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Re: Open letter to Kwara governor on state’s civil service

Re: Open letter to Kwara governor on state’s civil service
September 16
17:18 2020

BY MAGAJI ABDULKADIR

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A few days ago, a fellow purporting to be a retired civil servant wrote an open letter to the Governor of Kwara State on the alleged pitiable state of the civil service. With due respect to the gentleman who originally did not put a name to the article that was promoted across Whatssap platforms, nothing in the article showed he truly served in the state civil service or the Federal Civil Service. I said this because certain basic knowledge and understanding of rules should stand out a civil servant of the rank and years he claimed to possess. For the sake of clarity, I have elected to also number my response to his ill-conceived opinion article, which, quite laughably, is now surfacing in some blog with a name, Olaroungbe Yusuf. 

1. RETIREMENT OF Permanent Secretaries: Contrary to the claim of the gentleman, no Permanent Secretary was retired by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. Powers to retire a Permanent Secretary resides in the Civil Service Commission (CSC), according to both 1999 CFRN, as amended, and the Public Service Rules and 1979 Kwara State Public Service Commission Regulations. The Governor only removed them in the exercise of the removal power vested in him by Section 208(1). By implication, each Permanent Secretary so removed was expected to remain in the service but return to his/ her rank before becoming a Perm Sec, if they so desired, till getting to either the statutory retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of length of service, whichever is earlier. That’s why none of them was issued a letter of compulsory retirement by the CSC. On the case of the Clerk of the House, over which the writer sought to portray the Governor as biased, the officer was appointed by 8th Assembly, in accordance with both Section 93 of the Constitution (supra) & section 9 of the Kwara State House of Assembly Commission law CAP K26.  Certainly, she wasn’t, and still isn’t, under the executive arm of the Government of Kwara State, and the Governor. The Assembly has its own Commission. So, the Governor could not have removed her. I perfectly understand that the writer, like many others, still believe we are in an era of impunity where anything goes. For many Kwarans, the removal of Permanent Secretaries almost after one year of the Governor’s swearing in was a departure from what they were used to. The writer mischievously forgot to tell his audience that in 2003 when Bukola Saraki took over in Kwara State, he summarily sacked all the permanent secretaries he inherited from the former administration. He equally purged the civil service of persons he felt were loyal to the former administration. He demoted others. That (removal of Perm Secs) is actually a standard in Nigerian politics, majorly because the position of PS is purely political and lucky appointees are aware of this. That the Governor chose to be different in temperament and approach should not become a crime over which any lousy fellow should vilify him.

2. NON-PAYMENT OF BENEFITS IN LIEU OF NOTICE: This type of benefit isn’t applicable to any of the Perm Sec, in view of Sec. 208, referred to above. The Governor didn’t retire each officer compulsorily. Also, the CSC didn’t do so. Indeed, each Perm Sec was expected to give a three-month notice of retirement to the CSC or thirty-five (35) years of pensionable service or 60 years of age or pay three months salaries in lieu of that notice (Public Service Rule 02808, especially sub iv). Rather than the government being indebted to each of them, the reverse is the case. This should be deducted from the gratuity of each Perm Sec so retired.

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3 GOVERNMENT’S SECRET NOW BECOMES OPEN SECRET: I feel the Government ought to be appreciative of this piece of information from the writer. It should, however, be noted that this is a dent on the top echelon of the civil service which they must address. The HOS, in particular, would be deemed to be blameworthy for failing to curb the trend or draw the attention of the SSG or the Governor or take necessary action to investigate and deal with the situation summarily. Having not done this means no scenario like this is in any of the MDAs, as alleged by the writer. Accordingly, this must be a figment of the imagination of the author. As I said above, the writer is clearly ignorant of the purport of his garrulous claims. He was actually indicting the top echelons of the bureaucracy who are the custodians of government documents.

4. POSTING OF STAFF. As the Head of Government (Public Service Rule 11102), the Governor may, at any point, if he so desires, intervene in any posting exercise. This especially relates to Administrative officers and Accountants. This is so because every officer in the government of Kwara State works for and on behalf of the Governor of the State. The Governor may do so by either: a) directing the HOS and Accountant-General to submit posting proposals for vetting or (b) delegate a committee to do so for vetting. Adopting either option is a function of the number of officers to be affected and at the prerogative of the Governor. Perhaps, it should be added that doing so is not a new phenomenon. It is as old as the Kwara State civil service itself. No wonder, the predecessor of this Governor did so especially in respect of officers of both Administrative and Accountant cadres. Suggestions to the contrary show that the author is ignorant of the history of the Civil service of Kwara State. Besides, it is common in Civilian administration such as this to so intervene.

