President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the removal of the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd).
He was appointed on January 12, 2016 by the former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachair Lawal, via a letter with reference number SGF.35/S.5/11/272.
In another letter dated January 7, 2021 and signed by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, Abdallah was mandated to handover to the Secretary of the agency, Mr. Shadrach Haruna, on or before January 10, 2021 (today).
It was gathered that Haruna, who was in the United Kingdom during the notice, had to cut short his trip as he hurriedly returned to Nigeria at the weekend.
Disquiet Over Hurried Recruitment
However, there is disquiet in the paramilitary agency as the sacked chairman embarked on a massive recruitment, barely 24 hours after he got a letter to handover.
NDLEA spokesman, Deputy Commander of Narcotics (DCN) Jonah Achema, who announced this in a statement on Friday in Abuja urged successful candidates to visit the agency’s website www.ndlea.gov.org for the list adding that those shortlisted had also been contacted via E-mail and SMS.
According to him, the candidates had applied for different vacancies, some of which were invited for job competency test.
“The affected candidates, numbering 5, 000, are to appear at the Agency’s Academy, Citadel Counter-Narcotics Nigeria, (CCNN), Katton-Rikkos, Jos, Plateau State for the screening and documentation exercise between January 10 and 23, 2021 at 0900 hours daily.
“The candidates are divided into four different groups for the screening, in adherence to the COVID-19 pandemic protocol.
“The order and schedule for the exercise according to the group into which the candidates fall are also indicated. They are expected to arrive a day ahead of their screening period,” said Achema.
He added that successful candidates were expected to be issued letters of appointment and documented immediately upon successful screening.
“Candidates are, therefore, to report for the screening exercise with their guarantors’ forms, originals and duplicates of academic credentials, birth certificate or age declaration and indigene certificates.
“They are also expected to come along with certificate of medical fitness from a government hospital as well as a pair of shorts, T-shirts, canvass and stockings,” the NDLEA spokesman said.
It’s A Sham, Unacceptable – Officers
However, concerned officers of the NDLEA, who kicked against the recruitment exercise, equally commended President Buhari for his swift intervention in sacking Col. Abdallah following his dismal performance in the last five years.
In a letter addressed to the President at the weekend, the officers condemned the hasty recruitment and called for its cancellation.
“Sequel to the receipt of the handover letter, the embattled outgoing Chairman, immediately ordered that letters be hurriedly dispatched to candidates to report to the NDLEA Academy in Jos for training on Monday January 11, 2021. This hasty move by Abdallah is mischievous and part of efforts to cover up the reckless misappropriation of the recruitment money released to him since 2019 as well as to thwart efforts at exposing the abnormalities that characterised the scandalous exercise.
“It was equally gathered that most of the candidates currently being shortlisted for the eleventh hour training did not even apply for the job and sat for the entrance examination. This sad development did not only negate the principles of transparency but geared towards denying Nigerians equal opportunity in serving their country.
“We the concerned officers hereby pass a vote of no confidence in the Abdallah led recruitment exercise and passionately appeal to Mr. President to suspend the recruitment exercise to enable a forensic audit of the process in the interest of justice and fair play.
“Mr. President Sir, it stands to reason that the urgency with which Abdallah released the names of candidates only after he got a letter to handover for an exercise that he was fully mobilised financially since 2019 is bedeviled with sinister intent to advance his selfish interest to the detriment of national security.
“We hereby call for a comprehensive probe into the recruitment process beginning with the payment of N60 million to EmPlug ICT firm for creating an online portal that lasted for only two weeks. The Agency ICT department offered to create the online portal for a token, but was ignored by the NDLEA Chairman, Abdallah.
“There was no publication in the newspapers for ICT firms to bid for the creation of the recruitment portal. As a result we want the entire awards of recruitment contracts that did not follow the due process properly investigated. All successful candidates must be vetted and certified to have applied online, sat for the examination and passed. Otherwise, a fresh exercise must be conducted under a new dispensation.”
Distortion Of Seniority Ranking
The officers are also accusing Abdallah of distorting the seniority list in the agency.
According to them, “As a paramilitary organisation, seniority is sacrosanct but Abdallah has completely distorted the seniority list. Abdallah failed to conduct harmonisation and proper placement of officers rather, he promoted juniors who are sycophants over their seniors who dare to tell him the truth. This has to be corrected to restore discipline in the agency.
“There are many vacancies in command appointments that Abdallah refused to fill due to his administrative inaction. Every command ought to have a Commander and two assistants but over half of the command formations are having vacancies that Abdallah refused to fill. Again, many of the commanders have over stayed in a beat to the extent that their productivity is declining by the day yet he sees no reason to replace them.
“It is for the above and many other shortcomings that we are calling for a probe of Abdallah and the appointment of a competent leader to lead the agency on the path of glory. We cannot afford the costly price of another wasted five years.
“Urgent steps must be taken to boost the morale of officers in reducing the escalating cases of drug trafficking and abuse in the country. This will ultimately address the growing drug challenges and improve the image of the country before our international partners.”
The concerned officers had earlier called on the President to investigate and prosecute Abdallah for the alleged diversion of N2.8 billion commanders’ monthly allowances and the revocation of the sale of the Chairman’s official quarters in Ikoyi that he allegedly sold.
In a letter to the president by the concerned officers, of the agency signed by one Musa Ahmed Yusuf, the officers accused the outgoing NDLEA boss of diverting N2.8 billion monthly operational allowances for commanders.
“Since 2016 that Abdallah took over, he stopped the payment of monthly running cost to commanders. This has continued all through his tenure.
“The monthly allocation of the agency of about N48 million is used to service Abdallah’s personal interest. This has amounted to the sum of N2.8 billion in the past five years”, the petition alleged.
“How are the commands meeting their needs and how do you define corruption? Abdallah also sold the official quarters for the chairman of the agency located at George Street Ikoyi, Lagos.
“He also allowed a telecommunication service provider to install a telecom station at the once vibrant Ikoyi office that is now a shadow of itself. The impunity of Abdallah must not go unpunished,” it further alleged.
The petition further called for the appointment of “a competent chairman appointed to correct the many mistakes of Abdallah and take the agency to greater heights following the expiration of Abdallah’s tenure.
“We demand a complete investigation into the unending recruitment exercise by Abdallah even when money has been released to him since 2019. None of the procedures have followed due process. The entire exercise must be conducted by a competent leader. This will ensure that Nigerians have a level playing ground in serving their country.”
It also cited the refusal of the NDLEA leadership to promote staff as and when due in addition to his lack of attention to heightened drug abuse crisis in the country.
“Abdallah refused to release our promotion arrears. This has dampened our morale. The most painful aspect is the fact that our colleagues that retired in the last five years left service with lower ranks than they are entitled to because of Abdallah’s administrative callousness. This injustice is demoralising to the entire workforce,” the group said.
The petition said a national survey confirmed a massive scale of Nigeria’s drug problem with no effort by Abdallah to reverse the ugly trend.
“According to the report, in 2017 just one year after Abdallah took over office, nearly 15% of the adult population in Nigeria (around 14.3 million people) reported a “considerable level” of use of psychoactive drug substances. This is a rate much higher than the 2016 global average of 5.6% among adults.
“The survey was led by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funding from the European Union.
“Our airports, seaports and land borders are becoming increasingly porous by the day as Abdallah remains unperturbed.”
Malami Halts Exercise
In the meantime, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), has ordered the NDLEA, to suspend its planned screening and documentation exercise for 5,000 new recruits.
Malami said his attention was drawn to a directive the NDLEA gave the 5,000 candidates to appear at its Academy, Citadel Counter-Narcotics Nigeria (CCNN), Katton-Rikkos, Jos, Plateau State for the screening and documentation exercise between January 10 and 23, 2021, at 0900 hours daily.
He described the invitation as “ill-advised and inappropriate given the current and alarming wave of COVID-19 pandemic across the country.”
While acknowledging that the exercise was long overdue and necessary for the actualisation of the agency’s mandate, Malami said the recruitment should be kept on hold, pending the receipt of clarification/advice from the Presidential Task Force.
A statement that was signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), disclosed that Abdallah was requested to notify all the applicants of the development.
As at press time, Abdallah refused to confirm or deny if he got a letter to handover from the presidency, as he refused to respond to phone calls and short messages sent to his mobile number.