The Oyo-Ita Story

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Olawale Ajimotokan situates in context, the travails of the embattled Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifed Ekanem Oyo-Ita

This is no less a trying time for the Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs Winifed Ekanem Oyo Ita. In the past two weeks, she has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Her present predicament is however a disturbing and frightening narrative.

According to reports, the nation’s number one civil servant was grilled for four days by the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), following a startling fraud of over N3 billion traced to her. She was also hounded for bribery and estacode and duty tour allowance falsification.

These allegations shook the nation like a seismic force. And there is a danger that it could potentially put Oyo- Ita’s career on the line and dent the public confidence in the civil service, should the EFCC decide to prosecute those indicted in the alleged scam.
And when she could no longer bear the heat, Oyo-Ita, succumbed to pressure by her family and tendered her resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

There is also the concern that her present travails had begun to affect her health, as she was admitted in a private hospital for some days shortly after she was grilled by EFCC and released. Curiously, however, her request to proceed on immediate retirement was rejected by the president after he was reportedly briefed by his Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari, whom many thought could have been partly responsible for her travails.
But her press secretary, Mrs, Olawunmi Ogunmosule had defiantly denied the report that the Presidency rejected Oyo-Ita’s resignation letter.

Ogunmosule, who confirmed that the Head of Service resumed work last Wednesday after the Presidential Retreat for the new ministers, added that contrary to what was insinuated in the media, her principal was missing from the public purview, because she actually took her annual leave from August 14-19 to enable her attend to her health.
“Yes the Head of Service, Winnifred Oyo-ita resumed work today, (August 21) contrary to reports by the media. She took her 2019 annual leave, which started on 14th of August and ended on the 19th.

“As you all know, she has not been attending events, she was absent at the just concluded two-day Presidential Retreat for ministers-designate, federal permanent secretaries and top government functionaries, at which she was listed as one of the resource persons, because she was indisposed.

“As for reports that the presidency rejected her letter of resignation, it is false because no letter was written in the first place, it was all formulated by the media. She has resumed her duties and that is all for now,” Ogunmosule said.
Reports claimed that the N3 billion traced to the Head of Service came through proxy companies, which had links to her. About N600 million linked to the account of one of her aides was also discovered, prompting EFCC to block the account. No cogent explanation was given on how she came about the money and how her aides and cronies got such huge amount in their accounts.

Though Oyo-Ita was appointed the Head of Service in 2015, sources disclosed that the slush funds that were diverted into proxy accounts were uncovered when detectives were probing a former Minister she served under as the permanent secretary of the newly created Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs.x
Contracts were allegedly obtained from the MDAs through different fronts, who subsequently diverted the funds into different accounts she was linked with.

It was in the course of investigating the ex-minister for embezzlement that detectives uncovered startling discovery of funds diversion into proxy companies, which the Head of Service had relationship with.
It was following these mind-boggling revelations that made the anti-corruption agency to dig further into her activities as a permanent secretary and Head of Service.

It is also reliably gathered that the EFFC has already arrested and debriefed some of the contractors and even her cronies involved in the alleged N3billion duty tour allowances falsification and bribery.
President Buhari appointed Oyo-Ita, 55, as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in 2015. But before joining the civil service, where she had a meteoric rise, she was the Managing Director/CEO of Cross River Estates Limited from 1993 to 1995.

After several years in the service of the government of the federation, she rose to become the Director, Finance and Accounts at the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
She also served as the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2014. But before then, Oyo-Ita was the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs.
A native of Adiabo community of Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State, she is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

Under her watch have emerged reforms in the civil service that have boasted government’s revenue through capacity building and the desire to improve the capacity of the civil service.
One of such is the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which has helped the federal government to save over N288 billion as a result of the difference between the amount government releases to MDAs based on appropriation and actual amount paid through IPPIS since payments are made directly to beneficiaries account.

Presently 506 MDAs with total staff strength of 344,625 are on the IPPIS platform with the gross pay of N49, 071,961,959 as at September 2018. The platform has helped government to eliminate ghost workers and reduce wastages.
Also through the civil service reforms, government has initiated the Asset Tracking Management Project (ATMP) to track, monitor and manage its fixed assets in a manner that leakages and wastes are blocked, making it difficult for corrupt and fraud-related conducts to thrive within the government space.

Oyo-Ita also implemented a strategy plan to automate and reform the federal civil service with a view to ensuring efficient, productive, incorruptible, and citizen centered (EPIC) culture transformation of the civil service to drive the needed growth.
PIX: Oyo-Ita with President Buhari during the 17th National Productivity Day.jpg