OUR attention has been drawn to another petition written by Nigerian Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) in its series of petitions and malicious media attacks aimed at bringing down Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
The management of AIB had initially decided to ignore NAAPE’s attacks and focus on its primary assignment but counsels from concerned members of the public and the staff that falsehood may appear to be the truth if unchallenged, forced this response. The public is being misinformed.
NAAPE has developed the penchant for writing petitions and before the authority could sit down to address its concerns, it takes the matter to the media. This mischief is a reflection of the kind of respect and confidence they have in constituted authorities and their diabolical ways of arm twisting them. By this, NAAPE has portrayed the Ministers of Transportation, the Minister of State for Aviation and the Minister of Labour as incompetent before their boss, the same way they are trying to make AIB Commissioner look incompetent.
The union in its petition alleged that the Head of Human Resources unilaterally sacked two Directors. This is total falsehood. The affected Directors, whose tenure, going by AIB Conditions of Service, had expired were informed through internal memos of their status as directed by the Commissioner. Before the expiration of their tenure, AIB had informed the Ministry of Transportation and is still awaiting their decision.
NAAPE stated that the Directors’ appointments had no tenure and that tenure system had been cancelled in the civil service. Tenure system was only suspended and not cancelled. However, does that also include contract staff? It means therefore that the affected Directors, who are currently about 70 years old, can therefore work forever. NAAPE should know better that tenure suspension is for career officers who will nevertheless be caught up with pensionable age of 60 years or 35 years in service. Is there any appointment in the civil service that has no terminal date?
In its petition, NAAPE also complained that the Commissioner went to Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Association (BAGAIA) meeting held in Gambia with Head of Public Affairs because he is neither an engineer nor a pilot. This is high display of ignorance. The meeting was purely about policy issues and Mr. Tunji Oketunbi who had series of certified accident investigation trainings spanning Transportation Safety Institute in Oklahoma, USA, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), USA and Cranfield University, United Kingdom among others made significant contributions at the meeting. He was part of the team that produced the report of the meeting.
NAAPE wondered why the Commissioner did not go with any of the Directors whose tenures would have expired during the conference period. They alleged that Dr. Felix Abali, Commissioner AIB has a complex and would not want to be outshined. This is laughable! How can Dr. Abali who has a B.Sc. in Mathematics, B.Sc, M.Sc,, Ph.D, Degrees in Mechanical Engineering, a scholar with two patents in the USA, who worked with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for several years, have complex before somebody who has a mere school certificate, if that much?
The union will rubbish all AIB staff except its only three members in its pre-determined assault on the Bureau. It questioned why the General Manager (Audit) who was the most senior staff around should act for the Commissioner in the latter’s absence. This is a display of ignorance of civil service rules.
On the secondment of Mr. Benjamin Okewu to AIB from Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), we have said so much and there is nothing else to say.
We enjoin NAAPE to wait for the authorities they have sent their petitions to resolve this matter and their other grievances, rather than disturbing the public space. If a quarter of the energy and passion devoted to causing trouble in AIB had been channelled to addressing Aero Contractor Airlines issues, the carrier would probably be flying today.
The Commissioner/CEO of AIB, Dr. Felix L. Abali has been using the resources meant for accident and incident investigation and that for monitoring of implementation of safety recommendations wrongly for monitoring of the projects in Enugu and Kano this is gross misplaced priority. As he alleged the involvement of NAAPE and her members to have written petitions to EFCC, ICPC, DSS, The Nigerian Police and the Presidency of corrupt practices and claimed to have been cleared by the agencies. Even though these agencies are left with the declaration of Dr. Felix L. Abali acclaimed clearance, it is important to note that neither NAAPE nor her members are involved in such petitions. The only petitions written by NAAPE was to the Permanent Secretary as regards the secondment of Mr. Benjamin Okewu who is a Principal Planning Officer on CONTEDISS 12 to Grade Level 15 usurping the position of 2 Admin Officers on Grade Level 14 whom are not NAAPE Members but currently due for Grade Level 15. Note that the Ministry’s letter of secondment and ratification had directed the Commissioner of AIB to treat Mr. Benjamin Okewu’s secondment strictly in line with Public Service Rules guiding secondment.
