Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Museum brouhaha gets to a head


Museum brouhaha gets to a head

…Labour declares strike, Nov 20

By MAURICE ARCHIBONG

Corruption destroys lives and communities as well as undermines countries and institutions
 - Transparency International
 
Whatever has a beginning must someday come to an end: so, the four-year term appointment of Mr. Abdallah Yusuf Usman as Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); elapsed on November 4, 2013.

The expiration of Mr. Abdallah Usman’s tenure must mean monumental relief for NCMM staffers, majority of whom confided in mauricearchibongtravels, that never, in the 70-year history of that establishment has the Commission witnessed such catastrophic leadership.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
PHOTOS: MAURICE ARCHIBONG. All Rights Reserved.
It is worth recalling that, it was during the tenure of Senator Jubrin Bello Gada as Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation (FMCT) that Mr. Abdallah Usman was foisted on the NCMM. During Senator Gada’s tenure, hundreds of millions of naira were diverted and allegedly spent on dubious projects.

And, evocative of the ruinous tenure of his perceived mentor, Usman had also gone on to foster corruption to the extent that the NCMM became virtual mnemonic for shenanigans. Welcome to the NCMM, an agency of FMCT, where favoured workers do not have to observe due process.

Like their outgone boss, such ones do not have to come to work everyday. But, once funding arrives, the fat-cats in whose hands management of the NCMM has been put, show up; collect their booty and disappear never to be sighted again, until the next subvention had been remitted.

'It is worth pointing out, that Nigeria, which placed 37th most corrupt country in 2011, came close to repeating the score in 2012, when our beloved nation clinched an uneviable 35th most corrupt country in the world; despite commendable and observable efforts by the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led Federal Government to rein-in the cancerous menace'.
 
Until November 4, 2013 Mr. Abdallah Usman was NCMM helmsman; but, Mr. Oluremi Adedayo, Bode Oke and Dr. Barth Chukwuezi; Director, Monuments, Heritage and Sites; Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) and Director, Educational Services and Training respectively at the NCMM are still in service.
Outgone DG, NCMM: Yusuf Abdallah Usman.

When Abdallah Usman’s appointment elapsed, bureaucratic norm required that a memo should have been issued, asking the outgone DG to handover to an acting DG, pending the appointment of a substantive one. However, efforts to know who that acting director general is, have thus far proven futile because the response from the Federal Director of Culture, Mr. George Ufot, to our enquiry via sms was a terse: “I don’t know”.

In any case, there have been strident calls for Usman to go over the last two years. Meanwhile, the clamour against his re-appointment has waxed even more deafening. A body called Integrity Action Committee (IAC) of the NCMM recently issued a press release stating that it shall resist any attempt to impose Usman on workers for another four years.

In their latest correspondence to tourism and culture minister; a copy of which was sent to mauricearchibongtravels, via e-mail; IAC threatened: “We … the entire staff of the Commission (NCMM) will from this moment, resist any further attempt to forcefully impose Abdallah's despicable regime on us. We will not be sorry for whatever action we take next in this regard”.

Ponder on more excerpts from the IAC memo: “We have the profound joy of bringing to your notice, the expiration of the four-year tenure of office, granted to Mr. Usman Yusuf Abdallah on Saturday, November 2, 2013. With this occurrence, Mr. Usman Abdalah ought to have vacated office and an acting DG appointed for us to run our affairs.

“The continued presence of Mr. Abdallah Usman and his further representation of the NCMM is seen by the staff as an illegality. We have waited patiently and endured for long to see an end to his tortuous and criminal administration”.

It could be recalled that the Manager, National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ), Mr. John Aruwa, came under a hail of bullets as he was returning to the Plateau State capital on September 25, 2013. The NZGJ is at the heart of a recent outpouring of revelations regarding misappropriations, diversion and misuse of staggering sums of money.

