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Opposition swells over creation of ‘perm secs’ by NASS Service Commission

By • Fika, Usman, el-Rufai Kick
19 September 2021   |   3:06 am
More opposition has continued to trail creation of the position of ‘Permanent Secretary’ by the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC).

[FILES] National Assembly

More opposition has continued to trail the creation of the position of ‘Permanent Secretary’ by the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC). 

The latest opposition came from 88-year-old Dr. Adamu Fika, Bukar Usman and Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai.

Fika insisted NASC was a misnomer, and should not have been created by the National Assembly in the first place.  

This occurred as participants were deliberating at the 8th Annual Conference of the National Assembly and State Legislative Service Commissions in Kaduna, last week. 

Fika, who was a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation between 1986 and 1988, was emphatic in his view on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Secretaries at the National Assembly Service, saying: “The National Assembly Service Commission should not be there at all.”

Fika is generally regarded as a living legend of the Nigerian bureaucracy. He served as Permanent Secretary in such key ministries as Internal Affairs, Commerce, Police Affairs, Communications, and Federal Capital Territory before he was appointed Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in 1986. 

He was also the first Chairman of, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission between 1992 and 1993, as well as the first Chairman of, Federal Character Commission between 1995 and 2001.

Echoing Fika’s position, el-Rufai, the host Governor declared: “Nigeria does not need an endless profusion of new agencies in the public sector, but a more efficient deployment of what already exists, strengthening those that are actually needed, as part of the effective deployment of public resources.” He cited how he reduced the 90 ministries he inherited in 2015 to 14 and 24 Commissioners to 14, with six of them being women.

Tracing the history of civil service in Nigeria from 1950 and how the six leaders of the major political parties came together to pledge non-interference with the civil service, Fika listed the leaders to include Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), Sir Ahmadu Bello of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group (AG), Aminu Kano of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), Chief Eyo Ita of NCNC and Emmanuel Mbela Endeley of Cameroons National Congress (CNC).

Explaining that the 1963 Constitution is the best reference of the civil service’s position, he said the 1999 Constitution’s problem is that it only speaks about the public service in a few lines, whereas the 1963 Constitution devotes the entire Chapter 10, covering sections 146-153 to the Public Service.

He said the appointment of Permanent Secretaries and Ambassadors were vested in the President on the recommendation of the Federal Public Service Commission, while in the case of appointment of the Clerk of the Senate, the Chairman of Service Commission would consult the Senate President and then the Speaker for appointment of Clerk of the House of Representatives.

He said it was the military that started violation of the sanctity of the civil service from political interference, with the mass sack of 1975 during the regime of Murtala Muhammad/Obasanjo regime and then the Dotun Philips Reforms by Babangida, 1986-88.

He said the confidence challenge plaguing the civil service’s leadership in recent times is due to political interference. “People who do not know the service, who were brought in by politicians and political appointees, are now being appointed Permanent Secretary and even head of the civil service,” he said.

Dr. Bukar Usman, the most distinguished and longest-serving Permanent Secretary in the Presidency, 1988-1999, argued that Adegoroye raised several issues involving legality, coordination and financial implications to the country. He expressed hope that the interview published by The Guardian “will bring the issue to the fore and prick the conscience of those who do not see governance beyond their nose, to retrieve the situation.”

On the way forward, he said: “Because of the implications to public policy and governance, the NASS staffing structure and grading are significant enough to be tabled for discussion by the President, the NASS principal officers, SGF, HCSF, Chairman FCSC, Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice. This is necessary to avert an unwieldy growth of parallel civil services at the federal and other lower levels of governance.”

On the import of his intervention, Adegoroye, who is the pioneer Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) and currently the National Publicity Secretary of the Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS), clarified further: “Governance issues are all inter-connected. The absence of proactive initiatives to nip governance problems in the bud, across all tiers of government, and allowing those problems to fester like open wounds before they get attention, speak to the path followed by the multi-dimensional challenges that have coalesced to produce the security and poverty problems now facing the entire nation.

“This NASS problem in the aftermath of the NAS Act 2014, and it is obvious that whatever actions may have been taken by the two immediate past heads of the civil service of the Federation have not elicited the desired response from the government. Our avowed duty as retired top-level civil servants is to let our views, advice and guidance provide the ladder of courage for those still in the service, in our quest to make the nation better.”