5. LAWS OF SUBEB, TSC AND LGSC

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The author also pontificated on the new development in the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). Again, he lacks basic knowledge of things and his article does not reflect the feelings of the majority. He was clearly speaking for the tiny minority who want to become a cabal. In 2016, the then Head of Service clearly misled the former Governor into eroding the autonomy granted the three parastatals by their principal laws. This was done by the obnoxious amendment to the laws by the 8th House of Assembly. Be it noted that the principal law of each gives autonomy to the parastatal. Hence, each principal law establishes the board as follows:

i. SUBEB- SECTION 11 CAP K12 establishes the board and section 16(1)(c)(d)(f)(h) vests personnel management functions in the board.
However, in 2016, the then HOS misled Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed into eroding the autonomy granted by the principal law. This was done by the amendment to the principal law referred to above. Section 2. Of CAP K12, 2016 deployed a Permanent Secretary against section 17 prescribing an experienced educationist to be the Secretary. Similarly, section 4 deployed director of (i) Administration, Personnel, Finance and Supply and, (ii) Director, Planning, Research and Statistics and (iii) Comptroller of Finance and Accounts (CFA).

What the administration has done is simply to return autonomy to SUBEB by the amendment law No.5 of 2020 which came into effect on 12th March, 2020 after the Governor assented to the amendment. By implication, the law has abrogated posting of the above listed officers to SUBEB.

ii. Teaching Service Commission (TSC) CAP K51, as amended, establishes a Commission and its section 2 vests the personnel management powers and functions in the Commission. In 2016, the autonomy was eroded by section 2(b) of CAP K51, 2016 directing the deployment of a Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Commission and the following ranks of officers (i) DPFS, (ii) DPRS and, (iii) Comptroller of Finance and Accounts (CFA).
However, in 2020, by the TSC amendment law section 3 of law No 3. Of 2020, the autonomy of the commission was returned by deleting the section on deployment of the directors mentioned above. It also removed the office of Permanent Secretary in its section 2, thereby returning the Commission’s full autonomy.

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(iii) Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) Section 41(i) of the Local Government Service Commission law CAP L8 of 2006 establishes the Commission and vests the power and functions of personnel management in the Commission.
In 2016, the autonomy was eroded by the immediate past administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed by section 2 of the amendment law of LGSC prescribing the deployment of (i) DPFS, (ii) DPRS and, (iii) Controller of Finance and Accounts(CFA).
However, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, by the amendment in section 3 and 4 of CAP L8, of Law No.2 of 2020, returned the commission to its status quo ante by abrogating the deployment of Permanent Secretary and other directors from the pool to the Commission.

Governor Abdulrahman  Abdulrazaq’s intervention brought about by the amendments in the laws of the three parastatals puts the system back on track as entrenched in the Guides to Administrative procedures, chapter 7 sections (01-03). This upholds (i) the government’s objectives of giving them considerable flexibility as against the rigidity of the mainstream civil service in the achievement of the objectives of those parastatals (ii) Relationship between office of the Head of Service and any parastatal or Ministry is limited to the conditions of the staff of these parastatals only, if consulted by the boards of these parastatals at all. (iii) it resists the temptation by the mainstream civil service of treating parastatals as if each of them is an extension post or versa of the office of Head of Service, Accountant-General and Ministries. (iv) this demonstrates Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as a Democrat. It also shows him as a man with a clear vision of a greater Kwara envisioned by the founding fathers of this state.

6. ATMOSPHERE NO LONGER ENCOURAGING AND DISLOYALTY MARKED.
The bitter truth is that loyalty is a core and central ethics in government business. This is true here as it is elsewhere in the world. The civil service is loyal to the state, not any regime as we may be seeing in a segment of the state civil service. The misconducts we are seeing in the civil service is in fact one of the vestiges of the ugly past we have just left. The Governor should address it frontally. This administration shouldn’t take it lightly that some civil servants are acting as though they are representatives of the old order. That is not the mantra of the civil service.  All Civil Servants should be loyal to this administration which is a representative of the people of Kwara State. The civil service must give it the opportunity to serve it. No disloyal Public officer should be given a breathing space any longer. It should be made clear that the government has no obligation to retain disloyal elements like the sponsor(s) of this write up. There is no need repeating the penalty for disloyalty to the Government of the day by any Civil servant, however, highly placed. So, enough is enough. The Public Service Rule is unambiguously clear on the issue of loyalty and neutrality of the civil service.

