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Needless tenure elongation of federal appointees

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Buhari. Photo; TWITTER/NIGERIAGOV

The Muhammadu Buhari administration has triggered yet another needless, distracting controversy by retaining two top federal public servants in their posts beyond their statutory dates of retirement.  

The Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Alhaji Ahmed Idris, born in Kano on November 25, 1960, turned 60 years on November 25, 2020.  Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal of the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC), born in Ibadan on November 26, 1960, was also 60 on November 26, 2020.  

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In accordance with Item No. 020810 (i) and (ii) of the Public Service Rules (PSR) (2008), “the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the Service shall be 60 years or 35 years in pensionable service, whichever is earlier.” Further, “No officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.” This is the law by which the two officers should, after decades in service, have been retired into their well-deserved rest several months ago, or moved on to engage in other fields of endeavour.

In a country under the rule of law and in which there is not at all a shortage of competent persons to replace them, Idris and Oyeyemi would be allowed to move on.  Not so under the present government that has somehow made tenure extension a principle of governance. For reasons that only it can explain, the Buhari administration, in breach of the PSR and even other provisions specific to ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) of government, seems to be ever unable to find anyone capable enough to take over from outgoing officers – from armed forces service chiefs, through Inspectors General of Police, to chief executives of MDAs. For example, it is reported that Chapter 12 of the FRSC Condition of Service provides that an officer must retire at 60 or after 35 years of service.

The president was literally begged by Nigerians, high and low, to let go in favour of new hands and fresh ideas, service chiefs who had not only served beyond their conventional tenures but to boot, had so obviously run out of ideas to combat insurgency. This president would bend backward to retain even beyond his retirement date, an IGP who brazenly defied his directive to relocate to and take personal charge of operations in a state nearly overrun by bandits.

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Defenders of Buhari’s style argue, on the one hand, that the president is granted the power to act as he does on this matter by Section 171 of the extant constitution. It says that ‘‘power to appoint persons to hold or act in the offices to which this section applies and to remove persons so appointed from such office shall vest in the President.’’ Nonetheless, it cannot be reasonably argued, except speciously, that the president may, in the exercise of this power, violate extent, expressly stated, rules such as the PSR.

It needs to be stated that the PSR is a meticulously prepared document of the Rules, Regulations, and Procedures in the Public Service ‘‘aimed at entrenching …transparency, accountability, justice, equity, due process and the rule of law…[all of which] is very paramount in the conduct of government business…’’ Indeed, all public servants are enjoined to imbibe the ethical intendments and contents of the PSR document. Deriving from this, both political leaders of government business and public servants who stand to benefit from decisions that politicians take have, respectively and for the sake of their country, the obligation to uphold the rules and regulations in the interest of ‘‘a focused and vibrant Public Service’’ that can drive the machinery of government in the modern world.

It does not serve the interest of Nigeria that these rules and regulations be breached, not the least at the highest level of government. It presents the government in a bad light at home and abroad; to persons who desire to do business in this country, it indicates too, the extent to which the rule of law applies –or does not apply – here.

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On the other hand, those who defend the retention of Oyeyemi and Idris argue that their appointments are tenured political appointments.  No one will argue against them taking up political appointments if found fit. But an officer so promoted even within his career path should take a prompt retirement to enjoy the benefit of a fresh tenure of his ‘political’ elevation. It is the procedurally correct and honourable thing to do.

It is reported that July 27, 2009, circular signed by the then Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Mr. Steve Orosanye, stated that (i) ‘‘career offices who wish to take up tenured appointments should, at the point of taking up the appointment, retire from service to ensure they run their term uninterrupted; (ii) that career officers who have not retired or choose not to retire from service before the commencement of their tenured appointment must leave office on the attainment of the mandatory age/years of service; and (iii) ‘‘career officers who are currently holding tenured appointments are required to retire from the service with immediate effect and continue to run their term. Failure to do so would mean that they would vacate office on the attainment of the mandatory retirement age or at the expiration of their term, whichever comes first.’’ Unless this circular has been nullified by due process, its contents apply unequivocally to both AGF Ahmed Idris and Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi. The Buhari government is obligated to enforce it or explain to Nigerians the rationale for jettisoning the rules.

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Wooden, contemptuous silence on matters of governance is antithetical to the letters and spirit of a democratic system of government; it is outdated in any system of government; it is ultimately counterproductive to every effort to manage the affairs of the state.
 
This government must first, explain to Nigerians the reason for retaining these two officers. Second, it must stop distracting itself with avoidable controversies from fulfilling, as explicitly stated in Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution, the sole purpose for which it exists, and in respect of which it is failing miserably. Third, this government must desist henceforth from giving to the world the obnoxious impression that Nigeria lacks quality personnel to run its systems and structures, to do what ought to be done for their country.  After all, in other climes, Nigerians are doing fantastically well in all areas of human endeavour. And they are being so recognised and honoured.

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