Business - Business & Economy - News - August 2, 2021

FIRS industrial dispute: Union accuses management of harassment, intimidation, despite court’s restraining order

MEDIATRACNET

Despite the intervention of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in the industrial face-off between the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) and the management of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the crisis appears not to have gone away yet.
On Sunday, the Union alleged fresh hostilities against its leadership executives, saying they till being subjected to series of harassment, antagonism and intimidation by the management apparently for speaking up to defend the interest of their members.
Also, the Union said the management was still going ahead with the implementation of policies they kicked against, which triggered the crisis that took them before the court for a resolution.
The court presided by Justice O. Y. Anuwe had granted an interim injunction to restrain the Chairman of the FIRS, Mohammed Nami, and the Board from going ahead with its decision to proscribe the FIRS Chapter of the workers’ body.
Similarly, the court also ordered the Union to suspend its plan to picket the offices of the FIRS nationwide and disrupt its operations, pending the determination of all issues that underlined the crisis.
The Union had filed an application before the court following the order for its proscription by FIRS management, which they accused of implementing policies they considered not in the interest of all the workers, particularly as they concerned career progression in the Service.
One of such policies, the workers alleged, was the policy by the Mohammed Nami-led management to reappoint several FIRS Directors that retired from the service without reference with the organizational career structure.
The union said such a practice did not give room for those in the lower cadre of the Service to grow and progress up the ladder to the top of the amangement hierarchy.
They insisted that such appointments were in breach of the relevant sections of the FIRS’ Human Resource Process and Procedures (HRPP) staff handbook, stipulating that appointment into directorate positions could only take place where there is no qualified and competent personnel within the Service.
However, the Chairman of the FIRS Chapter of the workers Union, Abdulrahman Idris told MEDIATRACNET in Abuja on Sunday that despite the court order, the Secretariat of the Union remained sealed for several days on the orders of FIRS management, while its executive were directed to vacate.
Idris said the Secretariat was only unsealed and Union officials allowed to use it after the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, wrote to the FIRS Chairman, to condemn the decision of his management to order the proscription of the union.
However, Idris said the keys to the Secretariat were taken away by the FIRS Director of Facility Management, one Mrs Tabitha, despite several protests by the Union over the security and safety of the office and its documents and other valuables.
The Union leader said the two official vehicles belonging to the Union have since been rendered immobile, as their tyres were deflated.
Idris said following persistent pressures from representatives of the management for him to hand over the keys to the two Union vehicles, he was compelled to submit them to the Security Department last Thursday to avoid further harassment.
Beyond the allegation of harassment, Idris said the FIRS management has continued its policy of appointing new Directors into the Service apparently in defiance of the restraining order of the court on the issue.
He cited the case of Alkali Salihu, with staff IR No. 90001058, formerly a State Coordinator, who was appointed as Director/Large Tax Dept Non-Oil vide letter of transfer dated July 30, 2021 and signed by Director, Human Capital Department of FIRS, Bashir Umar.
To differentiate a permanent staff from a temporary worker, he said the IR Number of the former has five digits number.
“This is gross violation of Human Resource Policy of the Service. Such appointments affect career progression in the Service. We have staff who grew from scratch (Clerical Assistants) and are now Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors, etc. and are qualified for appointment as Directors.
“Apart from this set of people not being allowed to grow, the current policy by management to unilaterally appoint retired Directors will result in their stagnation in Service and their productivity on the job affected,” the Union leader said.
On the 2021 Promotion exercise recently declared by the management, he said no vacancy was declared in some departments in the Service, like Facility Department because a retired Director had already been re-engaged to occupy the position that should have become vacant.
On the refusal of the FIRS management to pay staff the 2020 General Performance Bonus in line with its standard practice over the years that once the Service has realized up to 70-80 percent of its revenue target, Idris accused the management of doling out millions as palliatives to Board members despite claims of lack of money.
He alleged that during the first phase of COVID-19 pandemic, each member of the FIRS Board received between N1 million and N2 millionas palliative, with the Board Secretary pocketing about N750,000.
When our reporter contacted the spokesperson of the FIRS, Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmed, for his reaction to the allegations by the Union, he refused to comments, saying the issues raised were already before the court.
“No comment. All the issues you have raised here are before the National Industrial Court. So, the Management cannot comment on them, as that would amount to contempt of court order. Thank you,” Ahmed said in response to a text message sent to him on Sunday.

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