the Speaker of House of Representatives, seeking the regularisation of the appointments of some of the affected workers.
But Shidok told the minister in the April 20 letter that the regularisation of the appointments of temporary staff would not be automatic, alleging further that their engagement as temporary workers did not even follow due process.
â€œSimilarly, a number of extant circulars and guidelines, such as the Federal Character Commission (FCC) Procedure for Recruitment, Budget and Manpower Call Circulars from the Budget Office of the Federation, the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and Ministry of Petroleum Resources, all placing restrictions on appointments and incurring additional personnel costs, pose challenges to the agency in regularising temporary appointments. These explain why the payment of monthly stipends to the persons on temporary appointments had to be funded from the agencyâ€™s internally generated revenue of administrative charge. In fact, the Federal Character Commission on suspicion that the temporary appointments were regularised, had written the agency accusing it of alleged illegal and disguised recruitment,â€ Shidok said.
â€œIt is on record that the PPPRA has an approved establishment that should have enabled the agency to recruit staff, but the embargo placed by the federal government through the Budget Office of the Federation on increase in personal cost has made it impossible to implement. Similarly, even where a waiver is given and funding provided, the requirements of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) makes it mandatory that the affected persons on temporary appointments must go through the normal process of recruitment and be found to be qualified,â€ Shidok added.
It was not clear if the minister approved the request of the PPPRA to disengage workers but THISDAY gathered some of the affected staff got sack letters at the weekend, while more workers will be asked to go this week.
It was learnt that workers at the PPPRAâ€™s Lagos Zonal Office were the worst hit by the disengagement exercise, followed by Abuja Headquarters and the Port Harcourt Zonal Office.
Investigation revealed that only one staff who has a disciplinary case, has so far been affected in Kaduna Zonal Office
PPPRAâ€™s Assistant General Manager in charge of Corporate Affairs, Mr. Lanre Oladele declined to comment when contacted on the development by THISDAY.
However, a top official of the agency confirmed the sack and also added that a fresh recruitment exercise was underway.
â€œThey are terminating the appointment of staff who have worked diligently for seven years just because the new board want their own candidates to replace them.
â€œThe affected staff discharged their responsibilities with utmost dedication and this type of inhuman treatment should not have been meted to Nigerians. Now, they have started the normal process of recruitment to replace these guys.
â€œBut I can assure you that this recruitment exercise will not be made public. It is a design to favour people from a certain geopolitical zone,â€ the official said.