By Kingsley Chukwuka
The Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph Ari, has said the Fund remains professional and neutral in dealing with the management policies.
Ari said the issues of religious sentiment does not have a structure in the ITF.
The DG made the statement while responding to the allegations by Muslim Rights (MURIC), where it said the ITF has been Christianized under the leadership of Mr. Ari.
Speaking through the Director of Public Affairs of the Fund, Mrs Suleyol Fred-Chagu, in a press statement sent to our correspondent, the DG said: “Our attention has been drawn to a press release titled “Investigate Mother of all Nepotism in ITF, Jos by the Muslim Rights Concern”, where it accused the Director-General of the ITF, Mr. Joseph Ari of ‘nepotism, wrongful appointments and marginalisation of Muslims in the running of the agency.
“Whereas it is not the policy of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to respond to every negative comment since we believe in the inalienable right of Nigerians to free speech, we take exception to 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.
“However, in order to correct the erroneous impression that the publication may have created in the minds of Nigerians, we are constrained to state 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 the group alleged to be Christianisation and Plateaurisation agenda of the DG in the ITF, we want to place on record that this is far from the truth and a product of the imagination of the writer as the recruitment exercise conducted in February, 2019 that they hinged their allegations on, followed all due processes and was co-ordinated by the Federal Character Commission, which even issued a letter of compliance to the Fund after the exercise.
“It must equally be noted that the DG recused himself from the examination interview sessions that were conducted by a panel that comprised officials of our 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, OFR- a detribalised Nigerian among others.
“MURIC further cited the constitution of the Fund’s Management to buttress its baseless accusation of ‘Christianisation’ of the Agency as only four Muslims were appointed into a fifteen-member management body during his first tenure while five are currently in the team of seventeen in his second term. This is also sadly untrue.
“The reality is that as a consummate and experienced administrator, the DG has ensured that all zones are represented in management, which is the first time such has happened in the history of the organisation.
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 the 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 Director-General did not follow due process, we wish to state that the DG withdrew his services from the Plateau State Civil Service and joined the ITF in 2007 (not 2006 as suggested by the writer).
He did not retire as suggested by MURIC as he had not served up to 35 years of service, 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.
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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.
“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”, the statement reads.