At this point, I am tempted to adopt a widespread reaction of an unidentified compatriot on this same issue where he said the following: “For many years in this state, the civil service was starved of the necessary equipment and running cost to operate. Jobs meant for civil service were given to all manners of special assistants. What do we have today? Not only has the new helmsman restored running cost to the civil service, he has purchased various equipment and vehicles to allow the civil service to function. How did the retiree miss out on this? Or he was not aware of these?

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“He wrote about promotion for the civil servants. Indeed, there were promotion exercises done in those years. But were they backed with any money? No. So, to what end? The new administration is already conducting promotion exercise for civil servants in the state which, from relevant sources, is to accompanied with modest pay rise. This was publicised by the civil service commission. So, what is the noise about?

“For many years, civil servants did not undergo any training. Trainings were budgeted for in every budget cycle. Records indeed showed such monies were sometime released but nobody was trained. The money ended in private pockets? Is the writer aware that this administration has organised trainings for various cadres of civil servants within its short stay? The last, one a few weeks ago, was the training for permanent secretaries and commissioners, which focused on policy formulation and running an efficient public service.

“The writer talked about the administration inheriting a motivated civil service. Like really? The claim is typical of characters that dominated the past administrations. They lied shamelessly without caution. Before the coming of this administration, civil servants were not getting paid until well into the new month and workers, particularly those at the local government level who suffered the indignity of amputated salary. In many MDAs, salaries were owed for months. The administration inherited strike actions across the colleges of education and water corporation. All of those arrears have been cleared by the administration he accused of not motivating workers. Today, to the glory of God for those still in the service and pensioners, salary now comes latest by the 27th of every month. While one wishes for more and more for the long traumatised civil servants, no one with sense of history and decent will blame this administration for the woes of the civil service. It is only trying to clear the Augean table of the previous administrations.

“I found it strange that our retired civil servant demanded that the new administration should increase gratuity from N100m to N200. One can only laugh off this demand from somebody who retired from the Kwara state civil service. It is hypocrisy in its worst form. How much was the past administration releasing for gratuities? Nil, as of May 29, 2019. How much is this administration releasing? N100m monthly. Given the burden inherited, that is a drop in the ocean. But it is mile apart from the horrible past that we just survived. It can only get better.

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“The kind of article purported to be an open letter to the Governor is a disservice to the sincere and concerted efforts by well-meaning people, including great retirees, to reposition the civil service. But saboteurs like the writer masquerading as patriots are always common in systems like ours. They will not succeed.”

WHY THE REACTION?

The obvious rationale behind the reaction is that their game of ensuring AA’s administration fails especially in quality service delivery has been thwarted. Their hatred for the administration is evident, among others, in the following:

(i)              insatiable urge to continue in the corrupt ways of posting officers especially on the Administrative and Accountant cadres to parastatals, an act that has been outlawed, with a view to receiving “returns” from beneficiaries.
(ii)             Act of ensuring that their “anointed” officers are perpetually placed in positions where they can syphon public funds with the sole aim of gratification even as against the pristine culture of civil service.
(iii)            indulgence in gross abuse of office as evident in a myriad of irregularities perpetrated in the award of government contracts, training and seminars etc; especially SUBEB.
(iv)            Sworn determination to mislead the present administration in all sensitive administrative issues with a view to carrying out their selfish acts.
(v) Incompetence, Laziness, Laggardness, Lack of experience and requisite knowledge displayed in the discharge of their duties, especially talking about zero reliance on extant laws and rules of the Civil service in advising the government of the day.
(vi) divert the attention of the governor from the serious governance business to pursuit of trivialities like this one.
(vii) rendering endlessly the hackneyed slogan of SUBEB is the gold mine of Kwara State.
(viii) relegating officers of the host parastatals in ranks and dashing the hope of their career progression.

One hopes that the characters behind the hatchet job desist from their evil ways and allow sleeping dog to lie!

#Oba AbdulKadir writes from Ilorin.

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