Senate intervenes as staff accuse NIEPA boss of operating from Abuja

By Benjamin Arida://

Senate has waded into the lingering leadership crisis at the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, NIEPA following a petition by some staff members, alleging that the Director-General, Prof. Olivet Jagusah abandoned his duty post and operating from Abuja. 

The decision by the upper legislative chamber was sequel to the consideration of a report on the crisis by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions during yesterday’s plenary.

In his presentation, the chairman of the committee, Senator Patrick Ayo Akinyelure, said one Alhaji Haruna Yahaya and two others, in the petition, accused the Director-General of NIEPA of gross misconduct and deliberate attempts to frustrate and humiliate former principal officers of the Institute by scrapping their offices.

According to the Akinyelure, those affected include Prof. (Mrs.) Olatoun Akinsolu, the most senior academic staff and former Acting Director General of the Institute that handed over to Jagusah, Dr. (Mrs.) Adebola Agbaje, former librarian of the Institute; and Dr. Olaolu Festus, former Acting Registrar and Secretary to the Council between 2006 and 2009. 

The lawmaker said the petitioners also accused the DG and the Governing Council of violating the rule of seniority in public service by supplanting Mrs. Abimbola Fayanju as the Acting Registrar of the Institute over her senior colleague, Dr. Olaolu Festus. 

He added that despite the fact that Fayanju’s tenure had elapsed for the past three years, no attempt was being made to replace her.

The lawmaker stated that the petitioners also accused the DG of making clandestine arrangement for the relocation of the Institute from Ondo State to Abuja, an action which he described as a disservice to the state. 

However, the Director-General of the Institute, Prof. Olivet Jagusah, in his submission to the Senate panel, said he was appointed as Chief Executive of the NIEPA by the Federal Ministry of Education with the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari on June 1, 2020.

He explained that the Institute was established in 1992 by the federal government in collaboration with UNESCO-IIEP, Paris with a mandate to develop a critical mass of education sector planners, managers and administrators with its take off in the defunct Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo State.

Jagusah said his appointment witnessed stiff resistance and protest by some individuals from the institute who organized a blockade against him, adding that, “the actions affected his assumption of duty”. 

The director general recalled that for three months on assumption of duty, he stayed in a hotel because there was no apartment for him to live in around the school vicinity. 

He explained further that the idea of relocating the Institute to Abuja was mooted by his predecessor, Prof. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami, through a letter with reference No. NIEPA/LANREQ/001 dated March 20, 2017, and addressed to the Minister, Federal Ministry of Education.   

Jagusah said based on the idea of relocating the institute, correspondences were exchanged between the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the disposal of assets forfeited to the federal government for possible allocation to NIEPA.

The director general stated that as at date, the Institute has no enabling law establishing it, which, according to him, “has been a clog in the wheel of its progress.”

He disclosed that before he assumed duty, the institute had no administrative structure and organogram.

Jagusah said this prompted him to demand for its restructuring, a request which was approved by the Head of Civil Service and resulted in the creation of six departments, seven units and nine liaison offices. 

He said at a virtual meeting of the Governing Council of the Institute held in December 18, 2020, the restructuring of the Institute was approved in line with the organogram. 

The Senate in a swift turn refused to adopt the three recommendations by the committee over their failure to address the contentious issues surrounding the lingering crisis at the Institute.

The committee in its recommendations called for the cancellation of relocating the institute and also urged the director general to re-introduce the offices abolished and re-instate the officers dismissed. 

The Senate, however, in ditching the committee’s recommendations, adopted new ones proposed in amendments by its Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, and seconded by the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Abdullahi Danbaba.   

Accordingly, the upper legislative chamber urged the Federal Ministry of Education and the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation to appoint a committee to rejig the administration and management of the institution to provide effective leadership and guidance, in order to reposition it for effective performance and operational confidence.

It also underscored the need for an enabling Act to guide the operation of the institution and provide legal backing for its establishment. 

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