The Nigerian Association of Medical Physicists, NAMP, the professional body concerned with protection of persons against the deleterious effects of ionizing radiation, has asked the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency; appoint a Director-General for the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, NNRA. In a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, signed by NAMP’s Board of Trustees Chairman, Professor James Olomo, the association warns of a nuclear tsunami in Nigeria, a country desirous of generating electricity from nuclear energy as well as harnessing other peaceful applications of nuclear energy, if nuclear safety and radiation protection issues are treated with levity. The association wondered why the federal Government, for nearly a year now, has not considered it necessary and important to appoint a substantive Director-General for NNRA, an authority created under the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act 19 of 1995 to regulate nuclear safety and the use of ionizing radiation for the protection of lives and the environment in Nigeria.
NAMP also wants the substantive DG to be appointed by the President to be a scholar and someone versed in the knowledge of Medical and Health Physics as required by the Act and international standards which NAMP insists should not be compromised because radiation once released into the human environment does not obey local nor international boundaries and does not discriminate against status, gender, age, race, and tribe. The substantive DG, the letter continues, must be a person of proven integrity with relevant qualifications and practical experience of a minimum of 20 years in the application of nuclear energy in science and technology, nuclear safety and radiation protection. NAMP also made a case for proper funding and independence of the NNRA as a regulator. It pleaded with President Goodluck Jonathan, whom it describes as a biological and environmental science scholar, to pay urgent attention to what the association calls the very vital issues raised in the letter to avert a nuclear and radiological disaster in the country in the foreseeable future.
It will be recalled that the Director of Nuclear Safety in the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, NNRA, Dr Martin Ogharandukun, after a management meeting on May 31, 2011 allegedly made himself Acting DG/CEO and proceeded to change the signatories to the authority’s accounts to include his name. He has also been collecting the allowance of an Acting DG/CEO from government/NNRA funds. He posted on the authority’s website (www.nnra.gov.ng) that the management of NNRA has appointed him the Acting DG/CEO pending the appointment of a substantive DG and went ahead to change the authority’s letter headed papers to reflect his new “appointment”. He has since then been carrying out the full functions and duties of an Acting DG/CEO of the Authority, awarding contracts and approving payments. The law setting-up NNRA, the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act 1995 Part 111, 8 (1) vests the power of appointing a Director-General for the Authority on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The vacancy for DG in NNRA arose following the retirement of the pioneer Director-General, Professor S. B. Elegba, who served two five-year terms as Director-General from 2001 to 2011. He handed over to Mr Bulus Yabaya, the then Director of Administration and Finance, who acted from April, 2011 till he died on May 27, 2011.
The conditions for acting appointment are in Section 6 of the Public Service Rules, PSR, and clearly spelt out in Rules 020601, 020602, 020603, 020605 and 020606. Under these Rules, the Federal Civil Service Commission must be notified and the appointment gazetted with the dates of commencement and cessation of the acting appointment clearly stated. These conditions were allegedly not followed. Furthermore, under Rule 020604, such an acting appointment must not exceed six months but Dr Ogharandukun has been acting since May 31, 2011 to date – for over 11 months.
Similarly, a Deputy Director, Mr Akim Bakreen, allegedly made himself the Acting Director of Administration and Finance of NNRA since June, 2011 and has included his name as a signatory to NNRA accounts. He has also allegedly been illegally receiving the allowance of an Acting Director.
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