Joshua’s appointment stirs controversy at NECO

President-Goodluck-Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

THE appointment of Prof. Monday Tommy Joshua, as the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Examinations Council (NECO), by President Goodluck Jonathan, was expected to lay to rest, the leadership crisis that threatened the peace at the examination body in February.

But rather than do just that, a fresh scenario currently playing out seems to suggest the opposite as the Academic Staff Union of Research and Allied Institute (ASURI) NECO branch, are kicking.

They allege that the appointment did not follow due process. A recent statement from the Minna-based outfit, which was signed by its head of information, Mr. Azeez Sani, said Joshua’s appointment took effect from March 30. The statement also added that the appointment was sequel to the expiration of the tenure of Prof. Promise Nwachukwu Okpala, who just completed his two-term tenure of eight years.

According to the statement, Joshua’s appointment letter dated April 2, 2015, with Reference No: SGF. 6/S. 14T, was signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.

Until his appointment, Joshua has been a professor of Educational Research, Measurement and Evaluation in the Faculty of Education, University of Calabar, Cross River State.

“The new NECO helmsman is widely published and has authored over 100 publications in many national and international journals. He has been a consultant to many professional bodies, including International Association of Educational Assessment (IAEA) and Association of Assessment in Africa (AEAA),’’ the statement said.

According to the statement, the new registrar has been a regular monitor of NECO and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) administered examinations.

Only recently, the Minna, Niger State, based examination body was deep in a needless power tussle and leadership crisis, which almost threw the facility into disarray.

The power play, which was ignited by the Federal Ministry of Education, refused to immediately abate even after the ministry retracted a letter that precipitated the crisis.

In the January 23, 2015 dated letter signed by the acting Permanent Secretary, Dr. M.B Umar, the Minister for Education, Mr. Ibrahim Shekarau, directed Okpala to embark on a pre-retirement leave since his tenure lapses on April 9.

“I am directed to inform you that the Minister of Education has directed that you should handover the management of the affairs of your office to Dr. James Ojebode, Director Finance, who is the most senior officer in your organisation,” Shekarau’s letter real inter alia.

“Consequently, you are to proceed on your pre-retirement leave, which took effect from January 12, 2015, or your accumulated and unspent leave in the course of the service,” he added. Pronto, Okpala, in a two-page letter to the minister, which copies were sent to the SGF, Minister of State for Education, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, and Chairman, Governing Board of NECO, said only President Goodluck Jonathan, who appointed him, could give such directives.

Okpala’s letter read in part, “You will recall that I am a political appointee of Mr. President in the federal bureaucracy and not a career civil servant that rose through the rank-and-file of the civil service structure.

I received my appointment from Mr. President based on nomination and neither on seniority nor by passing any examination that requires skills related to my job as Registrar/CEO of NECO in the Federal Ministry of Education.

It continued, “Based on the extant letter of my appointment signed by the SGF, my tenure as Chief Executive Officer of NECO is expected to lapse on the 9th of April, 2015.

It is expected that matters relating to my appointment and re-appointment should follow the right administrative channel of Mr. President through the office of SGF.” In faulting the directive for him to hand over to Ojebode, Okpala said the former was not the most senior director in the council stressing that: “The most senior officer in the organisation is Mr. John Asuwe, the Director, Human Resources Management.”

In reaction to Okpala’s letter, the SGF wrote to Shekarau stressing that the registrar should remain in office except otherwise directed by President Jonathan. Anyim, in his January 27 dated letter to Shekarau urged him to withdraw his letter to Okpala, which technically ceded the reins to Ojebode.

The SGF wrote: “The term of office of the registrar expires on the April 8, 2015. Prior to that date, he is not subject to removal from office on any account except by Mr. President at whose discretion the Registrar holds office.”

The following day, a correspondence with reference number PRT/ABJ/OP/10/249 addressed to the Chairman, NECO Governing Council with the title: “Re: Handing over the management of the National Examination Council,” from the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr MacJohn Nwaobiala, countered the earlier one endorsed by Dr. M.B Umar, and mandated Okpala to continue in office.

“You are to put on hold, the contents therein of our earlier letter Reference No. PRT/ABJ/OP/10/248 dated January 23rd, 2015 directing the Registrar/Chief Executive to hand over the management and affairs of National Examination Council (NECO). Thus the status quo ante should be maintained.”

The above referenced letter was, however, not enough to calm frayed nerves among the workers, specifically, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institution, which joined forces with hired hands to kick against Okpala’s refusal to embark on terminal leave.

Okpala successfully completed his tenure and handed over to Joshua, who attended the defunct Calabar Polytechnic, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, United States and the University of Calabar, where he obtained National Certificate in Education (NCE), B. Sc (Ed), M.Sc and PhD respectively.

The ASURI, NECO branch in protesting Joshua’s appointment claims that it did not follow due process. Its position was contained in a protest letter addressed to the Shekarau and made available to newsmen in Minna on Tuesday.

The group’s chairman, Comrade Agwu Arisa, signed it. The union insisted that the appointment jettisoned all known principles of due process as enshrined in the National Examinations Council (NECO) (Establishment) Act, 2002, the constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act Cap F7, Laws of the Federation, 2010, and the subsidiary guidelines for recruitment into the Federal Public Service.

The Act setting up NECO provides that the appointment of NECO registrar shall be by the President, but on the recommendation of the Minister. Titled: “Re: Violation Of Due Process In The Appointment Of The Incoming Registrar Of The National Examination Council (NECO), It read in part, “For the avoidance of doubt, may we remind you that since the inception of our institution (hereinafter referred to simply as “NECO”), there has been two registrars/chief executive officers to wit: Professor Dibu Ojerinde, who was the pioneering registrar from the South West.

And after serving out full his full term, the outgoing registrar, Professor Okpala, from the South East was thereafter appointed. He has now not only served out his term, but enjoyed a period of extension of tenure without due process being complied with,” the letter read in part

According to the union, “In the present circumstances, and bearing in mind the principle of federal character, it would only be fair and reasonable to expect that the next appointment to the office of the registrar should come from northern Nigeria.

“The union has been reliably informed that one Professor Monday Tommy Joshua, who is now being considered for appointment as the next registrar, is not only not from northern Nigeria, he was never recommended by the Education Minister to President Jonathan for such appointment,” the union added.

The union said it was in view of this curious development that it “considers intolerable and unacceptable,” that it conveyed its discontent, “premised on the violation of due process, failure to imbibe the principle of federal character as clearly defined in relevant legislation.”

The union maintained that by Joshua’s appointment and the handing over, which held in Abuja, “It goes without saying that the SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim has re-written the NECO Act by unilaterally determining and appointing who should be registrar/chief executive officer. This power and authority he exercises regardless of the Minister’s position on the issue.

“The shoddy and hurried manner the entire ceremony was crafted and executed without following due process at this time that a new administration is about to take over is quite worrisome and highly suspicious. “If a stop is not put to what has now become a regular and arrogant display of lawlessness, the immediate and far-reaching consequence on the nation’s education can’t be anything but grave.

The essence of this protest is therefore to enjoin you to immediately intervene and ensure a reversal of this gross violation of the laws of land/ due process.” the union submitted. However, a senior NECO official, who spoke to The Guardian on grounds of anonymity, said Joshua was very well received when he resumed at the institution.

“In fact, all through the period he was received, not one person in NECO made a sound in protest of his appointment. The University of Calabar promoted Joshua to the rank of professor in October 2006. He is married with four children.

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