The recent invitation by the State Security Service (SSS) of some senior officials of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for vetting and documentation is a normal practice in the public service, the Executive Secretary of the agency, Sharon Ikeazor, has said.
Ms Ikeazor was reacting to reports that at least 30 senior officials of her agency were invited for investigation by the security outfit as a way of harassing them.
She said there was nothing illegal about the exercise.
“It is normal to vet and profile senior government officials in public service. When one attains a certain level in government, and working in a place like the pensions office, it is compulsory one must undergo the process,” she told PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview in Abuja on Monday.
“I went for mine as well. It is not for selected persons. So far as you have attained a certain level in government, you must do it. I understand the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is also doing its own vetting of its officials. It is not something one should be afraid of.”
One of the officials affected by the exercise, who requested not to be named, for fear of victimisation, told PREMIUM TIMES they were invited by the vetting department of the SSS for vetting and documentation.
“At the SSS, we were asked to fill a form stating personal details about your primary, secondary and university education; family background; where you worked before; your relations and neighbours and all such information,” the official said.
The official expressed surprise they were asked to undergo the process, saying it was only when one was being offered appointment that vetting or background checks were usually done.
Recent publications on some online platforms and social media accused the executive secretary of being behind the SSS invitation ostensibly to harass the top staff opposed to some of her alleged “corrupt practices and illegal contract awards.”
One of the publications in elombah.com by the chairman of George Uboh Whistleblowers Network (GUWN), George Uboh, accused Ms Ikeazor of disobeying the Vice President, the National Assembly and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Mr Uboh said she refused to carry out directives by the trio for her to reinstate four of the five directors of the directorate sacked after a staff audit revealed they were irregularly appointed.
In March 2017, the executive secretary announced the sack of Director, Pension Support Services Department, Roz Ben-Okagbue; Director, Parastatals Pension Department, Taiwo Ogundipe; Director, Customs, Immigrations and Prisons Pension Department, Uloma Uruakpa; Director, Civil Service Pension Department, Godson Ukpevo, and Atiku Saleh of the Police Pension Department.
One of the directors is still undergoing investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission (ICPC).
But, in an interview with PREMIUM TMES, Ms Ikeazor denied she disobeyed directives to reinstate the sacked directors, saying they were indicted during the staff audit conducted by the anti-graft agency.
She said the audit report found the directors were above the age of 50 at the time of their employment, which is clearly in violation of the public service regulation.
“After the directors were asked to leave after the staff audit, the letter terminating their appointments stated clearly the salaries they earned throughout the period of their irregular appointments must be recovered and returned to government treasury.”
Following the sack, Ms Ikeazor said the affected directors not only took the matter to court, but also to the National Assembly Committee on Establishments (Senate) and the Pensions Committee in the House of Representatives.
She said before the Senate passed the final resolution requesting their reinstatement, the directors withdrew the matter from court.
“I am 33 years at the bar as a lawyer. I could not have responded when the matter was still before the court, because that could have been subjudice. If the Senate had the true picture of the issues, I am sure they would not have passed the resolution,” she said.
“The people who are still saying I refused to respond to the Senate invitation have chosen to hear one side of the case,” she said.
On reports that she ignored the vice president’s directive to reinstate the directors, Ms Ikeazor said the sacked directors wrote petitions individually through their lawyers to the vice president alleging irregularity in the termination of their appointments.
Ms Ikeazor said in her response to the vice president, she attached the highlights of the report of the staff audit which found the directors guilty of irregular appointment.
She said after the staff audit report, the then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who was the supervising minister of PTAD, approved the implementation of the staff audit report.
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