Redesignated/upgraded/converted cadre are excluded
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
An illegal post concession stagnation of employees of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has been resolved in favour of qualified staffs, fifteen years after the obnoxious policy came into effect.
The policy which was believed to have been smuggled into NPA by some overzealous top management staffs and believed to be inconsistent with the authority’s standard of operating procedure (SOP), and which provoked prolonged protest, quelled by a recent review, contained in a July 12th 2021 memo.
Although the memo grants affected employees a staggered window of career progression, the memo said nothing about those who benefited from the 2019 promotion bazaar under a controversial committee’s recommendation, and despite the existence of the questionable policy.
Pinnacle Time gathered that there has been a sustained protest since 2019 over the faulty career stagnation and a questionable promotion in 2019, to the exclusion of the larger body of employees of the port authority.
According to grapevine, the agitation was initiated by a lone staff member, until gradually, others bought into the protest, which dragged for indefinitely until it also attracted the staff union. The collective agitation panned out into protracted embarrassing dimension forcing the authority’s immediate past managing director, Ms. Hadiza Usman to constitute two successive committees.
Whereas the committee’s recommendation culminated into the July 12th 2021 review on career progression, those in the know accused management fraudulently carrying out the 2019 selective promotion exercise, allegedly on the recommendation of the aforementioned committees.
Staff members who spoke with our reporter in confidence however expressed happiness and relief about the approved career progression. The memo titled ‘RE: REVIEW OF CAREER PROGRESSION’, signed by the acting Executive Director, Finance & Admin, Ezugwu S.E stated that stagnated employees as at 1st February 2006 be granted one grade level placement, while employees that suffered stagnation for five years post concession exercise of 2006 are granted one incremental step placement.
While one grade level means Level 13 to 14, steps are increased every year until one reaches step 12 which known as the bar, the maximum a public servant would reach on a grade level; starting from step 1-12. On the other hand, re-designated/upgraded/converted are officers who came into NPA as junior staff, and because they obtained higher academic qualifications, were re-designated as officers. The latter category also apply to those who were on technical lines, like those who came in with Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and later upgraded or converted to normal managerial line.
Part of the prolong agitation have been the argument that while the Hadiza administration reportedly treated some set of officers on the basis of the stagnated regime between 2006-2007, she cherry picked those she allegedly wanted for the 2019 promotion.
Grapevine revealed that not only were these favoured employee promoted preferentially, the promotion was allegedly back dated to 2018, which was reverted to 2019 after the protest assumed a, unprecedented stormy official rage.
The review and approval carried on the letterhead of the Human Resources Department of the port authority, however tied the review to internal eligibility clauses, which officially and permanently disqualified some employees from enjoying the relief so far granted.
Employees who lost out under the review include ‘Redesignated/upgraded/converted officers’ and others purportedly unable to pass examinations or lacked the prerequisite qualifications at the point of entry.
According to the ED Finance and Admin in the memo sighted by our reporter, the 16th July 2021 review supersedes the 18th September 2019 circular as effective commencement date, and further admitted that the review was sequel to agitations by members of staff.
The memo reads in part: “Management has observed with concern the agitations generated by the conduct of the last review of Career Progressions of some employees in the authority.
“In order to address some of the issues raised, a further review has been conducted and as a result, the criteria as stated in the previous Circular Ref. HQ/PA/CON/P.1/1223 dated 18th September 2019 has been amended as indicated below:
Employees who have stagnated for six (6) years and above as at 1st February, 2006 should be granted one grade level placement.
Employees who have stagnated for five (5) years Post Concession exercise of 2006 should be granted one incremental step placement.
“Accordingly, the eligibility period (Cut-Off Date) of the above shall be from 1st February, 2006-1st June, 2007. The effective date for the Career Progression is now 16th July 2019.
“Furthermore, for the purpose of clarity, it is pertinent to state that employees who are within the under listed categories even if they fall within the Cut-Off Date will not be eligible for the review.
Lack of Pre-requisite Qualifications
Terminal Point of Career
“Please note that this supersedes the aforementioned Circular date 18th September 2019.”
But how did NPA of all organizations and one that apparently espouses corporate governance and workers welfare got enmeshed in a knotty issue such as career stagnation of its work force, which is critical to the port economy?
Findings indicate that the unfortunate stagnation policy was orchestrated by self serving top management chiefs in the heat of the concession programme, and sadly, retained by successive administrations. Those whose business it is to know finger a former ED HRD, as one of the proponent of the contentious regime. Additional findings show that the policy was driven by naked nepotism and narrow consideration, with the sole desire to advance the elevation of loyalists and friends either at par, or over and above others in the system. The problem became knotty when employees in the redesignated/upgraded/converted category were promoted illegally in the aforementioned 2019 promotion.
The protest however forced management to back date the questionable promotion to 2019. Instructively, even though those who enjoyed the illegal promotion may have run away with it as the present review was silent on their fate; others in that category have been effectively and officially embargoed by virtue of the July 12th 2021 circular.
It is appalling that the unjust and wicked policy took individual employees and later, employees union’s dogged fight to force management to the dialogue table. But then, the struggle was one of a long haul as the agitation lasted several years, which was absolutely needless and rather embarrassing to a critical corporate organization like the NPA.
Those familiar with the matter said at first, Hadiza Usman reportedly saw nothing wrong with the regime of stagnation amid, even as she reportedly took advantage of it to arbitrarily promote staff members loyal to her, alongside some other management officers of the authority.
However, as the protests intensified in scope, she was reportedly forced to seek informed clarification on the matter, and where it is believed that she was properly advised that the matter was unjust and illegal.
According to sources, Hadiza at that point became amenable to dialogue; wherewith, she reportedly ordered an investigation into the matter. Based on the report of the investigation, she directed that the whole exercise should be reviewed.
Ironically, the task was ongoing when she suffered the recent boomerang of an iconic power play, sending her out of the NPA House. Our reporter gathered on good authoritatively that when the review was concluded, it was immediately forwarded to the Board for approval and implementation; which resulted into the July 16th 2021 review, under discussion.
Although management claimed that the 2019 promotion was as a result of recommendations by two committees it empanelled, those familiar with the issue said there were no such things, neither by the first or second committee, emphasizing that the 2019 questionable promotion was a pure of nepotism, in content and context.
It was also learnt that as the union protest and protest by some individual employees who abhorred the unfair promotion of few cohorts and the unjust stagnation intensified, the ED HRD fingered as one of the promoters of the illegal policy was sacked to assuage the union.
Although it is believed that he was re-absorbed under contract arrangement to continue his hatchet job with the prospect of silencing the union to abandon the protest to correct the abnormally, at the height of the renewed agitations in 2020, he was again sacrificed, as he finally lost his contract appointment.
Observers believe that with the review, the union and those who protested the unfair policy have been vindicated.