OPINION!!Permanent Secretaries and Issue of Permanency in Abia Civil Service
By Izuchukwu Nwokoma
Recalling the days in Secondary School, in one of my Government classes, we were told that one of the features of the Civil Service which gives new recruits excitement on joining the service is “Permanency”.
Permanency entails that every civil servant irrespective of his or her position, enjoy the security of tenure/service. In other words, a civil servant cannot be dismissed summarily for reasons other than those stated in the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The permanency characteristic of the civil service has been identified as a sin qua non to avoid arbitrary termination of appointments by vengeful politicians in particular who may not be happy with the actions or activities of some civil servants in relation to their political views despite that civil servants should be non-partisan.
In Abia today, the euphoria and excitement that heralds the securing of a civil service job, seems to be watered down, thrown to the dogs or cajoled by virtue of drastic actions taken against top technocrats in service (Permanent Secretaries) and without recourse to civil service rules. This decision has been taken while relegating to the background, the vast experience these Perm. Secs. would have offered to the new administration in the State.
Even though it was tagged “suspension” but without official letters to that effect, it has been gathered that plans have already been perfected to replace the suspended Permanent Secretaries with new ones which some political observers have branded unjust if finally done.
In the midst of the above, I ask, is it proper to just suspend the Perm. Secs arbitrarily? What is the fate of those with 7 to 8 years remaining before their retirement from service? What happens to their gigantic plans of using the remaining years to properly plan and arm themselves for life after retirement? Even on suspension, some of them had hopes that after the probe by the panel of inquiry, they will be reinstated, but with their non-payment of July salary, it has turned out to be that the reason they were paid April and June salaries may be because they worked up to 15 days of the months paid.
Whatever the reasons, these Perm. Secs. do not deserve this kind of treatment, they should be discharged from service officially not through unofficial means or whatever guise.
In all fairness, and in reflection of the impartial feature of the civil service which they preach, it is also important that civil servants are treated equally by the Chief Executive of the State. There shouldn’t be any form of favouritism and nepotism in appointments into positions, offices or even payment of salaries to workers.
Lately, there has been complaints by civil servants in some MDAs that they have not been paid these three months since the current administration came on board. The current administration must not fail to understand that civil servants should be non partisan vis-a-vis AGIP (Any Government in Power). For the fact that some of them were so partisan during the campaigns and previous administrations does not mean they should be victimized. Such does not prevent them from serving the present administration same way they served others.
In as much as l do not exonerate the suspended Permanent Secretaries from whatever wrong doing, it needs be established here that these Permanent Secretaries deserve to be officially retired from service. As it stands, the State Government will be shooting itself on the leg if they continue depriving them of their emolument which should be sacrosanct. They have put in years of service in the discharge of their duties to the State.
Going forward, The Government of Dr. Alex Otti, OFR, must reflect on the “permanency” feature of the civil service, and device a means of officially disengaging these Permanent Secretaries even as there are no plans on ground to reinstate them.
Instead of deciding not to pay them salaries again, the necessary documentation accorded retired civil servants can be instituted for them, which will ensure that they are placed on monthly Pensions, paid off or their gratuities settled to avert whatever grievances they may be nursing against the state in relation to the number of years they have served.
The Abia State Government might be setting a bad precedence if actually they decide to announce and swear in new Perm. Secs without coming on board with adequate compensatory measures which may include payment of pensions, gratuities or outright settlement of these Perm. Secs. who are watching as events unfold and also gathering documents and perfecting strategies to drag the State into a legal battle.
Izuchukwu Nwokoma is a Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst.