An Islamic human rights advocacy group, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has accused the Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, Joseph Ari, of nepotism, wrongful appointments and marginalization of Muslims in the running of the agency.
The MURIC Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, in a statement on Friday, alleged that “a lot of rigmarole is going on at the ITF, Jos, Plateau State”.
Mr Akintola, therefore, called for full-scale investigations into the affairs of the Fund.
The statement read: “A lot of rigmarole is going on at the ITF, Jos, Plateau State. Nepotism is at its peak in this agency as wrongful employment of Plateau indigenes is the rule of the day.
“Muslims suffer marginalisation in a reckless Christianisation and Plateaurisation policy in the agency.
“In the first place, the appointment of the present Director General of the agency, Mr. Joseph N. Ari, did not follow due process.
“He was first employed into ITF in 2006 as Deputy Director on a permanent and pensionable basis after retiring as a Permanent Secretary in the Plateau civil service.
“Sequel to complaints about this irregularity, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment investigated the matter. It was established that he was receiving pension from the state’s civil service.
“The ministry therefore terminated his appointment and ordered that all money paid to him by ITF should be refunded. But this was not done.
“In an administrative abracadabra, however, the same Mr. Joseph N. Ari was announced as the new Director General in 2016. This was done in total disregard of civil service rules.
“This flagrant violation of rules in his appointment emboldened Mr. Ari towards administrative arrogance with the belief that he is a sacred cow.
“He Christianised his management team as only four Muslims were appointed into a fifteen-member management body during his first tenure while five are currently in the team of seventeen in his second term.
“Of the 487 staff employed by him in 2019, only 90 are Muslims. This is just 18.48%. Christians were 81.52%. Muslims enjoyed just 20% of staff training and development.
“Besides, Mr. Ari has been pursuing an aggressive and unapologetic Plateaurisation policy. Indigenes of Plateau State were made to flood ITF even though most of those appointments were irregular and inappropriate.
“Some of the indigenes were allegedly asked to obtain illegal certificates of indigeneship from other parts of the country like Bauchi, Nasarawa, etc after realising that the quota for Plateau State had been filled and exceeded.
“While we are aware that there may be certain priviledges accruing to indigenes in the name of ‘catchment area’, it is our contention that such priviledges should not be at the risk of sacrificing excellence on the altar of mediocrity.
“Neither should it ignore basic civil service rules. The ITF story raises more questions than answers and only a full-scale inquiry can reveal the truth.
“For instance, is it true that a man who had retired from the Plateau civil service and was receiving his pensions was again employed on permanent and pensionable basis at ITF?
“Is it also true that the same man who was recommended for termination of appointment by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment was still made the Director General of ITF?
“We contend that ITF which was established under Decree 47 of 1971 (amended by ITF Act 2011) is today a den of irregularities and a federal agency where civil service decorum is on permanent sabbatical.
“It is now very glaring that those who accuse others of nepotism and marginalisation are actually the worst culprits. The mother of all nepotism is in ITF, Jos.
“We, therefore, call for a full-scale investigation into the management of affairs of this agency from the period that Mr. Joseph N. Ari was appointed into the agency (2006) after retiring as permanent secretary in the Plateau civil service.”