NPC: 24 commissioners out of 35 insist on removal of Odimegwu as chairman
In spite of a backdoor approach by some forces in the Presidency, 24 out of 35 commissioners are insisting on the removal of the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Mr. Festus Odimegwu.
They asked President Goodluck Jonathan to direct Odimegwu to step aside due to alleged high-handedness and unguarded utterances capable of undermining preparations for 2016 Census.
But the Director of Public Affairs of NPC, Mr. Simeon Otene, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said: 'We are aware of the petition. The crisis is a family affair; efforts are on to resolve the issue.'
Odimegwu was recently queried by the Presidency on some of the issues raised by the commissioners.
While the response to the query was being attended to, some forces in the Presidency are demanding the retention of Odimegwu.
But in an eight-page petition, the commissioners pleaded with the President to assign NPC to a more temperate person.
They passed a vote of no confidence on the NPC chairman.
They said 'Your Excellency, the basis for continued confidence in the chairman has been destroyed irretrievably.'
Those who signed the petition are Tunde Lakoju (Edo); Sulaimon Sani Sulaiman (FCT); Austen A.T. Paisor (Bayelsa); Yusufu Moh. Ankar (Zamfara); Muhammadu Haruna (Borno); David A. Garnvwa (Adamawa); R. Fola Adedayo (Ekiti); Aliyu Datti (Niger); T.T Dule (Benue); Abdullahi Abarshi (Kebbi); Muhammed A. Aikoye (Kogi); Stephen E. Egbivbie (Delta); Abubakar Ndakene (Kwara); Yau Usman Jama'a (Kaduna); Bala Muhammad Magar (Gombe); B. Yakubu (Cross River); Ohiremi Akinbobola (Ondo); Mahdi Bukar (Yobe); Mohammed Surajo Marshal (Kano); Hassan Bashir (Bauchi); Lere Oyewumi (Osun); Emmanuel O. Nwaogu (Imo); Abdulateef A. Gbadamosi (Oyo); and Abashe Iro (Katsina).
The petition, exclusively obtained by our correspondent reads in part: 'It is with the greatest reluctance but with profound sense of responsibility that we the undersigned 24 National Population Commissioners from the six geo-political zones of this country, petition against the unfortunate and unbecoming conduct of the National Population Commission Chairman, Eze Festus Odimegwu, which conduct has precipitated the present seeming anarchy pervading the commission and generated the persisting unhealthy national debate on past census results in this country.
'We have in our maturity avoided any physical showdown because we do not want to embarrass Mr. President, fellow Nigerians and our respective families.
'Since assumption of office in June 2012, the Commission has been contending with the unfortunate, controversial and unbecoming conduct of its Chairman Eze Festus Odimegwu on sensitive national issues, particularly on past national head counts in this country.
'The chairman has described all the censuses in this country from 1816 as a mess, fabricated, cooked-up and unreliable. He has in recent times insisted that the past national head counts were deliberately conducted to favour a particular section of the country.'
The petitioners accused the chairman of continuous issuance of inflammatory statements in the media 'and disparaging remarks about the Nigerian politician. In keeping with his style and without justification, he brazenly accused the Commission's leadership during the 2006 head count of having sold enumeration area demarcation to unnamed politician.'
They urged the President to investigate how equipment manufacturers (who are National Population Commission's contractors in waiting) for 2016 census had been sponsoring some National Population Commissioners to and from Europe and America in violation of the Public Procurement Act.
They alleged that the Commission has not been holding statutory meetings as required by NPC Act.
The petition said: 'For upward of three months now, the Chairman has refused to summon the usual Commission's meetings and even the one he reluctantly called for was postponed without reason like many others before that at the venue of the meeting.
'The Chairman has without the prior knowledge and or approval of the Commission appointed three Acting Directors to head substantive Departments in total disregard of extant laws on seniority.'
They accused him of unfair practices in appointment and postings saying, 'He has appointed three Special Advisers/Assistant from the private sector without recourse to the Commission and to whom he has issued the Commission's Identity Cards and entrusted them with official documents of the Commission. The Special Advisers/Assistants attend official functions, semi nars, retreat and receive allowances from the Commission.'
A source, however, said: 'The position of some forces in the Presidency is that Odimegwu should be retained because of his experience in the corporate world. These forces have stepped into the crisis with a view to finding a solution.
'They said no one can deny his track record. His problem is that he cannot manage public office with the same speed and attitude with which he addressed challenges in the Nigerian Breweries.'