Pressure mounts on Buhari to replace ambassadorial nominee

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A career ambassador nominee from Kogi State, Mrs Regina Ingekem Ocheni, has come under fierce attack for allegedly falling short of the requirements of established rules and guidelines in Nigeria’s Federal Civil Service for an ambassadorial position, a petition before the Senate has revealed.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter dated May 6th and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, nominated 42 career ambassadors across the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for screening and confirmation.

According to the petition sent to the Senate and dated May 14th, Mrs Ocheni whose husband, Prof Stephen Ocheni, was the immediate past Minister of State for Labour, hails from Cross River State as against her claim of indigeneship of Kogi State.

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The service-wide extant regulation authored by the Federal Character Commission stipulates that an officer is prohibited from claiming the State of Origin of her spouse for the purpose of any appointment in Nigeria’s public service.

In the petition to the Senate President, a copy of which was obtained, the upper legislative chamber was urged by the petitioner, Mr Adam Umar Bako, who is the most senior career officer from Kogi State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reject the nomination of Mrs Ocheni which was described as a ‘flagrant breach of laid down rules and regulations in Nigeria’s civil service.’

According to the petition, Mrs Ocheni violated a circular of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs which directed all officers laying claim to their spouse’s state of origin to revert to their indigenous state on the strength of the Federal Character Circular dated March 1st, 2011.

‘This rule she (Mrs Ocheni) has infracted upon and indeed has gone to arrange a local government indigeneship certificate in response to the ministry’s circular Ref No: 2/AS.285/S.139 dated 13 February 2020, that demanded all officers claiming their husbands’ state of origin to revert to their indigenous state,” the petition disclosed.

The petitioner lamented the grave injustice being done to him by presenting Mrs Ocheni’s name in place of his, having put in about 30 years of meritorious service to the country’s foreign service compared to Mrs Ocheni who only joined the Foreign Affairs Ministry less than 10 years ago.

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‘She possesses an HND certificate in Secretariat Study…More troubling is the fact that at the time she joined the Foreign Service, the law harmonising HND and First Degree had not been passed and assented to, therefore, she could at best have been on Grade Level 14 which was the bar for all HND holders as at then. The crucial and worrisome question is, how did she come into the service on Grade Level 15 without additional qualification?,’ he queried.

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In the petition which was copied to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, the petitioner sought for the restoration of his right as the most senior officer from Kogi State in the service, adding that, ‘leaving her (Mrs Ocheni’s) nomination to proceed to confirmation on the basis of misrepresentation of facts among other illegalities will occasion a grave injustice, kill morale and create bad blood in the service.’

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