Another scandal the size of Mainagate is brewing in the Federal Public Service with the refusal of Head of Service of the Federation Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita to sack the acting Executive Secretary of the Border Communities Development Agency [BCDA] Mrs Victoria Olutayo Odumosu. As Daily Trust reported on Monday last week, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission’s [ICPC] probe confirmed that Odumosu falsified her date of birth and has overstayed in service by nearly two years.
ICPC, which carried out its investigation based on a petition, requested the HoS to sack Mrs Odumosu and order her to refund all the salaries and allowances she collected since 2016. ICPC’s letter dated April 16, signed by its acting chairman Musa Usman Abubakar, was addressed to the HoS. It said its investigation confirmed that Mrs Odumosu is still in service because she falsified her date of birth in 2016 by changing it from July 6, 1956 to July 6, 1960.
The letter said, “After a thorough and in-depth investigation of the petition, it was confirmed that the officer has overstayed in service by twenty (20) months at the time of this report. The purpose of this letter is to request you to please disengage the suspect from service immediately and she should refund all the monies (salaries and allowances) she collected beyond the period of her service.”
Public Service Rules make it compulsory for public officials to retire after 35 years in service or on attainment of 60 years of age, whichever is earlier. Any attempt to stay beyond that period is criminal and attracts sanctions. ICPC’s report noted that a memo had earlier been sent to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo by BCDA’s former Executive Secretary Engr. Numoipre Wills, who said Mrs Odumosu should have retired from federal service in 2016 “but she used her position as BCDA’s Head of Administration to falsify, alter and or manipulate her records in order to attain her purported directorship and seniority in this agency.” Prior to 2015, her records consistently showed that she was born in 1956 and the date only changed in 2015, barely a year to her retirement. Attempt by Mrs. Odumosu to change the date of birth on her passport was also rejected by the Nigeria Immigration Service which noted that if she was born in 1960, she could not have finished primary school in 1967.
Not for nothing did BCDA’s former Executive Secretary, Engr. Numoipre Wills, by-pass her and handed over to someone junior to Odumosu in rank. Mrs Oyo-Ita said then that Mrs Odumosu should act as BCDA’s head pending the investigation of allegations against her, but did the HOS ever initiate the investigation? Allegation of age falsification is weighty and the Head of Service cannot afford to be mute on such a matter. It could amount to aiding and abetting.
ICPC is a respected anti-graft agency set up by government to investigate corrupt practices. Its report cannot be waved aside. It is possible that other public servants are engaged in similar acts and the only way to stop it is by ensuring that anyone found guilty is punished. If the HoS doubts ICPC’s findings, the least she can do is to initiate her own investigation. This case should not be allowed to go the way of the former chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, who shocked the country by returning to office under a government which claims to have zero tolerance for corrupt practises, after he was dismissed by a previous government.
It should be very easy to crosscheck the evidence because Odumosu’s service records are available all the way back to her days at Industrial Training Fund, ITF. All that is needed is to check the officer’s file prior to 2015, when the act was said to have been committed to verify her age. We call on the Head of Service to act on the issue immediately as anything short of that puts a dent on the government’s anti-corruption stance.