Although both Mr. Aruwa and his driver escaped unhurt, it was gathered that a bullet pierced through the body of the automobile they were riding in. Mauricearchibongtravels has also been reliably informed that the NCMM management had, in a recent memo, directed Mr. Aruwa to suspend work on a so-called Picnic Grounds inside the NZGJ.

Interestingly, the authorities had also directed the zoo manager to recover some N450,000 paid to contractors for planting carpet grass. It is not known, if the zoo manager has complied. The NZGJ stands within the sprawling Jos Museum complex and insiders that spoke with mauricearchibongtravels on condition of anonymity, said the attackers’ motive remains a mystery.

Apart from the many startling incidents of looting at the NZGJ, the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA) is another area through which money has been serially siphoned. Another sticking point in the sides of NCMM Management members is the lease of a Federal Government estate on Adeola Hopewell Street in Victoria Island, Lagos; without authorisation, and at a fee that many consider laughable.

For the record: successive Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Head of Service of the Federation; Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation; Minister of Labour and Productivity; Permanent Secretary, Tourism and Culture Ministry; Permanent Secretary, Labour and Productivity Ministry; Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism; and, Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism; among others, were briefed on the shenanigans at the NCMM.

Therefore, those that failed to act accordingly, even in the face of perceived overwhelming evidence, could in the future be held responsible for aiding and abetting corruption. Interestingly, not all public servants would be accused of ominous silence that could be misconstrued for complicity, here.

Instance: The response from the Office of The President of the Senate, NASS/SP/SA/COMPT/03/I/1168 dated October 2, 2013; to a letter entitled Monumental Corruption in the National Commission for Museums and Monuments”; signed by AUPCTRE Secretary, Comrade Adogah A. Abdullahi; reads inter alia: “The President of the Senate, Dr. David A. B. Mark GCON is in receipt of your letter on the above subject matter.

“Your letter has been referred to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism for further necessary action”. That memo was signed by Victor Abang, Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to the Senate President.

In another memo, dated October 30, 2013; AUPCTRE had issued the mandatory 21-day notice of its plan to embark on industrial action. In this memo, signed by AUPCTRE National Chairman and Secretary, Comrades Omonkhua Ikhuehi and Adogah Abdullahi respectively, and addressed to the director general, the labour activists demand, among others, “The whereabouts of N225m handed over by Mr. Akin Roberts”; “The whereabouts/balance of N47m posted into IAMS accounts in December 2011 out of which only N16m was expended for the payment of arrears…”; “The whereabouts of money budgetted for staff training in 2013 as no visible training has taken place”; “Reversal of lease of DG, NCMM Quarters on Adeola Hopewell, Victoria Island for N24m”; and, “Reversal (of sale) of portion of land in MOTNA Jos for construction of a filling station”. 

As things stand, it is possible that the appointment of an acting DG for NCMM may stave off the November 20 industrial action. But, where Usman’s exit is not formally sealed, this could well be the excuse labour activists crave to down tools, again.

It could be recalled that NCMM workers went on strike from January 10 to the 17th, 2013. And, no fewer than 10 strikes or rumours of strike have hit the NCMM in the last six years. Usman had been NCMM DG in the last four of those half-a-dozen years.

Epilogue

Local and international observers pointed out during discussions with mauricearchibongtravels that the NCMM scenerio lends itself as a veritable and verifiable index to bodies that work on national corruption rating. “Corruption is a major threat facing humanityIt generates popular anger that threatens to further destabilise societies and exacerbate violent conflicts”, according to the 2012 report by the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI).

“Corruption”, TI continued; “destroys lives and communities as well as undermines countries and institutions”. It is worth pointing out, that Nigeria, which placed 37th most corrupt country in 2011, came close to repeating the score in 2012, when our beloved nation clinched an uneviable 35th most corrupt country in the world; despite commendable and observable efforts by the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led Federal Government to rein-in the cancerous menace.

Sadly, the brazen impunity of officials involved in legion cases of corruption as well as the seeming intractable nature of this scourge at the NCMM must be one of the reasons,  Nigeria’s ranking might not get better next year; unless Usman’s departure was confirmed.

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