PREMATURE RETIREMENT: SENATE ORDERS CUSTOMS TO REINSTATE ACG UMOH

By NBF NEWS
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The Senate on Tuesday ordered the immediate reinstatement of Dr. (Mrs.) Faith E. Umoh, an Assistant Comptroller-General (ACG) of the Nigeria Customs Service who was wrongfully retired from Service at the age of 47 with an unblemished record.

Dr. (Mrs.) Umoh had petitioned the Senate in 2008 through Senator Effiong Bob (PDP, Akwa Ibom), saying that her retirement was premature and unjust since her records of service were unblemished. She added that during the course of her service, there was never a time she was queried, warned or reprimanded for misconduct neither was there any allegation leveled against her in any form. She also averred that she had never objected to nor frowned at postings even at the risk of her life as a mother and wife.

The Senate, therefore, warned that the culture of retiring officers with impunity without criteria must be checked to avoid manifest miscarriage of justice, adding that Mrs. Umoh had neither attained the retirement age of 60 years nor 35 years of Service.

The Senate directive followed the consideration and adoption of the report of its Ethics, Code of Conduct and Public Petitions Committee that recommended that Dr. (Mrs.) Umoh should be re-absorbed into the Customs Service without loss to seniority to allow her continue to contribute her quota to national development.

The Senate said that while it could not prohibit attempts of the various Services to restructure and reorganize for greater performance, such reorganisation that might lead to premature retirement of Officers must be based on clearly defined criteria.

The Senate noted that Dr. Umoh's retirement was not based on any discernable criteria given the fact that officers of the same grade with her but who had no better demonstrable performance records were retained in the Service. It added that given her age, qualifications and performance records, it was clear that she was a victim of an old policy that was inconsistent and subject to abuse.

The report of the Committee had noted that the policy that led to premature retirement of Mrs. Umoh from the Customs Service as an ACG on June 10, 2008 was not written and inconsistent, and therefore , abused.

The Senate's further noted that the explanation by the Comptroller-General (CG), the Secretary of the Board and the Chairman of the Board who happened to be the Minister of Finance were unable to suggest that criteria were used to determine who got retired and who did not in the Customs Service.

'That the Comptroller-General quickly wrote a memo to the Chairman (Minister) before the Board could sit was suggestive of the zeal the then newly appointed Comptrollera-General had, to get some people he did not like their faces out of Service. This kind of vendetta for whatever reason is unacceptable in a Service that requires officers to expect fair and equitable treatment.'

'That the then newly appointed Comptroller-General was to serve for less than a year because his retirement was at hand and to engage in such massive retirement exercise buttresses the point that there was something more to the purported re-organization.

'That the present Comptroller-General that is currently serving had not retired any Officer since he had been appointed also indicates that the so-called tradition is not really correct,' the Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petition stated.

Briefing journalists at the end of the Senate plenary session, Senator Effiong Bob said that the action of the Senate was aimed at correcting the wrongs of the past, adding that there were many Mrs. Umohs out there whose cases could be taken up from the Senate position.