The management of National Theatre has threatened the Chairman of Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers’ Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), National Theatre chapter, Comrade Augustine Agada with dismissal for sharing his thoughts on the alleged sale of property of the parastatal by the Prof Sunny Ododo-led management team.
Agada had in an interview with an online publication denied the involvement of the management in any shady deals, noting that the management sought the approval of the board before contracting an auctioneer.
He explained that the Ododo-led management team only sold obsolete items and that staff members were carried.
He said, “I was away in Calabar during the sales but members of staff were carried along before an auctioneer was brought in for the clearance sales.
“Beyond this, the National Theatre is a rumour mill that when someone says good morning, you should try and confirm before responding.
“We had a meeting with the General Manager on the condition of service for staff and the issue of the reports that alleged sale of property was raised. The GM asked if I was aware of it and I said no. He thereafter asked me to debunk it. We are not happy about the report because it was done without our consent. It has created a lot of discord and distrust among staff.”
In what the management described as unsatisfactory conduct, in a letter dated June 30, 2021, and addressed to Comrade Augustine Agada, titled ‘Preliminary Letter’, the management queried the union chairman and threatened to dismiss him for granting a press interview without authorisation from the management.
The letter, which was signed by the Director, Human Resources Department of the parastatal, Agbo A. Ita, read in part, “That without authorisation, you (Agada) granted a press interview to an online publication on the ‘Alleged sales of government property’ by the National Theatre management.
“That you further claimed that when the news about the sale of the National Theatre property went public, the General Manager invited you to find out what you know about the alleged sales of the items and he further asked you to debunk the allegation.
“That you impugned the character and integrity of the General Manager/CEO, Prof Sunny Ododo when you alluded that he could have given bribe to your sister union, AUPCRE (Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service, Technical and Recreation Services Employees), National Theatre branch, but not to RATTAWU, in order to kill the truth.
“The above actions of yours constituted serious misconduct punishable under Public Service Rule (PSR) 030402 (f) and PSR 030421 9c and d), for which disciplinary action, which may include dismissal could be taken against you.”
Reacting to the query, a member of staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the parastatal is under the siege of the management and that union leaders are no longer free to air their views on issues that affect workers.
The General Manager, Ododo, and his management team, according to the source, are quick to sponsor rebuttal in an online newspaper describing the said publication as false and malicious whereas the facts are glaring for everyone to see.
The source said, “The two unions: RATTAWU and AUPCTRE-The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreation Services Employees have become toothless and ineffective under this management.
“They have been forced to compromise. Prof Ododo issued a query to our chairman, Agada for granting a press interview and also gave the union leaders N5 million to debunk the publications in so many mediums.
“Things are going wrong at the National Theatre which we urgently need the Minister of Information and Culture (Lai Mohammed) to look into.
“There was a brand new transformer that was bought in 2019 for N14, 000, 000.00 but he sold it for N8,000, 000.00 and paid in N1.5 million into the Treasury Single Account. Let the GM refute this, the facts are there for everybody to see.
“Even during the last Sallah, when so many staff members were complaining of not getting anything, the GM bought bags of rice for N6 million to pacify, took pictures with them, and posted them on Facebook.
“The company he leased the portion of land within the premises to gave him three rams for the Sallah which he transported to Ilorin (the Kwawa State capital), saying he was going to deliver them to the Minister of Information and Culture but we know the Minister as a man of integrity and conscience which is why we are appealing to him to intervene and save the historic edifice from going into extinction. We want the Minister to investigate all these claims and act on the truth of the matter.
“It is not enough for the foot soldiers of the management to describe our publication as one-sided and that it does not represent the interest and opinion of the staffers of the National Theatre. Rather they should investigate all the allegations and address all the issues raised.”
Meanwhile, there have been reports about how despite the warning by the Nigerian government that any portion of the national heritage in the country should not be ceded out to any person or group, the management of the National Theatre reportedly leased out a portion of land within the premises to a private business owner.
For instance, a report by Legit NG said in contravention of the minister’s (Mohammed’s) directive, the management of the National Theatre led by Ododo, as contained in a Memorandum of Understanding dated January 15, 2021, conceded 8,004 square metres of land on lease to Adewaxs Global Ventures for three years.
A staff member of the parastatal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is hardly any week the management would not move a truckload of valuable items and appliances out of the premises.
The items allegedly sold by the management, according to the source, included newly installed 1500kva transformer, galvanised Air Handling Units (AHU) ducts of more than 97 units, 11 air condensing units, 800 tons centrifugal chillers, 20 tons truck of armored cables, a truckload of galvanised pipes, accidented Prado Jeep, 2,000 black imported plastic chairs and 400 black imported tables.
But reacting to the allegations of leasing National Theatre space and selling properties to companies and others, Ododo in a recent interview said his mandate is to run the national theatre as a business enterprise.
He said: “I don’t know where the allegation of sales of property is coming from. When the facelift was to commence, we were given two weeks to move our property out of the main bowl. And in the process of doing, unexpected could happen.”
Saharareporters, New York