by Segun Odeleye
Festus Odimegwu, the chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), who has come under fire recently over some controversial statements he made and also received a query from the presidency, is now facing an internal uprising from within the commission, as 24 out of 35 commissioners are now insisting that he be removed from his position.
The 24 commissioners have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to direct Odimegwu to resign due to alleged high-handedness and unguarded utterances capable of undermining preparations for 2016 Census.
The commissioners forwarded an eight-page petition to the president asking that he appoints a more temperate person to head the commission. In their petition, they passed a vote of no confidence on Odimegwu and argued that 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 Nation reports that 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.”
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, seminars, 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.”