16 January 2013

Nigeria: Recruitment Scandal - Immigration Boss Removed

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service Mrs Rose Chinyere Uzoma has been retired from service following a controversial recruitment exercise that rocks the federal agency.

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday ordered her to proceed on pre-retirement leave with effect from today.

The order was contained in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the Ministry of Interior.

The statement, signed by a director in the ministry, Dr R. K. Attahiru, on behalf of Interior Minister Comrade Abba Moro and the chairman of their board, directed Mrs Uzoma to hand over to the most senior Deputy Comptroller General of Immigration Rilwan Bala Musa.

The full text of the statement reads: "I am directed to convey approval of His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele, GCFR President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for you (Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma) to proceed on your pre-retirement accumulated leaves.

"I am to further convey that you are to hand over the duties and responsibilities of your office on Wednesday, 16th January, 2013 to the most senior Deputy Comptroller General of Immigration in the person of Rilwan Bala Musa, MNI, who will act as Comptroller General of Immigration pending the appointment of a substantive CG of Immigration.

"On behalf of the Hon. Minister of Interior and all members of the board, I wish to thank you for your service to Nigeria. The board wishes you good luck in your future endeavour".

Daily Trust learnt that Mrs Uzoma is officially due to retire on March 6, 2013 but a controversial recruitment exercise and sour relations with her minister might have hastened her departure.

Sources said she had earlier declined to serve a mandatory three-month retirement notice, even though two deputy comptroller generals, who are also due to retire in the same month with her, had done so.

The government's decision to publicly announce her retirement was an apparent disapproval of the way she handled issues in the service in recent months.

The controversial recruitment exercise, exclusively reported by Daily Trust, had allegedly favoured Mrs Uzoma's kinsmen in the south-eastern part of the country.

Some members of the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Character, which launched an investigation into the recruitment scandal, had also accused her of secretly offering hundreds of job slots to government officials and agencies, including the Presidency, the interior minister and the Federal Character Commission.

But both the minister and the commission had vehemently denied the allegations. Mrs Uzoma too had denied ever offering job slots to any official or agency.

She had earlier told the committee that she had obtained approval from the Head of Service of the Federation to employ 4,560 people. But the committee ordered her to halt the exercise; and when the scandal hit headlines the interior minister too ordered the cancellation of the exercise.

In a statement, Mr Moro said the cancellation was necessary due to the "apparent controversy trailing the exercise".

The minister said all appointment letters issued and documentation carried out should be cancelled until the Prison and Immigration Board meets to consider the waiver granted the Immigration Service to recruit staff.

But as the issue gained public attention, the comptroller general launched her own public relations campaign saying that the minister's decision was informed by false media reports.

Speaking at a media forum in Abuja, Mrs Uzoma said: "The recent publication gave a very wrong impression; I want to put it on record that the Nigeria Immigration Service has not issued a single employment letter to any Nigerian this season.

"It is only two weeks ago (in December 2012) that we got approval from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation to recruit and even when we had that approval, my minister travelled out of the country.

"So, we are in the process of arranging this recruitment exercise. We needed also to get consent from the Federal Character Commission. We just got this approval from the Federal Character Commission on the procedures that we intend to adopt on the 24th (of December 2012)".

She said the report about irregular recruitment was published on the same day the service received approval for recruitment from the commission.

According to her, the planned recruitment was meant to correct the existing anomaly in the service's workforce in which 12 states were at disadvantaged position as they "lack immigration officers".

Sources said her challenge of the minister's position on the issue and alleged defiance of some of his directives further complicated their relationship which they said might have contributed to the announcement of her retirement.

However, the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior Mr Taye Akinyemi told Daily Trust that there was no link between her retirement and the recruitment issue or her relations with the minister. "This has nothing to do with it at all," he insisted.

Mrs Uzoma joined the service on December 21, 1978 and became the second woman to occupy the service's top job since it was extracted from the Nigeria Police Force in 1958.

She was appointed comptroller general on July 30, 2010, when she replaced Mr Chukwurah Udeh, who had a one-month extension because of a squabble over the choice of his successor.

On his part, the new Acting Comptroller General Rilwan Bala Musa was born on September 18, 1954 and joined the service in 1979. He became a deputy comptroller general in 2010.

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