Civil service not dumping ground for job seekers, says Buhari
‘White Paper On Orosanye Under Being Reviewed’
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that the nation’s Civil Service must not be seen as a dumping ground for job seekers, but must attract the best and the brightest that would contribute fresh ideas toward solving Nigeria’s socio-economic problems.
This was even as he directed that the Orosanye White Paper Report be subjected to immediate review to enable the government to take the most appropriate decision on its general recommendation.
President Buhari spoke when he received members of the Central Working Committee of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) at the State House, Abuja, affirming the administration’s focus on strengthening the service to help the government fulfil its objectives.
He noted that the public service remains the engine room of government and should therefore attract the “best and brightest” that would fuel policies with fresh ideas while assuring that the Orosanye White Paper Report would be implemented after review.
“I am aware that the review is about to be completed. While some may complain about the length of time it has taken thus far, the outcome of the various review teams would lead to some fundamental changes in the structure of our Civil Service and as such it must be subjected to rigorous review and scrutiny before presentation and implementation,” he added.
The President further directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, to submit the harmonised white paper once it is concluded, assuring that his government was determined to strengthen the Service and ensure it helps the government to fulfil its objectives.
While appreciating civil servants for their role in realising targets of the administration, President Buhari noted that a strong Civil Service was the bedrock on which good governance, policy execution and pathways for the delivery of democratic dividends could be achieved.
“I am further delighted to note your acknowledgement of the giant strides this administration has made since its inception in repositioning the Federal Civil Service for greater productivity and enhanced performance. I take note of the various milestone achievements you have listed, which symbolises our commitment to the Civil Service in spite of the many challenges that we encountered from the beginning of this journey,” he said.
On request for salary review for civil servants by the committee, the President acknowledged the urgent need for such due to worldwide problems of high inflation amidst general economic disruption.
“However, I wish to urge you to appreciate the revenue constraints being presently faced by the government which are caused mainly by the activities of unscrupulous citizens through the theft of our crude oil, a major contributor to our revenue base.
“This is compounded by the global economic downturn as a result of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, which has led to price increases not just in the costs of goods and services globally, but also in the transportation of these goods and services across the globe.
“You are also aware of the enormous burden placed on our finances by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Furthermore, let me note the significant investment we have had to make in security over the last seven years, which means other sectors of the economy have not been able to receive as much funding as we would have liked. Only when our country is secured that we able to proceed and take on other aspects of our economic challenges,’’ he added.
President Buhari explained that investment in security assets had been at a huge cost after several decades of negligence.
He added: “However, my confidence in the Nigerian Armed Forces is unshaken, and I have tasked the Chief of Defence Staff and his service chiefs to take the war to these criminals who have made life difficult for many Nigerians.”
“Recent reports have shown the message is now being heard and the dividends of our seven years of investments are now maturing. I implore our forces to continue with the current effort and determination until we rid our land of these miscreants.
“I also wish to reiterate that we will not allow a few criminals to have unfettered access to the nation’s crude oil supply hence I have directed our security agencies to speedily bring to a halt the activities of these vandals in the Niger Delta.”
According to him, criminal activities on seas, where large vessels seek to hide in neighboring countries would be checked, stressing that “there should be no hiding place for such criminals and our cooperation with neighbouring countries in halting these crimes is being strengthened and tightened.”
Buhari told the Central Working Committee of ASCSN that the request for restoration of the payment of gratuity to public service employees was one of the landmark provisions addressed in the 2004 Pension Reform Act.
“Therefore, implementing your request for the payment of a bulk sum of gratuity to retired civil servants would negate the intent and provisions of the Act.
“It should be acknowledged that a change in the implementation of the Act would require an amendment by the National Assembly. But more importantly, the Pension Reform Act is a better designed and robust system that allows for the safety of pensioners’ funds and its payment,” he added.
On the harmonisation of salary in the Public Service, the President said a Committee was set up for that purpose under the Minister of Finance, which was still working.
“A report is being expected to be submitted at the conclusion of its assignment, which would be studied for appropriate action.”
The President further directed the Head of Service of the Federation to liaise with other relevant government agencies to see how the 2023 budget estimates could accommodate an increase in the budget of the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said members of ASCSN had been supportive in actualising programmes and policies of the administration, describing the leadership as mostly public servants that were vast in civil service procedure, “so when you negotiate with them it is easy and when you make the right point they know.”
In his remarks, the President of ASCSN, Dr. Tommy Okon, noted the administration’s “worker-friendly’’ disposition, especially with the implementation of far-reaching reforms, which include regular payment of salaries and allowances, increase in the minimum wage, extension of retirement age for some workers like teachers and sustenance of the size of public service in spite of constraints of financing.