The Former Chief of Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais (L) presenting an Award to the Permanent Secretary FCT, Engr. Anthony Ozodinobi during the Award Ceremony of the Mohammed Lawal Uwais Public Service Award at the Yar' Adua Centre Abuja...Tuesday
By Senator Iroegbu
Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and a former Super Permanent Secretary, Chief Philip Asiodu have blamed former military leaders for the rot in the public service system.
Ekwueme and Asiodu traced the failure of Nigeria’s public service to the mass purge carried out in 1975 and the creation of states in 1967 carried out by defunct the military regimes of late Gen Murtala Muhammed and Gen Yakubu Gowon (rtd).
The duo spoke separately Tuesday at the Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais Public Service Award organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in collaboration with Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
It was also an event where the Permanent Secretary of FCT, Engr. Anthony Zikora Ozodinobi was presented with the star award for excellence in public service by former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais.
According to Ekwueme, the massive purge in the civil service which swept out about 10,000 officials in 1975 during the Murtala regime destroyed security of tenure of civil servants and subsequently made them edgy about their future well being.
The former Vice President stated that from that period onwards public servants who were not sure of their tenures “started making arrangements for their future”.
"Despite the weakening of public service by those measures taken by the military, public service remains an instrument of administrative stability and shock absorber in the governance system of the country," he stressed.
"The problems of the Nigerian public service can equally be traced to the creation of 12 states by the military administration of General Gowon, because the measure resulted in the proliferation of public service positions adding that in the process many civil servants were promoted beyond their capacities and educational qualifications," he stated.
Ekwueme further stressed that an efficient and transparent public service system was one of the best legacies left by the British colonialists when they quit the Nigerian stage in 1960.
He recalled that the colonial public service was anchored on performance, experience, transparency and hard work.
On his part, Asiodu, who delivered a paper at the ceremony titled: “The Public Service and the Transformation Agenda: Redefining the Rules of Engagement”, criticized the massive purge of 1975 as traumatic and lacking in due process.
According to him, 10,000 officials from the rank of Permanent Secretary to the class of messenger were summarily retired or dismissed over a period of two months.
He said: "The victims of the purge included obvious leaders and role models some of whom were not availed any terminal benefits or pensions.
"The sweeping exercise destroyed the professional, non-partisan, fearless, prestigious, merit-driven civil service and public service inherited from the British colonial administration."
Asiodu added that in the process, Nigeria lost a great deal of institutional memory and valuable international connections.
“The suffering, including the premature death of scores of officials affected by the purge fuelled the resort to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ an obvious euphemism for corruption which now threatens the future of the country.”
Some dignitaries who attended the event include Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, Labour and Productivity Minister, Barrister Emeka Wogu, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, and the former Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili.
Others are the Director-General of NTA, Alhaji Musa Mayaki, the Minister of State for FCT, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, the Director-General of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Professor Epiphany Azinge and several others.