By Noopy Mark
These officers are of a new generation and all that is happening is alien to them, so they decided to get attention the best way they can. The agency at first ignored their cry for help, typical of how a Nigerian takes care of things -ignore it and it will fade away. However, when the agency realised that this won’t go away, they decided to start responding first by blaming IPPIS.
January 8th 2021 will be remembered by some of the new officers recruited by the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) with mixed feelings. One, the long-awaited recruitment process that started in 2019 has finally come to an end when many successful applicants received emails that they are invited for screening at the agency’s academy in Jos plateau state and if successful documentation will be carried out.
Later in the evening, the commandant of the academy, a gentleman to the core, gathered the applicants at the pavilion and addressed them thus, there has been a change in the leadership of the agency – the Chairman/CE- has been relieved of his duty after his tenure expired and the President did not deem it fit to renew his tenure for another five years. The applicants were told the process had been suspended till further notice and the commandant assured those present that their names will not be changed because they got the appointment base on merit.
In came Brig-Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa (retired). He came with so much zeal and dedication and even the blind could see that there is a new sheriff in town. He took his time before recalling the earlier suspended process, this time, the date was 26th July 2021 after two weeks of postponement because of Sallah. The original list wasn’t tampered with just as the commandant promised but this time instead of just collecting appointment letters and going to their various commands, there was actual training which lasted for 4 months for senior officers and two months for junior officers.
The Junior officers were batched into 2 because of their numbers. The first batch trained from July to September had two weeks breaks and resumed work fully…..I will come back to this. The second batch trained from November to January. While in training there are cadets that had other opportunities with the Nigerian customs service and Nigerian immigration service some left for these services while others stayed back because of the promise that the future of NDLEA is brighter with this new administration.
Cadets were promised heaven on earth. New salary structure, and better working conditions among other things. They were told that the phones they are using now can not contain the alert that will be received after training and that a lot of the cadets will have to charge their phones. Hopes were high as well as the morale of these soon-to-be officers, the prestige that comes with a uniform job is waiting out there, and no one could have imagined that the reality would be different.
Those that received the email travelled from various locations across the country to the academy located at Katton Rikkos Jos. The screening was batched because of the number of applicants, the first batch was supposed to be screened from 11th -15th of January but on the 11th after the screening, has already started, they called the process off till further notice that’s after the lawyers amongst the applicants have successfully collected their appointment letters.
The first sign of trouble started quite subtly, rules that guide the successful training in the academy were read out clearly on the pavilion for the 2000 cadets that listened anxiously as the ’99 commandment’ rang out from the mouth of the provost who was bullish and threatening expulsion to anyone who contravenes them. Ironically, one month after the agency was guilty of going against their commandment. The one commandment that caught every cadet’s attention and rightly so is the one that states very clearly and unambiguously that “all cadets on training will be paid a monthly stipend of 5000 naira from their salaries until the end of their training while the rest will be paid in bulk to help the new officers settle in their various command”.
This quote is not verbatim but the message is the same. This stipend wasn’t paid throughout the duration of this training and nothing was said about it. The amount stated in the command clearly violates the NDLEA condition of service which states that “cadets under training will receive a monthly allowance of up to 30% of their monthly salary. The 70% balance due to them shall be paid in bulk after the successful completion of their training “.
Throughout their stay in the academy, not a kobo was paid. During the training, the commandant came to the lecture hall to address the cadets and gave them the good news, the chairman has directed that all cadets should be provided with two pairs of uniforms, now for the first time as far as he can tell cadets will be given free uniforms and that caused wild jubilation and prayers were said on behalf of the chairman for this gesture……..Will come back to this again. By September the first batch of junior officers have passed out and they were given two weeks’ breaks and they resumed duty at their various commands October came to no salary, no training allowances and no arrears (70% that was supposed to be paid after training). November, December and January passed not a single kobo was paid to the Junior officers that passed out since September and they were posted across the 36 states of the federation.
