Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
There is an unsettling grumble over the failure of the federal government to swear in and assign portfolios to six appointed permanent secretaries.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, then serving as Acting President, had on August 10 approved the appointment of 21 successful candidates as permanent secretaries, following the promotion examinations held for Level 17 Directors in the MDAs. The process was coordinated by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, whose office is empowered to conduct such exercises.
They were among the 300 directors who vied for available vacancies in their states, through a series of tests and examinations. Fifty-nine eventually appeared before a technical committee in the last stage of the selection, out of which 21 eventually made the cut.
The permanent secretaries-designate and their states of origin are Osuji Ndubuisi Marcellinus (Imo); Ekaro Comfort Chukwumuebobo (Rivers); Nabasu Bitrus Bako (Plateau); Muazu Abdulkadir (Kaduna); Sulaiman Mustapha Lawal (Kano), and Adekunle Olusegun Adeyemi (Oyo).
The Acting President had sworn in 15 permanent secretaries on August 16, while the swearing-in of the seven others was put on hold. Those sworn-in were duly assigned portfolios.
Barely a week later, the HoS redeployed nine substantive permanent secretaries and assigned them to different MDAs to bring the number of assigned federal permanent secretaries by the administration to 24.
The established officials, including Nuratu Batagarawa, Christian Ohaa, Bamgbose Olukunle and Aminu Bisalla were posted to other ministries and parastatals to fill the vacancies created by the retirement of some other permanent secretaries.
For instance, Ohaa was deployed to the FCT following the retirement of Dr Babatope Ajakaiye while Batagarawa replaced Ambassador Danjuma Nanpon Sheni at the Ministry of Defence.
Aside from Ajakaiye and Sheni, other permanent secretaries, whose retirements created vacancies were Mr Taiwo Abidogun (Oyo), August 21, and Mrs Belema Wakama, (Rivers) who retired on August 31, from Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. Others who retired in August were: Dr Henry Akpan (Cross River), OSGF Special Duties, and Alh Aminu Nebegu (Kano), OSGF, Special Services.
Dr Roy Ugo (Imo) in the OSGF (General Service Office), and Alh Mohammed Abbas (Kaduna), Science and Technology, are both due to retire early December 2017.
The appointment of the seven permanent secretaries-designate would have increased the number of serving federal permanent secretaries to 31.
Though efforts to get reactions from the office of the Head of Service of the federation, were not successful, THISDAY checks revealed that government delayed the swearing-in of the permanent secretaries designate to allow for the expiration of the tenure of the outgoing permanent secretaries.
It has been an administrative policy of government that each state of the federation be represented by at least one federal permanent secretary in the civil service. Previous governments had, indeed, appointed additional permanent secretaries on geo-political basis, subject to exigencies.
According to civil service sources, it was on that ground that Nabasu Bako is yet to be sworn-in because Ambassador Sheni, also a Plateau State indigene, was due for retirement on October 8 as permanent secretary in the ministry of defence.
Bako and Osuji, the Director of Training and Development at the Office of Head of Service, were not sworn in on August 16, as Plateau and Imo were still having active permanent secretaries at that time.
It is also gathered that Adelakun will have to wait until the middle of next month when the substantive permanent secretary from Oyo State will retire.
â€œGovernment was aware that in less than three months, their representatives would step aside, so they conducted exams for all of them to fill in these vacancies in advance. Though government appointed them, it could, however, not swear them in when the six persons representing their states were still in service. They are waiting for those people to retire for the appointed officials to be sworn in,â€ a source said.
According to the source, since the run-out dates of the retiring permanent secretaries have been crossed, it is expedient that they are sworn-in and duly assigned.
The delay in the swearing-in of the designated permanent secretaries could have a flipside as many MDAs are running without the benefit of the enlightened experience of permanent secretaries. Similarly, the retirement date of the permanent secretaries-designate from the service is already counting while they await their portfolios.
The source advised on the urgent imperative of the swearing-in of the permanent secretaries-designate to restore confidence in the ability of the civil service to produce its leadership on merit.