By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The recent premature retirement of seven Assistant Controller Generals (ACGs) of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), formerly known as Nigerian Prison Service has taken a new dimension.
This is sequel to the removal of their names from the service official payrolls, even as none of the retirees has been given the official letter of retirement as required by law and extant regulations.
Investigations revealed that the senior officers who should have gone on retirement with their service vehicles, as has been the custom, have been directed through a radio message (internal circular) titled: Revalidation of Retired Officers’ Vehicles and reference no. NPS.577/S/VOL.111/211 dated August 9th, 2021 to return their vehicles.
The circular was signed by a Deputy Controller General(DCG) Akinrujumu Tosin J on behalf of the Controller General of Corrections.
The exercise has since commenced on the required date of the revalidation which was August 16th, 2021.
The seven top officials include ACG Clementina Okereke, ACG Bello Bomoi, ACG Abubakar Y. Garba, ACG Babangida Y. Mohammed. Others are: ACG Petr I. Pevigo, ACG Yusuf O. Kasali and ACG Chiabua C.V Uche.
It was learnt that the directive which was from the Controller General of the Correctional Service asked the ACGs/Zonal Coordinators of zones A-H and Controllers in charge of State Commands to assist in disseminating the information to the retirees within their area of operations.
The Radio Message also noted that the retired officers with official vehicles whose names were listed should come forward with whichever vehicles they must have retired with for revalidation and clearance of their papers.
The seven retired officers have since sent an official notification to the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola to have an audience with him, but the Minister was said to have yet to respond to their request.
In their appeal to the Minister, the officials had requested the service to pay them upfront the salaries for the remaining number of months they should have served before being due for retirement; pay them their promotion arrears for the rank of ACGs because it is on record that those promoted with effect from January, 2019 have since been paid, while they are also demanding their allowances due to them in respect of the transfers known as (MOP) which they underwent while in service.
The appeal to the Interior Minister was made because several meetings with the Controller General of Corrections CG Haliru Nababa has not yielded the desired the results.
Meanwhile it was gathered that seven serving Assistant Controller Generals (ACGs) who took part in the screening and examination as candidates that later produced the current Controller General were ‘arbitrarily’ sacked by the Minister of Interior.
The officers who were summoned from various stations outside Abuja to the National Headquarters of the service purportedly for a meeting with the newly-appointed Controller General, Haliru Nababa were shocked when they were handed notices of voluntary retirement with effect from 9 June 2021.
The letter signed by one Mrs Aisha A. Rufai of CDCFIB, reads: “In view of the convention on seniority in the military and paramilitary services in respect to the newly appointed Controller-General, and in addition to other antecedents, you are hereby advised to proceed on voluntary retirement from the service with effect from 9th June 2021″.
However, a source familiar with the development said, “None of the retired officers was senior to the new CG which is evident in the staff nominal rolls. For instance, there are three DCGs who were promoted with effect from 1st January, 2019 and 2020, and by that are senior to the CGC whose date of appointment is APRIL 2021.
“Surprisingly, the DCGs were left in the service while the seven ACGs whose dates of promotional appointment are 1st January 2018.
“It is also curious that the letter of the retirement cited tradition in the Military and Paramilitary. There had never been such antecedents in NCoS. In 1996 when Alhaji Ibrahim Jarma who was an ACG, was appointed CGP, he worked together with all his superior and contemporaries. Again, in 2002 when Abraham Akpe was appointed, he worked with all his contemporaries.
“Also, in 2006 when Olusola Ogundipe was picked from among the ACGs, he worked with his hitherto superiors. In 2012 when Zakari Ibrahim (DCG) was appointed, he did the same, so also Dr. Peter Ekpendu in 2014.
“Similarly, when the immediate past substantive CGP was appointed, he worked with his superior and contemporaries. The only senior officer to him by name Alhaji Aminu Sulley he wanted to retire took the matter to court and it was decided in his favour,” the source said.
“The cancellation of the letter and subsequent returns of these officers who are some of the brilliant minds in the cadre will give bite to the reform of the NCoS as spelt out in the Correctional Service Act, 2019 which was graciously assented to by Mr. President.”
Meanwhile, it was learnt that some of the affected officers are calling on President Mohammad Buhari, the Senate President and Honorable Speaker of House of Representatives to look into the matter and redress the anomaly in the interest of equity, justice and fairness.