It is interesting to note that the Commissioner/CEO of the Bureau was aware of issues on ground concerning the 22 persons employed by Capt. M. S. Usman then Commissioner of AIB now DG of NCAA and the injustice meted on the experience investigators whose experience are well over 15 years and Capt. M. S. Usman placed these new recruits as their superiors on the old staff (experience investigators) which has been the issues on ground. This has led to unrest in the system and the well experience investigators had written series of letters on appeal for proper placement and NO positive response was given by the Commissioner/CEO. This clearly shows that Dr. Felix L. Abali has NO administrative capabilities and bringing Mr. Benjamin Okewu to allow Mrs. Cheijine Elemchi Dora and Mrs. Otegwu Celine Ego to suffer the same fate as that of the experience investigators. Also, NAAPE has suggested the way forward to the Commissioner/CEO sometime in January 2016 that the decision is at his discretion to do justice of elevating the experience investigators so that there will be industrial harmony in the Bureau but this Dr. Felix L. Abali failed to see reasons to address rather went ahead and commit more blunders. The impasse is that Benjamin Okewu who also has over stayed as ATSSSAN President was single handedly brought into the Bureau by Dr. Felix L. Abali to do his bid as the hatchet man and fight the Commissioner perceived enemies in the Bureau.
In the Letter from the office of the Commissioner/CEO to Mr. Benjamin Okewu (NCAT Liaison Office, FAAN Commercial Complex Ikeja) dated 31st May 2016, with no subject matter and states: “It is great pleasure to welcome you to AIB on the ratification of your secondment by the Honourable Minister of via letter Ref.: FMA/FMD/0019/5.5/C.S/1/9.
It went further to say that; “In view of the urgent need to fill the vacuum in the Directorate of Human Resources due to the retirement of the GM Human Resources, you are hereby posted as Assistant General Manager AGM to cover duties and as Head of Human Resources.”
He further stress on the letter that; “You are expected to swift into action immediately to reposition the unit and serve the bureau better and efficiently so as to benefit from your secondment. Please do not hesitate to consult me for further clarification.” Signed by Dr. Felix L. Abali, Ph.D Commissioner/CEO.
As directed by the Commissioner to Benjamin Okewu, immediately he came onboard the Bureau he threw caution into the wind and firstly stopped the approval given by the Commissioner/CEO for the release and sponsorship of 3 NAAPE members in Abuja Office to attend their NAAPE AIB Branch inauguration ceremony.
To this NAAPE letter address to the Commissioner/CEO with Ref: NS/GS/00431/2016 and dated June 3, 2016 with the subject: PLEASE, AVOID INTER-UNION WAR IN AIB “We refer to your letter of June 01, 2016 (ref: AIB/HR/001/196/10) wherein a number of facts were misrepresented, in our view, deliberately. We wish, therefore, to correct the wrong impressions and assumptions accordingly:
1 The fact that a matter is a union affair does not in any way prescribe exclusivity. In fact, is there anything a union engages in which is not a union affair? Does it then mean that management, or other bodies or persons are never involved? If that was to be the case; why grant release. And why would management grace any such event if it does not concern them?
The truth is, the relationship between management and the union is that of social partnership. And in all partnerships, servicing the object of the relationship is a shared responsibility.
In this regard, the assertion that, “The sole responsibility of enabling the elected or selected officials to the event is vested on the union …” is absolutely untrue. Permit me to remind us that this same management has extended the hand of fellowship to ATSSSAN and NUATE severally in the past. There is no reason whatsoever to make NAAPE an exception.
Importantly, the opinion of management in this case is in opposition to the ILO Convention and Labour Laws which all recognise union work as official work of any organization. Therefore, how could AIB refuse to partner with NAAPE in its official work?
2 It is really flustering for a government agency like the AIB to state in writing that there must be a formal procedural understanding with the union before according the union recognition, or before according the union its hand of partnership.
It is important to note that recognition of a registered trade union is automatic according to labour law. Procedural agreement is not a precondition for that recognition.
