Thursday, November 14, 2013

Museum calamity: Tragedy long-foretold …No going back on Nov 20 strike - Labour

Museum calamity: Tragedy long-foretold

…No going back on Nov 20 strike - Labour



I spent several hours on Wednesday, 13 November, 2013; trying to abridge an article to fit into available space in the Daily Sun of Thursday, 14 November.

The story that was finally published in my Travels section of the newspaper had actually been submitted much earlier, but; due to want of space, I had to revise the content.

As many a writer would agree, it is sometimes easier to write something fresh than to re-write a piece one had earlier worked on over and over. To make matters worse, the task had to be completed within a short while as deadline was almost upon the production crew.

In any case, we managed to do the best one could under the circumstances; and, the newspaper edition took up one full page in Daily Sun. Very generous of The Sun Publishing Limited, owners of Daily Sun, considering the going rate of adverts in any elite newspaper!

Below is the full version of that report:


Planned strike will go ahead

Amid frantic moves by forces within and outside the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) to abort a strike billed to commence on 20 November, executives of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); have declared the protest will go ahead.

“There’s no going back. As I speak to you, none of our demands has been met. So, once the 21-day ultimatum expires on 19 November, the strike will commence the following day”, said Comrade Adogah Abdullahi, Secretary of NCMM Chapter of AUPCTRE; during a telephone conversation with mauricearchibongtravels last Tuesday.

Page 1 of the 5-page memo by AUPCTRE to then Tourism and Culture Minister Jubrin Bello Gada.

Where AUPCTRE’s threat is carried through and museum workers down tools from 20 November, the NCMM would have been hit by no fewer than 10 strikes in six years. Meanwhile, information leaked to mauricearchibongtravels indicate overtures had been made to an NCMM management staff believed to have warm relations with labour to “influence” some activists to back out of the proposed industrial action.

However, the consulted intercessor has thus far failed to deliver, despite promises to appoint him Head-of-Station; if he succeeded in ensuring the strike was called off. The man’s refusal to cooperate may have to do with concern for his place in posterity. Interestingly, the same man had been allegedly by-passed unjustly for promotion two times in recent years.

In a related development, an sms sent to a director of the NCMM has literally gone viral, shared by countless workers as another evidence of corruption within the system. For clarity, Mauricearchibongtravels has taken the liberty of editing the text message, but; what follows adumbrates the issue: “Sir, I applied for N200,000 for the repair of cages …” (but, a boss, names withheld) “collected N120,000 from me. Sir, I am not used to this kind of business. So, please help me collect the N120,000 to enable me do the work (properly)”.

Interpretation: N200,000 had been approved for the repair of cages at the National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ) but the welder/technician after collecting the money and endorsing receipt of same through his signature, was asked to handover N120,000 (60 per cent of the sum) to a big-man.

Now, if the welder kept quiet and decided to “manage” the remaining N80,000 to do the job; would that not be putting the lives of zoo visitors and workers at risk? Ca c’est la vie (Such is life) at the NCMM, for you. Crises-racked NCMM is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation.

Messrs Yusuf Abdallah Usman is NCMM’s immediate-past Director General, while Oluremi Adedayo and Barth Chukwuezi are Director of Monuments, Heritage and Sites (MHS); and, Director of Educational Services and Training respectively.

In normal climes, any public officer linked to any alleged serious fraud would strive to clear his/her name. To assist the affected official, authorities sometimes relieve that person of appointment pending the outcome of investigations. Unfortunately, countless public officers suspected of fraud in Nigeria refuse to walk away. Even after they had actually been indicted through independent enquiry, many have been known to dig in rather than go away quietly.

In the case of the NCMM, where incidents of looting are legion, with ample damning evidences; curiously, no public enquiry had been instituted to unravel the situation. Therefore, neither Mr. Abdallah Usman nor any of his perceived co-travellers on an alleged journey to “take the NCMM nowhere”; had been indicted.

In this light, the only alternative left to museum watchers seemed to be, to wait patiently for the four-year tenure granted Usman to run out. Normally, Usman might have been handed a second four-year term as director general of the NCMM, if he had recorded any groundbreaking achievement.

Sadly, Usman’s leadership was not only tainted with countless cases of alleged fraud, his performance was considered dismal. Therefore, had he left quietly when his term expired on 4 November, 2013; Usman would have spared himself and the nation more anguish. Instead, the man chose to cling on. He continued to occupy office illegally after his tenure had elapsed.

So, sordid details had to be revealed regarding how badly Mr. Abdallah Usman ran the NCMM, over the last four years; to buttress the submission against a second term as director general to this man. The catastrophy wrought on the NCMM and the nation generally by Usman’s maladministration could have been averted, had the powers at the time listened to wise counsel.

Yes, the tragedy was long-foretold. In a memo dated 11 November, 2009; entitled Re: Appointment of Yusuf Abdallah Usuman As Director General, National Commission for Museum (NCMM); the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); labour balked at the appointment of Mr. Abdallah Usman; thus: “We write to express our concern over the recent appointment of Yusuf Abdallah Usuman, as Director General, National Commission for Museum and Monuments …”.

Going by this memo, reference AUP/FCT/23/III/09/195, which was signed by Comrade David Decker, then AUPCTRE Federal Zonal Secretary; and, sent to the then Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Senator Jubrin Bello Gada; labour stated: “Much as this Union acknowledges the prerogatives of Mr. President to make such appointments, we are not against the personality of the officer so Appointed”.

Nonetheless, AUPCTRE went on to add: “We are compelled to make the following observations: Yusuf Abdallah Usman is BSc holder from ABU (Ahmadu Bello University) Zaria 1983, and was employed in 1991 by the NCMM as a Chief Researcher on GL 14.

“It may interest you to note that he did not transfer his service(s) from any establishment. That is to say that, he was appointed as a fresher; He obtained an MSc from BUK (Bayero University Kano) in 2000, and attended Institute of Archaeology and Museum Studies (IAMS) Jos; with a dismal record of performance after the 9-month programme;

“From the records, Yusuf Abdallah is the most Junior Director in the NCMM and the process of his appointment as Director General runs contrary to the provisions of the guidelines for such appointments as contained in the Federal Government Circular Ref. No. SGF/OP/I/S.3/T.1 of 14 August, 2009; Paragraph (II):

“Such appointments which should be without prejudice to eligible serving officers competing for those positions must be based on strict adherence to the principle of Justice, equity and fairplay”.

AUPCTRE was not through: “It will not be out of place to categorically say that Yusuf Abdallah Usuman was most favoured by your office as the Hon. Minister, as recommended by the immediate-past Director General to cover some of his questionable acts that culminated into his failure, some of which we wish to highlight:

“Diversions of N15 million funds meant for the rehabilitation of Museum of Traditional Natural Architecture (MOTNA) Jos, which was directly under the supervision of Yusuf Abdallah Usuman, Director Heritage;

“Diversions of N20 million funds meant for Oke Idanre (Ondo State) World Heritage site; Diversion of N23 million funds meant for Koko Museums (Delta State) appropriated in 2007 Budget; Duplication of Koko Museums project appropriated in 2007 budgetry provisions and replicated in one of the projects to be executed with Presidential Intervention Funds (PIF) notwithstanding the fact that it was not part of the initial projects to be coverd by PIF;

“Questionable inculcation of Sokoto Museums amongst the PIF projects, knowing fully well that the PIF does not cover Sokoto Museums; The questionable leasing of National War Museums Guest House, Umuahia (Abia State) for the period of 10 years at the cost of N8 million without due regard and recourse  to the Federal Government policy of due Process and the consent of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) the sole authority vested with such powers;

“Hon Minister, we are compelled to believe that Yusuf Abdallah Usuman was planted to cover-up the immediate past Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, because on assumption of office, he has set in motion moves to remove some principal officers of the NCMM considered as clog (sic) in the wheel of executing the scripts written for him by his mentors”; the labour scribe charged.

For the record, Mr. Abdallah Usman, a wild-card literally, was forced on the nation as NCMM DG, during the tenure of Senator Jubrin Bello Gada as Minister of Tourism and Culture. In his memo, which has now proven prophetic, Decker implored: “The appointment of Yusuf Abdallah Usuman as the Director General, NCMM should be put on hold or cancelled on the grounds that it was done in utter disregard with (sic) the extant rules and without recourse to the Rule of Law, Natural Justice, Equity and Fairplay (considering that) the most junior Director was recommended for appointment, leaving out his seniors for no just cause”.

Concluding, Decker stated; “We humbly request to meet with your management on Monday, 23 November, 2009 at 10 am at your office”. It remains unclear what transpired at that meeting, if at all it took place. But, barely three months later, Comrade Decker was reported dead. He was said to have died from an accident along the Abuja-Jos route.

Interestingly, Mr. Samuel Sabo Bature, an accountant that was once put in charge of the graft-ridden National Zoological Garden Jos (NZGJ), has also died. Only recently, the Manager of NZGJ, Mr. John Aruwa, came under a hail of bullets as he was returning to the Plateau State capital on 25 September, 2013.

It is worth noting that by 11 November, one week since the four-year tenure granted Usman came to an end, no memo had been issued appointing an acting DG for the NCMM. This explains why Usman continued to show up in office.

In healthy climes, such a memo is merely routine bureaucratic exercise. Curiously, something that should be simple administrative practice requires threat of strike and public outcry to implement. Such is the situation in Nigeria …

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