*Interior Minister, CG accused of complicity *Majority of beneficiaries from Katsina
*Aggrieved officers petition National Assembly *Promotion is not a right -NIS
A group of officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), has cried out over what they described as ethnic and religious biases exhibited in the recent senior officers’ promotion exercise carried out by the Service.
The aggrieved officers, drawn mainly from the Southern part of the country, accused the leadership of NIS of pursuing an Islamisation agenda in the para-military organisation by denying officers of other faiths their due rights to advance their careers.
In a protest letter signed by one Mr. Olubode Ahmed on behalf of the aggrieved officers, and made available to us, the officers alleged that the promotion exercise was marred by fraud, ethnic bias and discrimination along religious lines.
They specifically accused the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd), the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede, and a serving Commissioner at Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration Board, an Assistant Comptroller-General (rtd) of conniving with the Acting Director of the board to tamper with the authentic list from the board to favour officers of the same ethnic and religious leaning (i.e. Fulanis and Muslims) at the expense of other officers from other ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The statement reads: “A close study of the promotion list showed that Muslim officers from the North, especially the North-West, were favoured above others from other regions. How does one explain that the first two pages of the list of officers promoted from the rank of Chief Superintendent of Immigration (CSI) to Assistant Comptroller of Immigration (ACI) contained the name of Muslim officers of Northern extraction?
“The question concerned citizens, are asking is; do they represent the most intelligent in the Service? Also, Katsina State alone produced five to six Comptrollers, while some southern states had none. Some officers have been on the rank of CSI, ACI and DCI for six to eight years and these Northern officers who were recently elevated in 2014 were again elevated at the detriment of their Southern counterparts. This amounts to insensitivity and the height of injustice and nepotism. Some officers of Southern extraction that were lucky to have been promoted alluded to the fact that their northern officer friends facilitated their elevation.”
Lamenting the perceived ill-treatment, one of the victims cried out: “For God’s sake, are some people superior to others in this country? No doubt, there is a grand attempt and plan to Islamise the service because by the time you are not promoted, you will be forced to accept Islam. This is so sad in a democratic and liberal country like ours. It is also to ensure that a particular ethnic and religious group dominates too. They should know that there is a God watching everything we do here on earth”.
Another affected officer, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, claimed that the list released was selective, not the authentic promotion list approved by the board.
“We are not in any way questioning the Comptroller-General of Immigration, (CGI), for promoting his personal aides, but we are against a situation whereby a particular ethnic and religious group is seen as superior to others.
“When Dambazzau came on board as the Minister, we were happy, thinking that he was going to make things better; we never knew that he came to promote ethnic and religious agenda. Babandede on the other hand behaved like an emperor who has no regard for officers and men. He plants his men in sensitive positions, who threatens and harass officers with postings and dismissal.
“When did it become the responsibility of the CGI to promote senior officers? When did promotion become the sole right of people from the same ethnic /religious group? Is it now a sin or taboo to be a southerner or Christian?”
Hence, the aggrieved officers appealed to the Presidency, their representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives, Christian bodies and well-meaning Nigerians to come to their rescue and save them from their oppressors.
“We want fairness and justice. We want full investigation into this matter to right this wrong. This is grave injustice. Let the board speak. This is an imposed list. We will not watch a few individuals destroy our lives. The same thing happened to Civil Defence and this was what informed their decision to embark on a protest last week. Babandede should stop interfering in the affairs of the board; he should learn to be fair and just.
“It is universally believed that promotion comes from God Almighty and not from the North, South, East or West. The reverse seems to be the case with the recently released promotion by the NIS. Of all the newly promoted Comptrollers, five are from Katsina alone, while other states have little or no representation at all. Of over 280 CSI promoted to ACI, over 250 are of northern/ Muslim extraction. Many juniors are promoted above their seniors. This is reflected particularly in the promotion from CSI to ACI. The list did not reflect the state of origin and date of last promotion of the beneficiaries. This is a ploy to conceal the outright contradiction of the criteria guiding promotion of officers clearly stated in Section 7 of the Public Service Rule.
“This abnormality should be looked into by the appropriate authorities so as to restore sanity in the service. Officers’ career and destiny should not be allowed to be thwarted.
They also accused the CG of refusing to pay promotion arrears of deserving officers.
“The government cannot afford to look the other way and pretend that all is well when things are going wrong…We cannot remain as slaves in our fatherland. We have our rights. We are not in Libya. This kind of injustice can never happen in the Army or Police. It is just too glaring; this is the worst form of corruption and nepotism I have ever witnessed since I joined the Service, where people do things with impunity, believing that nothing will happen to them.
However, the Public Relations Officer, Clement James, an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, said promotion in the Service is based on merit and character, not a right. He added that if any officer, however, has any complaint about the promotion exercise, such should be sent to the Board, and not to the Senate or House of Representatives Committee on Interior. According to James, sending a petition to the National Assembly amounts to insubordination to laid down procedure, adding however, that he was yet to see a copy of the petition. He said the CG is doing everything possible to ensure equity and fair play in the service
Efforts to get official response from the Committees on Interior in the two chambers of the National Assembly proved abortive as the officials could not be reached as at press time. Senate Spokesman, Aliu Sabi, said he was yet to see the petition and would not comment on it.