Following from the above, it is clear that the letter under reference is founded on non equitable grounds. Whereas the letter was signed for the Commissioner, we know that the opinions therein are that of the signee, who happens to be the President of another trade union and who considers NAAPE to be his rival. This is very unfortunate.
It is in the above regard that we cease this opportunity to urge the management of AIB to save itself from a rivalry inter-union wrangling. The National President of ATSSSAN, Comrade Benjamin Okewu cannot be allowed to superintend over the affairs of NAAPE in AIB while still subsisting in his position at ATSSSAN. As indicated in the present situation, matters of self interest will only lead to avoidable stress for the organization.
In conclusion, may we request that the Commissioner, as a matter of urgency, intervene in this matter by restoring his earlier approval for the sponsorship of our Abuja Comrades to the inauguration of 7th June, 2016 which was the case before Okewu disapproved the Commissioners approval. This will ensure that the situation does not degenerate further.”
One wonders if this is the “…swift into action immediately…” the Commissioner/CEO meant. Secondly, Benjamin Okewu terminated the contracts of the older hands, well seasoned and trained aviators who have well over 30 to 40 years of aviation background both in engineering and operations and well groomed investigators that you CANNOT get in a jiffy. That is not withstanding Benjamin Okewu went ahead trying to re-constitute a disciplinary committee sighting wrongly the Public Service Rule and AIB Proposed Conditions of Service for his action without recourse to management and where there exist a subsisting disciplinary committee whose chairmanship is a Director of the Bureau. Even when NAAPE AIB Branch questioned the veracity of his information and actions, Okewu says; “your observations are noted but irrelevant to the subject matter.” It might interest you to note that Okewu’s secondment was on personal vendetta on the NAAPE Branch Executives, especially one of the NAAPE Executive who was two time secretary of ATSSSAN in the Bureau. Who felt while he was on second term as the Secretary of ATSSSAN that the Chairman and the Treasurer (in audit and account department respectively) as members of the executives runs the affairs of the union wrongly and they failed to see reasons; he (now Executive of NAAPE in AIB) renounced his membership of ATSSSAN on 24th of December 2014 and joined NAAPE immediately having gotten his Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s Licence (AMEL). He does not know where the baggage of queries as claimed by the Leadership of the Bureaus’ and his hatchet man got that cooked up information from. This is just a cheap propaganda that the ATSSSAN over stayed President the person of Benjamin Okewu knows how to do best-Manipulation of people and Blackmailing.
It will also interest you to note that the Secretary joined NAAPE immediately with financial commitment in effect in March 2015. As we speak, it only NAAPE AIB Branch that is duly and officially inaugurated in the Bureau since inception because ATSSSAN has NOT/NEVER done inauguration in the Bureau.
Let us not deviate from the main subject which, the illegal elevation and promotion of Mr. Benjamin Okewu (Overstayed President of ATSSSAN) who is currently on secondment from NCAT by the Commissioner/CEO Dr. Felix L. Abali who says in the management minutes of meeting and read in part as: and on the agenda it was tagged ‘Secondment of Mr. Ben Okewu as Head of Administration (HOA)’ “The Chairman informed members that the immediate past DOA was retiring and it was decided that Mr. Ben Okewu, the President of ATSSAN, should replace him as the HOA.” “The Chairman explained that Mr. Okewu has had a great relationship with the Bureau and has been very helpful to the Bureau in various matters such as during the handling of Saheed’s case. He added that Mr. Okewu’s qualification could not fit into any other department except HR where he would be heading the department.” Without recourse to management decision and advice that Benjamin Okewu should be put in Planning, Research and Statistic section in the Bureau and placed on Grade Level 12 and strict adherence to Public Service Rules (PSR). Do bear in mind that the secondment was unilaterally done by Dr. Felix L. Abali, this can be noted from the Ministry Letter of Secondment dated 10th May 2016 and after gotten the letter on ratification and secondment from the Ministry he quickly called for a Management Meeting on 20th May 2016 where even Mr. Tunji Oketunbi the media personnel in the Bureau was against Benjamin Okewus’ position as the Head of Human Resources. Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, Head of Public Affairs (HPA) part in the minutes read “HPA enquired as to Mr. Okewu’s level in the civil service, but the Chairman stated that he does not have it but would make it available in the subsequent meeting.” To this no subsequent meeting as stated by the Commissioner/CEO never come to pass. Mr. Tunji Oketunbi part in the minutes went further to state thus:
“HPA said that the Bureau needs to consider whether someone is needed in the department, also the existing staff in the said department and if any of the staff in the department is likely to be promoted soon to the level of the person being contemplated to be brought in on secondment.”
