THE House of Representatives may be forced to issue a Bench Warrant on the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), over what it described as unlawful dismissal and disengagement of one Nwachukwu Loretta and four other officers without fair hearing.
According to the House, the decision violates section 36 of the 1999 constitution as amended and as such cannot stand.
The Uzoma Nkem-Abonta-led House Committee on Public Petitions also recommended that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources direct the PPPRA to immediately reinstate the dis-engaged officers and pay all outstanding entitlements accruing from the date of their termination of services till date.
The five dismissed officers, including Nwachukwu Loretta Chinwe, Nkechi Obiefuna-Ewoh, Pauline Peter Omali, Oyekanmi Isaac Ayodele and Blessing Osagie, had approached the House with a petition through their legal representative, Okolocha, Ufua & Co, on September 29, 2015, and prayed it to intervene to reverse their disengagement which they said was done without due process.
The committee, in its report, signed by the chairman, Uzoma Nkem Abonta, PDP, Ukwa East/West Fed Constituency, Abia State, said: “The petitioners in their complaints expressed shock at their disengagement, having been in the services of the agency, following their employment at various times between 2004 and 2006, when they performed their duties satisfactorily, thereby meriting confirmation and gaining commendation and promotions for jobs well done.
“Surprisingly, that sometime in 2014, their appointments were respectively purported to be terminated in a most capricious manner, via a letter, dated December 30, 2014, captioned ‘Letter of Disengagement from the Service of The Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency.’
“That by dint of hard work and diligence, they were at various times promoted, and variously, expressly commended for satisfactory services, and in some cases, sponsored for further training abroad, or appointed to special positions meant for the most competent and dedicated staff.
“That throughout their service, they were not found wanting in the performance of their duties, whether on moral, physical or intellectual grounds.”
However, in its submission before the committee, the PPPRA via a letter with reference number: A.3/8/916/C.363/Vol.I/59, dated April 12, 2016, and addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly, the agency told the committee that it was constrained to reinstate the petitioners due to the gravity of their offences.
It said: “I wish to refer to your letter No.: NASS/CAN/105/Vol.21/163, dated March 10, 2016, on the above subject and to most respectfully state that the agency is contained to reinstate Nwachukwu Loretta Chinwe and four other disengaged staff as they were found culpable of falsification of age, among others, in contravention of the Public Service Rule (PSR) Article 030402(a) for which they were liable for dismissal under Article 030401 of the PSR.
“I will also like to state that the agency was magnanimous to have commuted their dismissal to disengagement to enable them enjoy full benefits,” the PPPRA said in its reply.
Establishing the basis for the action, the PPPRA also in an oral submission before the committee, according to the report, said all staff of the agency had via a memo with reference number A./2/6/791/Vol.1/34 from the Ministry on May 2, 2013, requested to complete a Career Progression Form and attached copies of evidence/certificates and to appear before the verification team from the Ministry for identification and verification of their documents from Monday 6th to Wednesday 8th of May 2013.
According to the agency, the verification team which established that the petitioners forged their documents was headed by one Mr. Goddy Onwughalu, a Director in charge of Human Resources Management at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, adding that the team also visited all the zonal offices of the agency and the head office in Abuja.