Just as the dust of the controversial reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT into the civil service of the federal government, is yet to settle, another matter is brewing and unsettling the Service.
Of specific concern in recent months, is the delayed swearing-in of some of the permanent secretaries appointed over three months ago, by the President.
On August 10, 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as Acting President, had approved the appointment of 21 new Permanent Secretaries into the Civil Service of the Federation.
A statement from the Head of the Civil Service of Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita conveying the appointments, noted that the appointees were selected after a rigorous interview process.
All the new appointees were subsequently screened and cleared by relevant security agencies and scheduled for swearing-in.
In accordance with extant civil service regulations, the newly appointed permanent secretaries, handed over their respective briefs, to officers next in line of seniority in their various ministries.
On Wednesday August 16, 2017, Acting President Osinbajo swore-in 15 of the new permanent secretaries and immediately assigned them portfolios.
Those sworn-in include: Anagbogu, Ifeoma Nkiruka (Anambra State), Women Affairs; Wilson-Jack Didi Esther (Bayelsa), Service Welfare, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF; Gekpe Grace Isu (Cross River), Information Culture, and Aliboh, Leon Lawrence (Delta), Budget and National Planning.
Others are: Uwaifo, Osarenoma Clement (Edo), Ministry of Health; Afolayan, Ayodele Olaniyi (Ekiti) Common Services, OHSCF; Abdullahi Abdulazeez Mashi (Katsina), Ministry of Communications; Adebiyi, Bolaji Adekunle (Lagos) Labour and Employment, and Ibrahim, Musa Wen (Nasarawa) Water Resources.
Also sworn-in were: Odewale, Samson Olajide (Ogun), Special Duties, OHCSF; Adesola Olusade (Ondo), Youths and Sports; Umar, Mohammed Bello (Sokoto) Special Services, Office of the Secretary to the Government Federation; Aduda, Gabriel Tanimu, (FCT), Political Affairs Office, OSGF; Akpan, Edet Sunday(Akwa Ibom), Trade and Investment, and Ehuria, Georgina Ekeoma (Abia), Cabinet Affairs Office, OSGF.
Seven of the 21 newly appointed permanent secretaries, however, were not sworn-in, because the permanent secretaries from their states had not retired and vacated their briefs, and it was important there shouldn’t be overlaps.
Those yet to be sworn-in whose states now have outright vacancies are: Suleiman Mustapha Lawal (Kano), Ekaro Comfort (Rivers), Adekunle Olusegun Adeyemi (Oyo), and Apata Dayo (Ekiti), Bitrus Bako Nabasu (Plateau).
Those whose states are not currently vacant: Osuji Ndubuisi Marcellinus (Imo) and Mu’azu Abdulkadir (Kaduna).
Feelers from the service, however, indicate that over three months after their appointment, their hand over of their previous schedules and the inauguration of their colleagues, the newly appointed permanent secretaries are in limbo.
According to top civil servants, it is counterproductive to waste manpower at the level of those with the richest aggregate Service experience.
Said the source: ‘You cannot be preparing a medium term economic framework; a new budget or pursuing economic recovery, when some of your most experienced hands are not appropriately engaged.’
Other sources in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, confirmed that the Cabinet Office, had listed the swearing-in of the new permanent secretaries several times on the agenda paper of the federal executive council, but it had been substituted for other agenda items.
This situation is generating some unease in the Service, with many senior civil servants wondering what is becoming of the nation’s bureaucracy, if deserving and qualified top officers can be left in the lurch after fulfilling all conditions necessary for their inauguration.
Public affairs analysts have opined that the delay may be deliberate, against the background of the anticipated de-merger of federal ministries.
A top civil servant who spoke on the condition of anonymity, however, noted that there is absolutely no relationship between the inauguration of permanent secretaries who were appointed three months ago, and the proposed re-configuration of ministries, which proposal gained currency just about a fortnight ago.
According to him: ‘To borrow the proverb of the infinite broadness of the sky to accomodate all flying birds, the Civil Service even as presently configured, has more than ample accomodation for appointees at that level. We have three Ministers in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, for instance. Ideally, at least one permanent secretary should man each of these arms of the Ministry. Look at the Federal Ministries of Transportation, Interior and so on. There is so much to do in these various ministries and efficient service delivery can only be ensured if some public officials are not overloaded, while others are underutilized.’
Unconfirmed sources have suggested that the stasis in the swearing-in process, may be without the knowledge of President Muhammadu Buhari. According to the sources, given the characteristic response of the President to several issues in recent times, it is out of character for him to hold back the swearing-in of public officials who should add value to his administration.
‘If the President could promptly respond to the Maina issue, ordering an investigation into the controversy; if he could direct the reinstatement of Governor Willie Obiano’s security personnel in Anambra State; if he could appoint a Secretary to the Government of the Federation and swear him in within 24 hours, that means President Buhari has listening ears’, the source said.