Detractors of the President Muhammadu Buhari administrationâ€™s anti-corruption effort may have found a new target in the Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, who has vigorously and courageously pursued reform in the Federal Civil Service.
Reports suggest a grand plan to carry out a smear campaign and portray the HoSF as undermining cohesion and discipline in the civil service.
The fulcrum of this plot is the appointment of Mr Olusegun Adekunle, a long-time Director of Administration, as the Permanent Secretary (General Services Office- GSO), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF).
Her detractors are accusing her of breaching civil service rules by appointing Adekunle as PS GSO above other permanent secretaries considered as his senior in the service.
Those behind the plot are allegedly planning to blackmail the HoSF into re-deploying Adekunle so as to make way for one of them to occupy the seat, a position considered by civil servants as â€œpowerful and juicyâ€.
A highly placed source in the civil service who revealed the plot explained that there was no law or government regulation that determines the posting of a permanent secretary because of â€œseniorityâ€.
The source added that while it is true that large and complex ministries might be reserved for more experienced permanent secretaries, it is however not a rule. â€œPermanent secretaries are often posted more on their capacity and abilities, especially in the area of administration and their personal maturity, and there is really nothing like â€˜senior Perm Secâ€™ or â€˜junior Perm Sec,â€ he explained.
If previous experience is any guide, the plot against Oyo-Ita is baseless and ill-motivated.
There have been many instances of relatively fresh and new Perm Secs who have done excellently well. For example Mohammed Bukar, the current PS Works and Housing cut his teeth as PS General Services Office (GSO), OSGF. He performed exceptionally well, despite the fact that it was his first posting. Also no one questioned the fact that he was a new permanent secretary.
Moreover, Bukar was posted as PS GSO at a time when the current PS Ecological Funds is senior to him.
Also, when the former HoSF, Goni Aji was first appointed PS, his first posting was to the Ministry of Defence. It was the same with John Chukwu when he was appointed PS. His very first posting was to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a massive establishment. There was no outcry from any quarter that he was â€œtoo freshâ€ for the job.
Adekunle is a long time Director of Administration, and some of his colleagues say heâ€™s â€œvery calm and maturedâ€ and that he might have been posted to the GSO because of his diligence and personality, which might have induced confidence in his principal.
His appointment is said to be in the same category as that of Istifanus Musa, who got his first posting as PS to the Ministry of Water Resources, and Jalal who is the PS, State House.
Oyo-Ita, until her appointment in October 2015, was the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. She is from Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Many believed her appointment was well-deserved and that she would add value to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
â€œSince her appointment, she has made reform of civil service and welfare of civil servants her major agenda. She came up with many laudable initiatives such as the Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan 2017-2020 and the Quarterly Breakfast Meeting with the leadership of the civil service unions.
â€œTo make the civil service more responsive to the yearnings of the people and government policies, HoSF has also pursued training of manpower and automation of the system with the same vigour.
â€œThe civil service under her watch as also prioritised the welfare of civil servants as a way of motivating them and checking corruption in the system,â€ a source said.
Sources said the reforms are not going down well with old-fashion establishment forces who are not receptive to any fresh ideas in the service, and who are now ganging up to fight back.