By Ikechukwu Alozie
There is no end in sight to the extent to which politicians can go to disrupt any system or process that does not favour their perfidious and nefarious plans. Our investigation has revealed that the plot to remove the Permanent Secretary of the ministry is purely political, no more no less. In abroad, the ministry of industry, trade and investment, like the ministry of foreign affairs, is like the gateway to any country.
Consequently, the ministry of industry, trade and investment, in other shores, is like countries’ major international airports, with arrival and departure halls, very clean and massively beautified. In other countries, the ministry of industry, trade and investment is a place where records are kept in its most cautionary validity and visibility devoid of corruption. In that ministry, workers wear their best character because they reflect the conduct of the country’s workforce to the international community.
Not in Nigeria. Here, the ministry is the most aberrant with decadent and squalid environment, where records are not kept; where even the stench oozing out of the toilets is so obnoxious that it could send you to your early grave. It is a place where corruption rears its ugly head in the most unscrupulous blight and garishness. They reap from where they did not sow under the watch and supervision of a sitting minister while the looting continues unabated.
This was aptly the state of things in the ministry before Dr. Mrs. Evelyn Ngige was redeployed there in August this year. While the permanent secretary had started settling down and on familiarization tour of the ministry, the workers started raising issues on the inherited challenges of the ministry. These challenges included the deplorable state of affairs and poor service delivery which had affected staff morale.
As programmed by its sponsors who kept stoking the fire because of the presence of the new permanent secretary who had vowed to halt the unnerving menace in the agency, workers now started saying that the mess was as a result of the activities of someone who assumed duty barely three months ago. Like the story of the tortoise which had been in the pit for several weeks but started complaining the day it was brought out of the stench-hole, Labour leaders now started alleging that the presence of the permanent secretary could no longer guarantee industry harmony.
Even when it is obvious that the union executives had confronted the permanent secretary over the challenges in the ministry on August 11, 2021 while on familiarization visit to the ministry before her assumption of duty, workers are now saying that it is the redeployment of the woman from the ministry that would guarantee peace since, according to them, she created the .ugly situation. Is the ministry not in a peculiar Nigerian situation?
But our investigative and insight team has it on good authority that the messy condition is aggressively being fired and stoked by the presiding deity of the ministry who is nursing ambition to run for the governorship position in his state. According to the source, who sought for anonymity, he prefers the chaotic state of affairs in the ministry to a condition of sanity provided corrupt money keeps flowing into his pocket for his election project. In a normal country, heads would roll including the arrest and detention of the corrupt union leaders who are now calling white black because of oil greasing their palms.
Yet, this is Nigeria where anything goes. If truly the Buhari administration wears the toga of integrity in its anti-corruption badge, why are things still like this in the ministry? Our findings show that the Permanent Secretary has had to meet with the union executives, gave them assurance and explored ways to douse tension before now. She premised this on the available resources at her disposal upon assumption of office. In an attempt to address the ugly concerns of the ministry, the management had proffered quite a number of solutions.
These include, amongst others, the holding of several meetings by management and union leaders, and arrival at modalities for the resolution of the nagging issues. Also, the ministry had commenced the payment of welfare/training allowance to staff for the annual training programme. It has also awarded contracts for the supply of working materials, etcetera. The procurement process has already commenced.
In fact, the National Negotiation Council had held a meeting with management and the union executives on November 5, 2021, where it was agreed that all parties should halt actions. A town hall meeting was also proposed but was opposed to by the union on grounds of the safety of the permanent secretary on the event of the meeting being hijacked by concerned staff. The management had also engaged directors conversant with the issues to meet with union executives for a peaceful resolution of the issues.
In the process of addressing those issues, the union executives had embarked on some arbitrary and questionable actions just to cause industrial disharmony. Power supply to the ministry was interrupted with the intent of disrupting industrial harmony since September 25, 2021. While disrupting activities in the Permanent Secretary’s office with consistent ringing of bells on September 27, 2021, they also disrupted top management meeting presided over by the Minister of State on Thursday October 28, 2021. This led to the destruction of the entrance glass door and government property and prevention of staff from gaining access to the ministry’s premises on October 29.
The negative effect of the violent posture and disruption of activities in the ministry by sponsored staff is taking a toll on the agency and government is losing tremendously. Vital diplomatic meetings that are supposed to take place there cannot hold because of these devious activities of the staff. And the substantive minister, Niyi Adebayo is not bothered since the ultimate of the crisis is the removal of the permanent secretary who is bent on sanitizing the place. All this is happening under the watch of a sitting minister. And nobody is talking. Nigeria, where is your soul?
Alozie lives in Abuja.