Hon Abimbola Ayo-Yusuf is the Chief Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission, PCC, at its headquarters in Abuja. Ayo Yusuf, who was a former Commissioner at the Lagos State office of PCC in Lagos State, in this interview with LATEEF IBRAHIM, spoke on a wide range of issues. Excerpts:
Q: How long have you been on this job?
A: Two years now. I came into office in the year 2021.
Q: What are the high points of things you can emphatically say they have achieved within these two years?
A: My greatest achievement is the Ombudsman Radio that i have been able to finish up. We are just waiting for the President’s approval to start broadcasting. During my tenure here, i was able to finish up five offices, five state offices. I have been able to get ten (10) offices from the Federal Ministry of Works, ftom the federal secretariat and we have been able to do a lot.
Q: How many complaints/cases has the PCC settled or attended to so far?
A: We’ve handled a lot of cases. We have settled about 170,000 cases out of about 260,000 that we have. I think the main challenges that we have now is funds. That’s our main challenge.
Q: Apart from fund, what other challenge is the PCC facing?
A: The current one is that they have approved the salary structure from CONPSS (Consolidated Public Salary Structure) to CONLESS (Consolidated Legislative Salary Structure) about two years ago. The payment has not come, but the salary changed, the salary structure changed. That’s the problem i am having with my union people. That’s what we are working on and we are going to get the input in our budget in 2024.
Q: What are the steps you have taken so far to actualize that?
A: Well, we are talking to the leadership of the National Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate President and the Clerk of National Assembly. I am also trying to see the Appropriation Committee Chairman of the National Assembly through the committee Chairman of Ethics and Petitions. So, we are really working on it. I have told the union people to come, let’s send representatives with us, so that whatever we are going to do, they will know the steps we are taking, so they they will understand that i am with them.
Q: Still on these cases you mentioned, where are they from? Are these cases from states or where do you get these different cases from?
A: Yes, we have different, different cases. Every State has its own Commissioner that deals with their cases as well as their struggles.
When the cases are federal in nature, that’s when they send them to us in the headquarters to treat . But every state has a Commissioner and every state has a minimum of five area offices, where they can get complaints from people and the complaints range from roads, electricity and general things that affect Nigerians. So, when the complaints come, we take them as one unit and treat. We will now run a case conference. At times, we now have symposium on them. We have done on multiple taxation, we’ve done on reforms in correctional centres and we also did on airlines. All these delays and cancelation of flights, where all the Airlines’ Managing Directors come in for a case conference, with NCAA (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority). Right now, we are working on ecological funds, asking the States’ Ecological Offices to come and tell us how they have spent their ecological funds. Those are the cases we attend to.
Q: When you came on board as the Chief Commissioner of the PCC, you must have set a target you want to meet. How far have you been able to realize this?
A: My target, when i came in was to set up the Ombudsman Radio and probably get along with it Ombudsman TV as well, to get the Commission sit properly, because when I came in, the condition of the Commission was not very encouraging. I was Commissioner (of PCC) for Lagos for three years before i became the Chief Commissioner’s (at the PCC headquarters). So I I knew the problems the commission had and I also knew the challenges I had as Commissioner of the state. And that is why as Chief, I intend to make everything better than what it was before. The Commission will be on a standard setting by the time i leave.
Q: What’s your relationship with the staff of PCC, particularly the union officials?
A: Personally, I think I have an open relationship with them. Everybody has access to me. I’m not the man that you don’t have access to. I am a man of the people. So, everybody has access to me. You don’t need an appointment to see me.
Q: What’s your word of advice to the staff vis-a-vis the union members?
A: Everybody should be calm. I would take care whatever it is that is on ground. They should just be calm. I am not relenting on making sure that they are comfortable. Their comfort is my priority. So, i am assuring them that by 2024, CONLESS will be paid, because i am not relenting in getting the National Assembly to put it in the budget since we are their baby and they approved it for us and the structure is National Assembly structure. So, they need to pay it because is the rights for my staff. They should however know that beyond the approval by the National Assembly, there are other steps to follow. The other steps to follow, we have started on that. I just got to know from the DG budget that we need to go through the Head of Service and now come to him to guarantee the funding of salary structure. But since the National Assembly it put in our budget, we’re good to go.
Q: What’s your reaction to the claim that you decided to be buying Jeeps for your Commissioners when there was no money to pay CONLESS to your staff?
A: They are civil servants. And they know that when money is meant for a particular subject , it cannot be used to fund another subject. The one that was put in the budget for cars for commissioners and I, out of my own, decided not to just bye cars for Commission’ers but to buy operational vehicles, inclusive for the commission. The money for the purchase of vehicles is not money for CONLESS. And it is written there in the budget. They can open the budget and see there is nothing hidden about that.
Q: What’s your reaction to the claim of massive recruitment of staff for PCC?
A: Well, the employment was done with approval from the Federal Character Commission. We got approval from the Federal Character Commission for the employment.
Q: Would you say that the PCC has met the purpose for which it was established?
A: Well, we are the voice of the voiceless. And i can tell you that we are actually doing our best, we’re reaching out to the poor people and we are getting their problem solved. That’s the only way democracy will get to the grassroots. It is through us, in collaboration with the police, that all these police harassments will also have to stop. Let the poor breath. We are their voice and we are going to make sure that they will breath.