More developments have emerged on why the recent hostilities that pitched members of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) in the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) against the management ensued.
The members had recently in a press statement, protested the secondment of the President of the Air Transport Senior Staff Services of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Benjamin Okewu to AIB, claiming it contradicts the rules but AIB responded that the secondment was a normal thing in civil service adding that it did not err in accepting Okewu as acting head, human resources in the Bureau.
The AIB is supposed to be working silently without much ado as it is preoccupied with making recommendations to agencies and airlines on air crashes and ensuring implementation of such.
But the reverse seems to be the case now as the Bureau has in the last two weeks, witnessed some battles as a result of internal issues.
Some people claimed that some members of the asssociation, which was recently inaugurated in the bureau, may have been sponsored by some disgruntled elements who are bent on removing the Commissioner, Dr. Felix Abali.
Some also said: ‘these disgruntled elements who are believed to be angling for power had written anonymous petitions against Abali in the past to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Department of State Service ( DSS), the Nigeria Police, the Ministry of Aviation and even to the presidency, over alleged corrupt practices.
They noted further that investigations carried out by all the relevant organisations, including the presidency exonerated Abali of all the allegations.
The sources explained further that afterwards, ‘the petitioners may have resorted into using some union members to carry out some plan aimed at removing Abali’.
They noted further that ‘the disgruntled persons also alleged incompetence despite his many years at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), adding that Abali also attended other renowned institutions after bagging a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering’
According to some staff of the Bureau who spoke on this issue, “the deluge of petitions and current subterfuge are the handiwork of the same cabal that had fought past administrations since the inception of the bureau, i guess it is the same persons that are at work to oust Dr Abali hoping to gain power and control in the agency.
The source, who alleged that one of the NAAPE leaders in AIB already had three disciplinary issues in his file awaiting management’s resolutions, added that the local union leaders were recently involved in insulting the Commissioner under the guise of trade unionism.
“Before the management could decide what to do about it, NAAPE had taken the matter to the media portraying the Commissioner as a violent personality. Although the National secretariat is believed to be reaching out to the AIB management to preempt possible sanction, the option left to the management is to decide whether it wants to dance to the union’s tune or set a bad precedent of allowing insubordination in the organisation.
“We are curious that the leadership of NAAPE would not fight for the general welfare of its members but rather pursues personal war against the management, why NAAPE could not address the injustice done to its members in AIB following the recruitment done under a former minister and would be fighting for members of another union”, he queried.
The source alleged that the recent eyebrows raised against the secondment of Okewu to AIB was a distraction to bring down Abali.
He said there is a strong feeling that some of the unionists don’t want Okewu in AIB,,adding that they have vowed to fight him to a standstill and also our management for accepting union.
Speaking further, a staff of the Bureau said: “One of their members who is a Level Grade 12 officer was rude to a senior officer in the agency, which is not tolerated in the civil service rule. The same person threatened to beat up two of his colleagues at two different times, which has led to queries been issued him, too. The same officer was also rude to the CEO of this organisation about two weeks ago. Does his being a union leader give him the leverage to be rude to his superiors?
According to him, it appears the rivalry between ATTSSAN and NAAPE may have turned AIB into a battle ground.
It would be recalled that NAAPE alleged that the promotion was unilaterally made by the Commissioner who made Okewu to be promoted from level 12 to 15 and as a result, had sent a petition to the Ministry of Transportation, claiming that the commissioner breached the civil service rules.
The petition with (Ref: NS/GS/00440/2016), titled, “Serious Infractions At AIB Need Your Urgent Intervention” which was dated July 4, 2016 and addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, which was also copied to the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, was signed by NAAPE, Deputy General Secretary, Comrade Umoh Ofonime.
It noted that Okewu was seconded to AIB from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria as a Principal Planning Officer on Grade Level 12, adding that it was shocked that the same person was given the headship of the Human Resources Department (HRD) and promoted to Grade Level 15, lamenting that Okewu’s new position is alien to the organogram of AIB.
“We must point out the fact that Mr. Okewu’s elevation from GL 12 to GL 15 and from a different field – Planning, in another organisation, NCAT, was done over two other staff of the Human Resources Department, who presently are on GL 14 and due for promotion to GL 15.Chiejine Elemechi Dora (Mrs.) and Otegwu Celine Ego (Mrs.) are both Chief Admin. Officers on GL 14 in the bureau before Okewu came into the bureau on GL 15. We wonder if these facts have been disclosed to the Federal Ministry of Transportation and if the ministry actually approved such travesty”.
Meanwhile, a document from the Human Resources Management of the Ministry of Transportation with Reference number: FMA/PMD/0019/S.6/C.3/1/9, dated May 10, 2016, and addressed to the Commissioner of AIB, informed him of the approval of the Okewu’s redeployment to the bureau from NCAT for two years in the first instance from February 20, 2016.
The letter which was signed by the Director, Human Resource Management, on behalf of Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Sirika advised the agency’s boss on “strict adherence to the rules guiding secondment in the public service.”.