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Appointment of Perm Sec for National Assembly illegal – Adegoroye

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Dr Goke Adegoroye

Dr. Goke Adegoroye is the pioneer Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR). In this interview with COLLINS
OLAYINKA, he speaks on the National Assembly bureaucracy within the context of the federal civil service. 

With your experience in the civil service, what is your reaction to the emergence of Permanent Secretary, Human Resources of the National Assembly? Has this provision always been there and how does it situate within the Federal Civil Service? 
Yes, I am aware. A retired permanent secretary colleague and one of our best hands in the administrative cadre during our time, Mr. Olu Ilesanmi, saw it on AIT and had to call me in faraway Mexico to bring it to my attention with an e mail carrying a screen shot of how the personality being interviewed was designated.

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Perhaps, you should ask the question: who appointed those NASS permanent secretary? Is it the President? Certainly, No! They say the NASS Act 2014 empowers the Commission to appoint Secretaries and that their designation is Secretary and not Permanent Secretary.

I have obtained a copy of the National Assembly Service Act 2014 and have read it. The Act in section 6 under the “Functions of the Commission” empowers the Commission to appoint persons into the key positions of Clerks, Deputy Clerks and Secretaries.

Section 12 of the Act, however, lists the key staff of the National Assembly as comprising not just those listed as (i) –(vii) above but also Directors. In other words, the Secretaries of the Directorates are higher than Directors. What played out on the screen of the AIT during the interview was a confirmation that what they intended is Permanent Secretary notwithstanding that what their act stipulates is Secretary.

I made some enquiries and found that they were appointed by the NASC following recommendation by the Clerk of the NASS. That calls to question its constitutionality because section 171 of the Constitution is clear on appointments of permanent secretaries and, indeed, all appointments above the level of Directors in the Public Service of the Federation. Powers to make those levels of appointment are vested in the President, C-in-C and no one else. Are they now equating the Clerk of the NASS with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) and the National Assembly Service Commission with the President?

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But the National Assembly is another arm of government just as the judiciary, and both have their staff, who are not under the OHCSF…
Correct, the National Assembly is an arm but not another Government of the Federation. Accordingly, the National Assembly Service cannot be outside the Civil Service of the Federation.

Indeed, there are many services, not just of these two other arms but even within the Executive arm, with services like the Military, Police, SSS, Para-Military, Executive Bodies, Parastatals and Agencies, etc. However, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation stands out very clearly.

The Nigerian constitution defines “Civil Service of the Federation” as: “Service of the federation in a civil capacity, as staff of the Office of the President, the Vice President, a Ministry or department of the Government of the Federation assigned with the responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation.”

While this issue is on appointments, the office to call the NASS to order is not the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), an independent body that is not part of the regular offices of the Executive arm. This issue therefore falls squarely on the laps of the SGF and the HCSF to address: OSGF as the coordinating office of the Centre of Government (Presidency) and the HCSF as the head of all services populated by persons working in civil capacity throughout the federation. That is the import of the title, “Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.” It is why the holder of the office is co-opted to attend Cabinet/Council Meetings where he/she sits just two steps away from the President. The distinction of “civil capacity” in that constitutional interpretation of “service of the federation” is to ring fence those other services that come under the direct command of the President in his other capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. “Service of the federation in civil capacity” therefore encompasses, not just public servants employed by the FCSC that are under the direct control of the HCSF but, all other public servants working in civil capacity within the federation, in respect of whom the HCSF is expected to arm him/herself with proactive initiatives and garner courage to give advice and guidance to the President.

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What are the implications of these alterations?
In order to appreciate those implications and the challenges they pose, we need to find out how many of such Perm Secs or Secretaries have been so appointed. I remember that, shortly after the signing of the NASS Act into law in 2014, the then Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa announced the creation of 5 Directorates, each headed by Secretary. The appearance of a Permanent Secretary, Human Resources, indicates that additional Directorates have since been created. To put it in perspective, on the return to democratic governance in 1999, Ibrahim Salim was the only career officer in the Legislature on the grade of Permanent Secretary as DG/Clerk of the National Assembly.

The year 2020 data within the National Assembly Service Commission indicates that total civil servants in the NASS is 3,102. There are 3 Clerks, for the NASS, the Senate and the House of Representatives, each with a Deputy; then there are 9 Secretaries on permanent secretary grade, 74 Directors heading Departments and a total of 384 other Directors working in those Departments. The mainstream federal civil service is composed of 140,000 staff, of which one is the Head of the Civil Service of the federation, 42 are Permanent Secretaries, 480 are Directors including professional grade level 17 officers. This gives a ratio of 1 Perm Sec to 3,255 staff, compared to 1 consolidated grade level officer to 206 staff at the NASS. Thus, the executive head to reporting staff salary weight of the NASS is 16 times that of the federal civil service. Similarly, the ratio is 1 Director to 280 staff at the federal service compared to 1 Director to 8 staff at NASS, with a corresponding Director to Staff salary weight that is 35 times that of the executive arm federal civil service.

In other words, the first direct implication is the financial burden on the nation that these appointments carry, where a total workforce that is equivalent of an average federal Ministry, requires equivalent personnel emolument of 16 ministries put together. Meanwhile, these are just the career officers. The number of the politically appointed aides is another topic. The second is the lack of alignment of the HRM guidelines of the NASS with provisions in the federal public service. Both implications beg the question of coordination of the federal public service.

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The set up and operations of the National Assembly bureaucracy have continued to generate problems within the civil service of the federation. Even now, there is a Bill to increase retirement age from 60 to 65 and years of service from 35 to 40 by the Chief Whip of the House of Reps Hon. Mohammed Monguno. With a demography that is predominantly youth, it does not make any sense to contemplate increasing retirement age. It is important for SGF and the HCSF to address the NASS bureaucracy challenges before the State Assemblies or even the Local Government Councils begin to adopt this approach.

Human resources management challenges are bound to happen within the public service of the federation. The OHCSF is a problem-solving office and not a project-executing office. Managing such challenges with proactive initiatives is the very essence of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. The process of initiating the appropriate actions does not need clearance of the President. Integrity, confidence and courage are what is required. Every sitting HCSF must strive to deploy proactive initiatives, courage as well as personal and institutional integrity to human resources management to advance the agenda of the Administration.

The “General” that is expected to lead the warfare of Public Service Transformation for efficiency and effectiveness cannot afford the luxury of appearing like a rooster in the public service jungle, parading a beautiful comb and pairs of wattles and ear lobes to confront species that are armed with massive incisors, claws or horns, as the case may be. Succeeding heads of the civil service of the federation should be inspired by the type of courage exhibited during the tenure of past occupants of the office like Mahmud Yayale Ahmed and, even, Stephen Oronsaye.

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You talk about previous administrations. What if the HCSF is not able to see the President on the matter?
See the President for what? Civil servants are trained to relate with their principal through quality submissions to inform and guide the principal and then recommendations and prayers. It is the left to the principal to invite the officer to throw more light on such a submission if he so desires. In time, the quality of those submissions and, especially, the proactive initiatives contained therein are bound to earn the civil servant the respect of their principal.

Irrespective of the structural deficiencies, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation must, at all times, strive to act in the true intent of its name with the full powers of its constitutional provision. The Office is designated Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and not Head of the Civil Service of the Executive arm of Government; much in the same way as the Attorney General of the Federation.

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