Tuesday, 28th November 2023
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The Mmesomas and culture of impunity (2)

By Martins Oloja
16 July 2023   |   3:10 am
As I was saying to the previous administration, I hope President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will ensure that the law rules the civil service and then his anti-corruption crusade. In the last administration, I once asked: ‘How long can a public officer act in a position that the law provides a confirming body for?

As I was saying to the previous administration, I hope President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will ensure that the law rules the civil service and then his anti-corruption crusade. In the last administration, I once asked: ‘How long can a public officer act in a position that the law provides a confirming body for?

The then Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu acted in office from November 2015 to July 2020. In 2017, the 8th session of the Senate rejected his nomination twice on the advice of the then Director-General of the State Security Service, Lawal Daura. Yet the President didn’t respect the Senate’s rejection.

He kept Magu in office until July 2020 when another allegation of corruption, which dogged his confirmation foundation ruined him following a Commission of Inquiry headed by a former president of Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami. What was more curious, in February 2018, there was a court ruling that the Senate has powers to confirm the EFCC Chairman to remain in office.

Coincidentally, President Buhari who migrated into his sixth year in office at the end of May 2019 following an election got Magu to slip into his sixth year as EFCC Acting Chairman without confirmation by the Senate. Was that not another celebration of rampaging impunity?

Besides, at that same time, there were reports of so many permanent secretaries and executive secretaries of examination bodies who were being accused of corruption. Which led to my question then on this same page: ‘When will the Buhari administration begin to prosecute all these Permanent and Executive Secretaries and Examination Bodies’ Registrars being suspended and sacked for alleged corrupt practices? When will the Buhari administration deal with that enemy called impunity?

In March 2021, there was a report over disquiet in the offices of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) because of illegal retention of the heads of both organisations in office four months after they reached the mandatory retirement age of 60 as stipulated in the public service rules.

Former Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris

Reports showed that both Ahmed Idris, the then Accountant General of the Federation and Boboye Oyeyemi, the then Corps Marshall of the FRSC, reached the mandatory retirement age in November 2020. Going by the extant rules they ought to have retired and handed over to the next ranking officer in their organisations pending either the appointment of their replacements or formalisation of the appointments of those that they handed over to.

Strangely, both officers remained in their offices enjoying all the perquisites, citing their appointments as tenured, which wasn’t true. And so for that reason, they stayed on in contravention of the public service rules, which do not support their claims.

The public service rules guiding employment of federal civil servants stipulate 60 years of age and 35 years in service (which ever comes first) as terminal points for all categories of employees.

In the particular case of Oyeyemi, who was first appointed into the office in 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan, his reappointment contravenes both the public service rules as well as the act establishing the FRSC. The FRSC Act in Section 2(1) stipulates that all its commissioners, including the Corps Marshal can only serve for four years. While defending the illegal reappointment of the Accountant General, Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige curiously said President Buhari was acting in line with presidential powers granted under the 1999 Constitution.

He said Section 171 of the constitution empowers the president to appoint persons into some extra-ministerial offices of which the office of the Accountant General was one. In a similar vein, the spokesperson of the FRSC, Bisi Kazeem, said in response to media inquiries, Oyeyemi was serving at the pleasure of the president who by the provisions of the FRSC Act is empowered to make the appointment.

It was observed then that cases of such controversial appointments were not limited to the two organisations in the public service. The case of the service chiefs who were only replaced in February 2021 after serving beyond their retirement dates then came to mind. The tenures of the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service as well as that of the Inspector General of Police were similarly extended in manners that had not been seen in the public service of Nigeria.

That unpleasant development became rampant under the Buhari administration, spreading to include various agencies of government and even the academia. This act makes nonsense of the public service rules and regulation, which were enacted to maintain its professionalism and relevance in the scheme of governance.

Mmesoma Ejikeme

This untoward practice nurtured a culture of impunity in Buhari years. As the Mmesomas in the system are poised to benefit from this despicable culture of impunity, the new administration must uphold the provisions of the extant rules, which should be considered more than the conveniences of breaking and bending the rules. There should be a new Head of the Civil Service of the Federation who should work within confines of the presidential bureaucracy to ensure that the civil service is not violated again the way Buhari did.

Doubtless, the rape on the civil service through careless and illegal extensions of tenure has bred negative consequences, which have affected service morale, discipline and professionalism. Besides, it has bred corruption among officers who may want to do whatever is possible to remain in office or some others who, because of the fear that they may not be allowed to rise to the pinnacle of their careers because of sit-tight bosses.

