The National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS) in December 2019, carried out a massive staff recruitment exercise based on replacement which actualised the employment of about 1,000 employees.
However, WikkiTimes’ Hafsah Muhammed Ibrahim reports that despite observing protocols that come with the job appointment-including documentation, IPPIS registration, letter of assumption of duty, and biometric capture which took place in subsequent months, many of the staff are still yet to receive their posting letters, salary payments and arrears.
When WikkiTimes contacted the board over the allegations, its head of protocol, Barrister Muazu Yunusa Sambo, described the FOI request as “challenging, intimidating and accusatory.”
The NBAIS was founded by Alhaji Sir, Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto in 1960. It started as a board meant for the Northern part of Nigeria only with few schools and colleges operating under its aegis.
Following the recognition and approval of the National Council on Education (NCE) at its 57th meeting held at Sokoto in February 2011, NBAIS as a National Examination and Regulatory Body now covers Nigeria with over 900 recognized schools and colleges.
THE RECRUITMENT EXERCISE
Mass recruitment in 2019 was carried out based on replacement in NBAIS. About 1000 people were employed and the appointment and assumption of duty letter which took effect from December 2019 took them through December 2021 with neither posting letters nor salary payment.
In December 2021 however, the employees received a text message inviting them to visit the NBAIS headquarters at Kaduna, Rigachikun, Tsangaya building to carry out a documentation exercise.
WikkiTimes obtained a screenshot of the invitation text message received, which specified documents required for the exercise.
“In December 2021, we received a text message from NBAIS, inviting us to the head office in Rigachikun, Kaduna state for biometric capture and IPPIS. But between January and April, nothing changed,” one of the new employees told WikkiTimes, while pleading anonymity.
The months that followed saw the new employees waiting in limbo; while rumours took turns to justify the delay, some of the new staff organised and delegated a few to pay a visit to the organisation headquarters.
According to a source, the visit, which has as one of its objectives to petition for their salary, yielded no positive result although they were assured that plans were motioned to actualise their concerns.
SALARY PAYMENT BY BATCHES
In the month of May, about 300 staff from the recently recruited were reported to have received the salary payment for one month. This has unsettled further the already discomfited staff.
WikkiTimes could not independently verify the number of those paid, but some staff members who got paid shared a screenshot showing evidence of payment
A few days into the month of June, the staff who did not get paid received a text message said to be from the Arabic board, requesting them to send a screenshot of their Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System IPPIS slip via a WhatsApp number in a bid to process their withheld salaries.
Despite complying with the directive, nothing changed. This exacerbated their frustration.
The new employees who got paid in May were said to receive their posting letter the next month, June.
In the subsequent months that followed, a source said NBAIS increased the number of staff receiving payment from the new employees but without compensating for the previous months while many others remain unpaid.
This remains the case as of November 2022.
EMPLOYEES LAMENT UNFAIR TREATMENT
Isa (not real name) is among those that haven’t received payment since the recruitment. He has been active on the social media platform where the affected workers convened to share their experiences and discuss their ordeals.
“While we remained idle with neither salaries nor posting letters, some of our colleagues had received payment for the second month in a row already,” he told WikkiTimes during a phone interview.
“We were recruited and documented for over a year now, yet we are yet to receive posting letters nor resume duty”
“The most challenging part is that no NBAIS official has come out to justify or explain our situation. No press release or any circular” he added.
“Some of our colleagues had personally contacted the registrar severally to ask what is going on in the board, but every time, he would say not to worry, they are working towards addressing the issue.
“It is not fair on us and our families. Despite rejoicing with our loved ones about obtaining a job with NBAIS we still have nothing to show for it up until now,” he added.
According to him, few of the employees were at one point, willing to confront the board officially or report their ordeals in the media, but many were skeptical and dreading the outcome that might provoke the board to react negatively towards them.
“In October, our hopes were raised afresh,” he said. “We were told that the ministry of finance has approved a budget for the board. But October came and went like every other month.”
CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS AGAINST NBAIS
In June 2021, The NBAIS boss was accused of defrauding the agency with illegal award of contracts to family members and close allies.
The Professor Muhammad Shafiu Abdullahi-led management team of the Board was accused of financial fraud and job racketeering running into billions of naira, according to Sahara Reporters.
A source in the board told Sahara Reporters that Abdullahi violated a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari on probity and accountable handling of funds.
The NBAIS boss was accused of defrauding the agency with illegal awarding of contracts to family members and close allies.
The source added that Abdullahi’s ‘mafia-styled administration’ has drained the finances board without any significant project to match the billions of naira allocated to it annually and set it on an imminent path of failure.
“Even the staff of the agency are not spared when it comes to the torturing and denial of their entitlement worthy of note is the 33% of our annual salary due to us for exams supervision which has never been paid since 2018.
“We the staff have been so frustrated that we now resort to use of personal resources for logistics during trainings and other official engagements.
