By Ralph Madugu
The management of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has described MURIC’s recent statement on the Director General of the Fund, Sir Joseph Ntung Ari, as “a sad commentary directed at a personality whose interest is to run a public institution based on the values of public trust, meritocracy and integrity.”
ITF, while reacting to a press release by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) accusing Sir Ari of nepotism, wrongful appointments and marginalization of Muslims in the running of the agency.
In a statement signed by the Director, Public Affairs Department of the Fund, Suleyol Fred-Chagu, it said that whereas it is not the policy of the Industrial Training Fund to respond to every negative comment because ITF believes in the inalienable right of Nigerians to free speech, the Fund took exception to what it described as “orchestrated efforts to malign, impugn and whip up negative sentiments against the ITF and its functionaries through outright lies and calculated misinformation as contained in the MURIC release.”
The statement read in part: “However, in order to correct the erroneous impression that the publication may have created in the minds of Nigerians, we are constrained to react that: The Director-General is a devoted Christian, whose lineage, including his direct siblings is populated by both religions.
As a result of this, he does not believe in nepotism and tribalism and does not indulge in religious bigotry.
Indeed, the DG is a detribalised Nigerian who has formed long lasting and enduring relationships cutting across all faiths and tribes in Nigeria.”
With regards to what MURIC alleged to be “Christianisation” and “Plateaurisation” agenda of the DG in the ITF, the statement described it as far from the truth and a product of the imagination of the writer as, according to the Fund, the recruitment exercise conducted in February, 2019, which MURIC hinged their allegations on, followed all due processes and was coordinated by the Federal Character Commission, which even issued a letter of compliance to the Fund after the exercise.
It added that during the exercise, the DG recused himself from the examination/interview sessions that were conducted by a panel that comprised officials of the parent ministry – the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment – Federal Character Commission and the ITF Governing Council, which is headed by Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, a detribalised Nigerian, among others.
On MURIC’s alleged ‘Christianization’ of ITF, the statement described it as “sadly untrue”, stating that the reality is that the ITF DG as a consummate and experienced administrator who has ensured that all zones are represented in management which, according to the statement, is the first time such has happened in the history of the organization.
“However, it will be necessary to note that there will be disparities in the constitution of any management due to the fact that other considerations namely: seniority, merit, vacancies apart from spread of representation are factored into the process.
It will also be necessary to remind MURIC that the ITF system is close to 50 years with a well-developed chain of command that has been structured to the point that the succession process into management has been well entrenched and embedded in the organisation such that no Chief Executive can circumvent the process and impose favoured candidates. In addition, the process involves the ITF Governing Council and the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the DG, therefore, could not have sought to “Christianise” the ITF especially management, even if he wanted to.”
On the allegation that the appointment of the DG did not follow due process, ITF explained that the DG withdrew his services from the Plateau State civil service and joined the ITF in 2007 not 2006 as suggested by MURIC, adding that he did not retire as alleged by MURIC as he had not served up to 35 years nor was he of retirement age.
“His first promotion as Director came in 2011. The termination of the appointment of the DG in 2015 was said to be in line with the tenure policy for Directors that served up to 8 years.
However, when the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation discovered that he had only served 4 years as Director, it ordered that the DG be reinstated. It was after his reinstatement, that Mr. President graciously appointed him as the DG/CE of the Industrial Training Fund.
“It must be stated that since his appointment, the organisation that hitherto was restive suffering from poor perception and performance is now excelling.
Indeed, it has transformed into one of the key organisations that are contributing significantly to the attainment of the policy objectives of the Federal Government in line with its mandate.
“As a result of this, the DG/CEO is now acclaimed as the architect of modern ITF and has won numerous awards and accolades from all quarters.
“In conclusion, every one that knows the DG understands that he does not believe in nepotism and tribalism and does not indulge in religious bigotry.
“MURIC’s release is therefore a sad commentary directed at a personality whose interest is to run a public institution based on the values of public trust, meritocracy and integrity.”
Meanwhile, a Christian Rights Advocacy group, Yeshua Descendants (YD), has called for the arrest of the Director General of the Muslim Rights Concern, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, in order not to plunge the country into serious religious crisis following what the group described as “spurious allegations against ITF.”
In a statement signed by its President, Mr. Gentle Dogara, while reacting to what it described as “false accusation and fabricated allegations” by MURIC against the Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund, Sir, Joseph N. Ari, the group accused Prof. Ishaq Akintola of sponsoring religious crisis in Plateau State, asking if he was not connected to international terrorist organizations.
The group said: “If not, why uttering statements capable of causing unrest in Plateau State and Nigeria at large?”
Yeshua Descendants stressed that Prof. Akintola’s unguarded utterances are capable of tampering with the peace achieved on the Plateau by the present administration of Governor Simon Bako Lalong.
The YD assured that, in collaboration with the Concerned Plateau Indigenes, it will not keep quiet and watch anybody tamper with the peace they are enjoying in the state.
“If MURIC (Prof. Ishaq Akintola) is so concerned about the Rights of Muslims in Nigeria, what has she done about the killings and adoption of Muslims in the North? What right is more than the right to life?
“When has MURIC become the Federal Character Commission? If employment in Nigeria is by religion then what is the percentage of Christians in the recent employment from 2015 till date in NNPC, Nigeria Army, DSS, FIRS, etc.?
“Is MURIC aware of what happened in National Boundary Commission? What is the percentage of Christians in the North East Development Commission where Christians are most hit by Boko Haram?
“Is Prof. Ishaq Akintola not behind the sponsor of religious crisis in Plateau State? Is he not connected to international terrorist organizations? If not, why uttering statements capable of causing unrest in Plateau State and Nigeria at large?
YD therefore, called on the three senators representing Plateau State, Plateau members of the House of Representatives and PYC, among others, to act, adding that as an organization, it believes in the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari just as it is praying for the leadership of Nigeria as instructed by the Bible.