According to newspaper comment then, ‘This development gives the impression that the administration, despite its avowed commitment to reforming the public service for efficient service delivery, is not living to its words.’This is a serious presidential malpractice that must be stopped forthwith as it is neither in the interest of the administration nor that of the country. A succession plan should be in place in all sectors so that replacing an officer is not a problem and in doing so extant rules must be followed.

Impunity on Abuja’s original inhabitants…

In January 2018, I wrote an article here on a ‘January 15, 2018 justice for Abuja’s original inhabitants who had then just secured victory on their quest for definition of (their) citizenship within this convoluted federation. Below is an excerpt from the article: https://guardian.ng/opinion/justice-at-last-for-abuja-indigenes/

‘After 42 years of complicated relationship with federal authorities that grabbed their land for the purpose of building a capital for the nation, Abuja original inhabitants last Monday (January 15, 2018) got some significant justice that will change their national profile for ever. It is puzzling most news media organs were unaware of the ruling on the status of the Abuja original inhabitants that has some jurisprudential significance.

This is the story even most judicial reporters either curiously missed or did not consider newsworthy: The Court of Appeal in Abuja on that Monday declared in a landmark judgment that indigenous inhabitants of Abuja are indeed entitled to a ministerial representation in the Federal Executive Council as provided by the combined provisions of Sections 147 (3), 299, 14 (3) and 42 of 1999 Constitution.

The Court also declared that persistent denial and refusal of past and current presidents to so appoint an indigene of FCT Abuja as a minister in the federal executive council (FEC) since May 1999 tantamount to a gross violation of the said constitutional right against discrimination. Accordingly, the Court directed the President to immediately make the said appointment. N100, 000 was awarded against the president and the Attorney General of the Federation as first and second respondents.

Expectedly, some FCT indigenes have expressed delight over Court of Appeal’s Jan. 15 judgment that entitled them to ministerial representation in the Executive Council of the Federation.The natives of Abuja said the decision would give them the opportunity to fully participate in governance in the nation’s capital their forefathers donated to the nation more than four decades ago.
While congratulating the original inhabitants, it is also important to implore President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the judicial decision without delay.

This is in the interest of peace and stability of the permanent capital of the federation. The (federal) capital was legally moved from Lagos to Abuja on Thursday 12 December, 1991 by the then General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) military regime. The proclamation of Abuja as nation’s capital was done by the military regime of General Murtala Mohammed on 3rd December 1976…’

The battle for this judicial recognition and victory has been a long drawn one. The natives have been agitating for political recognition and other rights since creation of the capital in 1976. Even the 1999 constitution has long been identified as unfair to the citizens of Abuja who actually have no other state of the federation to claim. Section 299 of the Constitution provides the ambiguity successive governments have been exploiting to cheat the people.

They have political representation at the level of civil service up to the office of permanent secretary, National Population, among others, but specifically, representation at the cabinet level has been a huge challenge despite peaceful agitations. For instance, in October 2015, when the Buhari administration was concluding cabinet making, the Abuja indigenes protested for their right to nominate their own representatives too. But as usual, no one listened to them.

On March 26 this year, I paid a glowing tribute to the memory of the lawyer who actually spearheaded the struggle for justice for Abuja indigenes alone.
In the tribute titled, ‘Sleep Well, Musa Panya: Who Got Justice For Abuja Indigenes…I wrote:

This is a fitting tribute to a significant lawyer, an original inhabitant of Abuja who fought and conquered even Muhammadu President Buhari in Court and got justice for his people on human rights. He joined his ancestors at 54 last week after battling that evil deposit called sickle cell anemia. I am sure when Baba Musa Panya gets to his Creator, he will report Buhari to Him and his bitter complaint will be: My Father, my Father, what are you going to do to that man, our leader, Buhari who has since January 15, 2018 failed to abide by a Court of Appeal declarative judgment that the FCT should be regarded as a state and so an indigene of the Federal Capital Territory should be appointed as a member of the Executive Council of the Federation?

The case Musa Baba Panya Vs FG has been copiously cited in the current presidential election petitions at the Court of Appeal. But the point here is that Buhari, a great promoter of culture of impunity never respected the declarative judgment of the Court of Appeal that the same federal government never appealed.

President Buhari refused to appoint an indigene of the Federal Capital Territory into the Executive Council of the Federation. This is therefore a strategic reminder to President Tinubu who has pledged to allow the law rather than man to rule, to abide by the 2018 judgment that an Abuja original inhabitant should be part of the federal cabinet. That is one way of beginning to dismantle our growing culture of impunity in Africa’s most populous nation and hope of the black race, Nigeria.