*Director writes IG, alleges threat to life
Crisis is brewing in the Secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) over the opposition of some officers to an alleged plot by the Director General of its secretariat, Mr. Asishana Bayo Okauru to continue in office after spending 15 years as DG.
The Forum was established in 1999 to enhance collaboration among the 36 state governors in Nigeria.
The officers are reportedly up in arms against the DG and are questioning the rationale for his continued stay in office after 15 years, when the governors for whom the secretariat was created cannot stay in office beyond eight years.
One of those leading the charge against the propriety of Okauru’s continued stay in office is director of Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo. He has written the police, accusing Okauru of threatening his life and other members of his family.
Checks revealed that Barkindo was conspicuously absent at a capacity building conference on Good Governance for journalists jointly organized by Premium Times (online Newspaper) and the NGF on Wednesday.
According to some officials of the Forum, the crisis had been brewing for months, but boiled over last week after Okauru allegedly physically restrained and ‘detained’ Barkindo in his office.
“This triggered an altercation between the duo leading to the NGF DG allegedly threatening Barkindo’s life and that of his his Sweden-based family,” according to an official who didn’t want his name in print.
“Our DG openly accused Barkindo of maligning his wife, Ifueko Omoigui- Okauru, a former chairperson of the the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Barkindo had been openly opposed to madam’s (alleged) meddling in our internal affairs, particularly the politics.
“For instance, in the build up to the election of the chairman of NGF, the DG and one other Executive Director loyal to a former chairman of the Forum, worked to undermine the emergence of the choice candidate of the governors. This nearly compromised the forum,” offered the officer.
In the wake of the emergence of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as Chairman of the Forum, the Secretariat in 2009 went through a major restructuring.
A new management was appointed in January 2009 under the leadership of Asishana B. Okauru to run the Forum’s Secretariat. He was supported by two other Executive Directors in charge of Finance and Administration, and Strategy and Research, respectively.
Checks revealed that the firm, Restral Consulting, contacted by Saraki to recruit the DG and other top officials in the the secretariat allegedly turned out to be owned by Okauru’s wife.
Some officers who also spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that several foreign donor agencies that had been supporting the Forum to help the cause of democracy in Nigeria are worried about the failure of the secretariat to adequately account for previous support.
It was gathered that after last week’s verbal altercation, the DG, in contempt of conventional employment rules, verbally fired Barkindo. He thereafter directed the secretariat’s human resources department to pen a memo that Barkindo resigned “verbally.”
Barkindo has through his lawyer petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, alleging threat to life.
Part of the petition dated December 11, 2023, reads: “On the 7th of December 2023, our client who works with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) as one of two Directors, had an altercation with Mr. Asishana Bayo Okauru, the Director General of the NGF and in the course of their exchanges, Mr Okauru threatened the life of our client and his family. Particularly, the following were the exact words of Mr. Okauru – “We will follow you to your house, your bedroom, and even to Sweden.”
“For the purpose of clarity, the family of our client lives in Sweden. This is not just a statement made out of excitement, but it is well conceived and has some measure of forethought. Considering the nature of the relationship between our client and Mr. Okauru, we have reasons to believe that if nothing is done, our client and his family can be harmed by Mr. Okauru.
“At the moment, our client has slipped into hiding, as he is emotionally distressed by that statement and now in a state of paranoia. Our client no longer feels free to drive around Abuja. He is also scared to see strange vehicles around his house. But the scariest of them all, is the safety of his family who are thousands of miles away in Sweden, where he is not there to protect them from harm.
“Accordingly, we humbly call on the Police to investigate and prosecute if necessary, Mr. Okauru. We are confident in the integrity and commitment of the Police to do justice to our client. Our client will also be available to assist the police with any information that will help the investigation of this matter.”
Also sighted a letter dated December 7, 2023 with the subject matter titled, “Staff Resignation: Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo,” which claimed that Barkindo resigned verbally, a footing believed to be in sync with the DG’s alleged arbitrariness as no member of management was said to have been consulted.
The letter issued shortly after last week’s altercation between the duo reads: “I have been directed to inform you that Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo has verbally informed the DG of his resignation as a staff of the NGF Secretariat. This resignation is effective immediately and has been accepted by the DG,” the letter which was signed by Shina Ayotola, Chief of Staff to the DG, said.
It was gathered that the letter had yet to be officially communicated to Barkindo.
Other underlying issues, gathered, include the alleged personalisation of the Secretariat to the point that official files and documents are kept in certain homes.
Efforts to reach Barkindo were futile, as his numbers were switched off. His lawyers said he had, out of fear, “slipped into hiding”. On his part, DG Okauru failed to respond to text and WhatsApp messages, just as he failed to return calls to his mobile phone.
SOURCE: THE AUTHORITY