“This man hurriedly conducted recruitment exercise in the past to cover up irregularities in the board’s records, staff salaries and other claims as reflected in the board’s financial records remain contradicted,” the source said in the report.
He added that the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) exposed some corrupt activities of Abdullahi but was covered up by his ‘godfather’.
“Money meant for the payment of staff salaries released before the migration to IPPIS never got to them, despite Muhammad Shafiu Abdullahi receiving the funds.
“Whenever some of us raised this issue, we were always threatened with termination of employment as he always handled the board as a personal family business.
“He is always bragging that, with his godfather, the Honourable Minister of Education, Dr. Adamu Adamu and other highly placed Nigerians within the Buhari government, he is immune from any form of probe and prosecution.
“This brings President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign into questioning. If President Buhari’s acclaimed war on corruption is anything to go by, Muhammed Shafiu Abdullahi should be in jail by now,” the source added.
In September 2022, the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations charged NBAIS with spending N8.5 billion annually on its 5,963 employees to administer exams to students.
This was publicized during a meeting between the NBAIS leadership and the Senate Committee.
TheLeadership reports that the committee members conveyed dismay with Prof. Mohammed Abdullahi, Registrar and Chief Executive of the NBAIS, for wasting so much money, achieving so little, and failing to transfer revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
According to Abdullahi, the institution contributed N30 million to the CRF out of the N410 million earned from the conduct of the test.
The Chairman of the Committee, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola queried the registrar on how the institution spent more than N410 million on just one exam in a year.
“To conduct an exam in a year, they are saying they have spent over N380 million, and you are here to collect another budget from the Federal Government, having contributed just N35 million.”
“And if they are asked for their budget, they will tell me in the region of N10 billion to N20 billion,” he said.
Also, another lawmaker on the committee, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, suggested that there is a need to investigate the activities of the institution.
Olujimi said: “5,963 members of staff arranging for one examination in a year and being paid N8.5 billion and now generating only N410 million, out of which you remit only N35 million?
“There is a need to look deeper into what this is all about.”
The committee resolved to set up a sub-committee that will investigate the activities of the institution.
SOME LAWS GUIDING CIVIL SERVICE
Wikki Times sent an FOI letter to the office of the Civil Service Commission, Gombe, to obtain a copy of The Rules Guiding the Civil Service. But the letter was not responded to 7 days after it was sent as stipulated by the FOI act. However, a copy of the document was obtained from the website of the Federal Civil Service Commission.
The Public Service Rules (PSR) hold standard operating procedures and policy statements that regulate work and the condition of service in the public sector. The PSR is designed as a work guide and manual for bureaucratic culture among public service employees. It is designed to provide the following information: a. Operational framework b. Regulatory principles c. Charter of rights, privileges and duties of workers (public servants) d. Details of sanctions for erring workers and guidelines for workers’ conduct.
According to the second Chapter, section 2, rule number 01, “Recruitment” means the filling of vacancies by the appointment of persons not already in the Public Service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It, however, excludes the transfer of officers from other Public Services in the Federation to the Federal Public Service.
In the same chapter, section rule number 7, The employment of the unpaid staff is prohibited.
Furthermore, according to chapter 17 of the Nigerian Labor Act of 1974, it is the duty of the employer to provide work. Except where a collective agreement provides otherwise, every employer shall, unless a worker has broken his contract, provide work suitable to the worker’s capacity on every day (except rest days and public holidays) on which the worker presents himself and is fit for work; and, if the employer fails to provide work as aforesaid, he shall pay to the worker in respect of each day on which he has so failed wages at the same rate as would be payable if the worker had performed a day’s work:
NBAIS REJECTS FOI LETTER, SAYS IT IS ‘ACCUSATORY, INTIMIDATING AND CHALLENGING’
WikkiTimes’ reporter paid a visit to the organisation headquarters at Rigachikun, Kaduna on November 16, 2022 with an FOI letter, seeking answers to the allegations levied against the board.
However, the Protocol and information unit of the board told the reporter that an interview shall only be considered on the condition that WikkiTimes writes an introductory letter instead of a FOIA letter.
According to Barrister Muazu Yunusa Sambo, head of the protocol unit, an FOI letter by the medium addressed by the organisation is challenging, intimidating and accusatory.
“You are not here for interrogation. You are here a media personnel who wants to know things about the organisation. Advisably, write an introductory letter seeking an audience to have an interview with the registrar himself,” Sambo told WikkiTimes.
According to him, it is only ‘free and fair’ as a Journalist to reflect ‘courtesy and respect when writing to the organisation so that the audience can be granted.
Prior to the visit, a copy of the FOI letter was sent to the official email address of NBAIS as seen on their website. However, the mail bounced back, saying it was a permanent error and could not be delivered to the recipient.
WikkiTimes also sent an introductory letter to the organisation on November 18th, 2022. Despite acknowledging the letter on the same day, the interview was not granted as of the time of compiling this report.
This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation