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Undeserved assault on the bureaucracy – Part 2

By Eric Teniola
22 November 2022   |   3:13 am
The civil service helped to enforce import control policies to conserve foreign exchange, and all civil servants contributed to what was known as the Compulsory Savings Scheme and Armed Forces Comfort Fund.

The civil service helped to enforce import control policies to conserve foreign exchange, and all civil servants contributed to what was known as the Compulsory Savings Scheme and Armed Forces Comfort Fund.  Relying on the strategy of deficit financing, the Federal Ministry of Finance made funds available for the prosecution of the war. Recurrent expenditure for all arms of government except the MOD was restricted. Credit facilities were liberalized. Promissory notes were used more frequently. Treasury certificates were issued, beginning in 1968. The Statutory limit to issuance of Treasury Bills was raised again and again. In fact the funds used for early reconstruction efforts in 1970 came from such sources”. 

Yet these were the same people that the military turned their guns of retirement on between August 1975 and November 1975 when the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council by then, Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo, formally signed a statement that the clean up exercise was over. In spite of the statement we are feeling the ripples of the purge till today. It was a dark period. Now let me go personal. In 1975, I was a senior reporter in The Nigerian Herald under the management of Aremo Olusegun Osoba (83) who took over from Chief Abiodun Aloba alias Ebenezer Williams.  I remember I was in my office on October 3, 1975, of The Nigerian Herald, owned by the Kwara state government, at Adamasingba area of Ibadan, Oyo state, when Alhaji Raheemi Olajire Aliu, who later became Oyo state Chief Information Officer, then Press Secretary to the Military Governor of Western state, Colonel David Medayese Jemibewon (81), summoned newsmen to the Agodi office of the governor. When we got there, we were handed a press release, which contained the retirement of six High Court Judges of Western state. They were Mr. Justice Adegboyega Ademola of the Western State Court of Appeal, Mr. Justice Olu Ayoola, Mr. Justice Adewale Thompson, Mr. Justice S. A. Abina, Mr. Justice F. B. Wickliffe and Mr. Justice O. Odumosu. We confronted Colonel Jemibewon on that day on why the six judges were retired. The Governor could not give any cogent reason for the retirement of the Judges. 

The premature retirement of Justice Ebenezer Olufemi Ayoola astounded me because I covered his court as a reporter in The Nigerian Tribune in 1972 before joining The Nigerian Herald. 

In those days your first assignment as a reporter was to cover the court. And my then news editor, Mr. Fola Oredoyin assigned me to the court at Iyanganku in Ibadan. I found Justice Ayoola to be radiant and effulgent. 

After his retirement, Justice Ayoola from Ilesha became Chairman of Nigerian Monthly Law Report between 1975 to 1979.  I do not know the criteria adopted by the military in retiring him. The same applied to others. 

One of the judges retired, Justice Adewale Thompson became the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General of Oyo State in 1979. 

On September 18, 1975, the Secretary to the National Electric Power Authority, Alhaji Adamu Atta (October 18, 1927 – May 1, 2014) was retired along with 58 others. 

Four years later, Alhaji Adamu Atta was elected the governor of Kwara state. On August 19, 1975, the then Chief Justice of the federation, Dr. Taslim Olawale Elias (11 November 1914 – 14 August 1991) was retired and a non Nigerian, Sir Justice Darnley Alexander (28 June 1920-10 February 1989) born in Saint Lucia in the West Indies was appointed as Chief Justice of the Federation. The same Justice Elias was elected as the President of the World Court at the Hague in the Netherlands in 1982. On September 12, 1975, five Federal Permanent Secretaries were retired. They were Chief Phillip Chikwuedu Asiodu(88), Alhaji Tatari Alli, Alhaji Ibrahim Damcida (1933 – 2012), Chief J.A. Adeyeye and Mr. F.M.C. Obi. 

On August 2, 1997, the same federal Military Government defrozed the bank accounts of Chief Asiodu and Alhaji Damcida. Four years later, the same Alhaji Abubakar Tatari Ali (1929 – 28 May 1993) was elected the Governor of Bauchi state. On September 22, 1975, the Governor of Central Bank, Dr. Clement Isong (20 April 1920 – 29 May 2000) was retired and replaced with Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (20 November 1934 – 5 July 2018).
 
Four years later in 1979, the same Dr. Isong was elected the governor of Cross River state. In January 1993, the same Chief Phillip Asioudu was appointed the Minister of Petroleum Resources by Chief Earnest Shonekan, GCFR and in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, appointed Chief Phillip Asiodu as the Chief Economic Adviser.

One could see that the retirement exercise was not carried out in good faith. The exercise of 1975 institutionalised corruption in the system. Civil servants became jittery at that time about their future. They started looking inwards on how they and their families could survive. Suddenly they realized that their jobs could no longer be permanent. Since then we have not left that stage. 

Whereas if the procedure had been followed and the Federal Civil Service Commission has been involved, the guilty ones in service could have been penalized without disrupting the total system of government. 

Take a cue from our colonial masters-The British and even India, China and Australia, none of them has tampered with the Civil Service System. There is a common saying that says, “soldiers go, soldiers come, barracks remain”. In developed countries of the world, politicians come, politicians go but the civil service remains. 

The purge of 1975 destroyed the careers of many public servants. It even affected their families. Some recovered while some carried the scars of the wound of retirement to their graves. There was hardly any home in this country that was not affected. As often mentioned let me refer to one example. 

According to Wikipedia, Sir Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa, CMG, OBE, M.D. (1903–1976) was a pioneering Nigerian surgeon, Inspector General of Medical Services and former Chief Medical Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian to pass the FRCS and he obtained the postgraduate Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1934. In 1966, he was elected president of the World Federation for Mental Health.

As Inspector General of Medical Services, he contributed immensely to the establishment of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, the first medical school in Nigeria. He later became a pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing council at the University of Ibadan. Throughout his career, he sought and worked for the improvement of basic health services in the rural areas of Nigeria.

To be continued tomorrow