Anyways he as the media personnel has to do his job bearing in mind to get a favour from the Commissioner/CEO a brand new Toyota official car out of the 3 remaining vehicles parked in the premises of the Bureau since 2014. All these we know coupled with the facts of release of funds to Mr. Tunji Oketunbi for trade fairs tuning to the amount of about 8 million naira for each exhibition he attends to (only God knows what he exhibits). There is currently another trade fair going on in Abuja as we write. Records don’t lie but people do. Mr. Tunji Oketunbi having no investigation background and the technicality involve in carrying out analysis of investigative reports is been delegated by the Commissioner/CEO, Dr. Felix L. Abali who single handedly made him without recourse to management decision as Chairman – Reports Review Committee to review DANA Airlines MD-83 aircraft with registration 5N-RAM accident reports wherein you have the qualities of the Directors and other qualified investigators alike in the Bureau who had earlier put this report together abinitio and submitted same to the Commissioner/CEO for submission to HMSA for onward transmission to the President. It may interest you to know also, that on Friday 26th of August 2016 the Commissioner/CEO has urgently sent a notice for Management Meeting slated for Monday 29th of August 2016 bearing in mind that one of his director (i.e the Director of Engineering, DOE) is away on annual leave and billed to resume office on the 2nd of September 2016. Why the urgency for the Commissioner/CEO to convene a meeting in the absence of the DOE? And even the NAAPE AIB Branch Chairman who is a well experience investigator who is currently covering duties for the DOE not served notice for the meeting. All this is because he is a NAAPE member, what a Leader is the like of Dr. Felix L. Abali? Up till this moment since the resumption of the DOE the Commissioner/CEO has not called for management meeting but rather plotting on making negative moves by appointing a mediocre (who has little or no clue on the technicality involves in accident/incident investigation nor management of same) as a Technical Adviser (TA) to be doing the job meant for the Technical Directors (i.e. Director of Operations (DOO) and that of DOE). What an imbroglio? That is to say they (the Commissioner and his cabal) have something up their sleeves. I am saying these for you to be aware that the Commissioner and his cabal are up to No Good for the Bureau. The Honourable Minister can see that Dr. Felix L. Ababli is a round peg in a square hole. He is a misfit for the Bureau.
It is also interesting to note that on the 9th of August 2016, in the morning at about 10:20am; the Commissioner Dr. Felix L. Abali left the comfort of his office upstairs and charged downstairs to assault the NAAPE AIB Branch Secretary by shoving him vehemently in the process the secretary sprained his right thumb. If not for the intervention of a senior colleague of his and the equanimity of the secretary it would had degenerated even when the Commissioner had later raised his hands to slap the secretary further having pushed him earlier.
How can resources meant for investigation be channeled to something of no importance but to better selfish aims? Could this be why investigations and reports are not timely?
How can Mr. Tunji Oketunbi be carrying out trade fairs to the tune of N8million for every trade fairs is AIB selling goods now or what? Is the Minister and the public aware of all these?
“The source noted that Mr. Diala’s salary has, however, been stopped, and that he has been notified that he will not be re-engaged by the management unless it receives a superior order.” For real who make up a management team? Isn’t you the Commissioner/CEO who instructed your assign-OKEWU BENJAMIN to sack your directors? Do you ever see their appointment letters? What is secondment in the Public Service?
Shouldn’t the Honorable Minister Rotimi Amechi and Minister of state Hadi Sirika give needed answers to these and more? I pray the Minister to please kindly see that the Leadership of AIB is in shamble and lack competency which from a reliable source said Mr. Tunji Oketunbi has earlier said when he was not finding it easy with the Commissioner/CEO until the sharing formula on the proceeds from Trade fairs with the ‘cabals’ in the Bureau
I believe the wind of CHANGE should start from here