The senior officers passed out on 20th November and were given a month plus break to resume on 2nd January, they only started receiving their salaries from February 2022 just like their juniors before them. No January, no allowances and no arrears, nothing. Imagine someone from a remote part of Jigawa or Akwa Ibom posted to Portharcourt or Jalingo respectively where he/she has no relatives, no friends whatsoever and that officer is sent there without a kobo to start off, some officers are sleeping in motor parks, some mosques and churches while others are sleeping in the office. A lot of these new officers survived on debts right from the academy through to the early months of working all with the hope that when they get paid they will offset their debts and start life with what is left. The second batch of junior officers that started training in November and past January started receiving their salary the same January, something is definitely wrong somewhere.
These officers are of a new generation and all that is happening is alien to them so they decided to get attention the best way they can. The agency at first ignored their cry for help, typical of how Nigerian take care of things-ignore it and it will fade away. However, when the agency realised that this won’t go away they decided to start responding first by blaming IPPIS.
They released a circular NDLEA/FIN/88/VOL.VIII/06 on 3rd February in response to an article by Sahara reporters on the lack of salary payment to new officers by saying officers that passed out September and November were not created because of lack of time, that’s why they did not receive their January salary. They actually said lack of time? Since September and the office of the AGF couldn’t create just 3000 IPPIS numbers? And this circular completely ignored the arrears and training allowance due to these officers. And the office of the AGF IPPIS office miraculously created numbers for 2000 officers in December which resulted in them receiving January’s salaries. The majority of new officers started getting their salary by February and on March 15th another circular NDLEA/FIN/88/VOL. VIII/10 was released stating that the February salary was for January and that February will be paid and as usual, not a kobo has been paid.
The circular that made everyone lose hope was the one that was released on 6th April 2022 titled NON PAYMENT OF SALARY AND ARREARS with ref number NDLEA/FIN/8 8/VOL.III/29 which raises 3 issues, for the purpose of this article we will focus on issue number 2 which states as follows that the date on the appointment letters of officers dated 25th July is the day that the training of officers kick started and not when salaries will be paid. They said this has been the case with the agency and went ahead to give only one example which is of course 11. E, g. Course 11’s date of the First appointment is 3’d January 2005 when they started training at the Academy. They passed out in June and started receiving salary in july 2005. Accordingly, newly recruited personnel agitating for salary arrears from July 2021 Should not expect only arrears’ from July 2021. Ironic how they gave example with only course 11, what’s happened to courses 1 to 10 and courses 12 to 14? Why is course 11 and 15 different?
Considering how the new chairman is handling this agency and from his antecedent he is a no-nonsense military man, it is my belief that there is a racket going on in the agency without his knowledge. The indiscriminate release of circulars that are meant to make life unnecessarily difficult for officers are definitely done without the chairman’s consent, he is being shielded from the impunity that is widespread under the NDLEA. How can officers give their best when all that is done is meant to demoralise them? Every month is one deduction or the other. Last month there was another circular that says money for sowing of uniforms will be deducted from May and June salaries in two instalments, 22000 for senior officers and 10000 for junior officers only for another circular to come out that the deduction should stop after the first instalment have been deducted without making any reference for refund. Where does all this money go to? Who gave them the right to these indiscriminate deductions? Another circular came out saying that officers leaking circulars to the media will be punished using NDLEA condition of service, the same document they disregarded when it comes to remuneration for officers will now be used to punish them?
The management cadre has been at the top of the food chain for far too long and a lot of them need to be retired, they have been in the same rank for upward of 15 years and they have allowed those under them to stagnate because they are comfortable with their ranks because of the perks that come with that office. There are officers that have been on the same rank for 11 years and the frustration is very evident in the way they relate to superiors and members of the public, there is no respect whatsoever for ranks and indiscipline is celebrated as a mark of bravery among the juniors. The media hype the agency is spearheading is nothing compared to the rot that is widespread. The war against drug abuse can not be won if the war within is not fought with all sincerity.