THE Senate has criticised the Director-General, Nigeria Maritime Security Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi for flouting the Federal Character principle in the recent recruitment exercise undertaken by the agency.
The Upper Chamber, through its committee on Federal Character, also expressed dissatisfaction with the NIMASA boss over alleged forced retirement under the guise of golden handshake, where younger and inexperienced personnel were used to replace superior ones on the ground of ethnicity.
A member of the committee, Senator Ali Ndume, said the so-called golden handshake to four of the staff of the agency who were said to have been retired four years before their due date, was indeed “an arm-twisting exercise aimed at creating space for some younger elements from a particular zone of the country.”
Chairman of the committee, Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta, described the last recruitment exercise conducted by the agency as unhealthy. According to him, Bayelsa State had 25 people employed while its neighbouring Rivers State had only three people recruited.
He therefore called on the chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Prof. Abdulraham Oba, to furnish the committee with the names of the right and genuine candidates that would fill the posts being vacated by the affected people in the golden handshake.
This list, he said, would help to ascertain whether the agency has totally violated the federal character principle.
In his response, the Director General of NIMASA denied the allegation favouring certain states or geo-political zones of the country in retiring people from the service.
Akpobolokemi, who appeared before the Senate Committee investigating the alleged job racketeering in the government agencies, also admitted that his agency is not up to 80 per cent compliant to the federal character principle but it is doing everything possible to ensure that it complies in its recruitments.
On the compulsory retirement, he explained that there has never been a time that the agency forced anybody out of service, adding that those who left the agency did so voluntarily.
He added that there was no mistake in the area of the golden handshake, as the four staff who were leaving would also be sent to the United Kingdom for pre-retirement training at the expense of the agency. He maintained that many other members of staff have been expressing their willingness to leave service before their due date of retirement.