Soni Daniel,Northern Region Editor

Something very provocative and disappointing happened in the Federal Ministry of Education on February 10th this year. The occurrence, to say the least, amounted to a travesty of justice, a rape on laid down rules guiding the transfer and promotion of principals and vice principals of the 104 Federal Government Colleges alias Unity Schools. It posed a threat to the survival of the institutions.

On that fateful day, 47 of the 104 principals, who are mostly directors on level 17 and who have put in their best to advance the course of education in Nigeria, were surreptitiously removed from their posts on the order of the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Jamila Shu’ara, acting on the instruction of the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.

Incidentally, the continued stay of Dr. Shu’ara in the ministry has sparked trouble between the Presidency and the House of Representatives, which has described her retention by the forces in the Presidency as illegal as there was no law in the country backing such action.

In dismissing her tenure as illegal and provocative, the lawmakers ordered the abrogation of all actions purported to have been carried out and the refund of all money earned by her during that period to the Federal government with immediate effect.

But despite the decision of the enraged lawmakers, the permanent secretary did not back down. She was insistent that the deployed principals had to quit their duty posts and hand over to the junior officers named by her with immediate effect.

Shu’ara backed up her action with a memo dispatched to all directors and heads of department to ensure that the postings and redeployment of the principals were effected without fail.

In the memo with Ref. ADF/ABJ/181/11/24 dated February 23rd February 2017, the permanent secretary directed the heads of departments to enforce the posting of the 47 principals without fail.

It was a bitter pill the affected principals had to swallow having been hit below the belt.   The directors, some of them armed with PhD and many years of meritorious service to the nation, have been wondering what offence they committed to warrant being treated shabbily by the Permanent Secretary and the minister.

The obnoxious postings, according to findings, defied all known circulars and extant rules governing the operations of the 104 unity colleges in Nigeria.

Most shocking and devastating to the senior principals, some more qualified than other influential elements in the ministry, was their replacement with junior teachers, some as young as Assistant Directors, whose major advantage is their closeness to some powerful elements in the Federal Ministry of Education or those with the capacity to grease the palms of some powerful interests in the same ministry.

One of the extant circulars released into operation by the Office of the Head of Service of the Civil Service of the Federation in 2013, clearly states that only Directors on level 17 with a degree in Education should head the First generation Federal Government Colleges with a student population of 1800 and above.

The   HCSF circular No. OE&MS/MSO/82/T2 /101 dated 16th April 2013 on page 13 section (viii) states: “The first generation Federal Government Colleges and those with student population of 1,800 and above should be headed by Principal (Special Grade) on Salary Grade Level 17 i.e. Directors”.

Apart from Head of Service Circular, successive ministers of Education have always been guided by the clear and unmistakable provision. .

Paradoxically, the transfer of 47 principals by the ministry on February 10, 2017 solely by the permanent secretary followed no known parameters and merely favoured principals and junior teachers from one part of the country.

Apart from not involving the Minister of State for Education in the process, the demigods in the ministry took it upon themselves to breach existing civil service procedure by elevating assistant directors and deputy directors on level 15 and 16 to lord over directors, who were downgraded and redeployed from their grade A unity schools to inferior younger colleges while others were moved to the headquarters of the Education Ministry in Abuja, where they are neither well placed nor given proper job description and offices to work.

“These postings seen as the most unfair, unjust and lopsided in the history of the Ministry of Education in Nigeria did not follow due process, as the Posting Committee, whose mandate it is in the first place to appoint, retain and re-post the directorate cadre officers as principals, was totally sidelined,” one of the officials, who is familiar with postings in the ministry over the years complained to Saturday Vanguard.

“Most disappointing in all of this is that the indices used in the public service for promotion and postings such as seniority, competence, commitment, performance, merit and hard work, were completely ignored by the officers in the ministry who usurped the work of the posting committee so as to foist their cronies on others for their selfish interest.

Another principal, who was moved from a unity school adjudged as one of the best as a result of her brilliant performance, said, “These lopsided postings have effectively put junior teachers above their senior directors and made a mess of the entire school system threatening to cause serious disaffection that may cause indiscipline and bad blood in the school system. Once those who did the posting completed their ‘nefarious and vexatious posting of their loved ones and associates and cronies to their preferred institutions without minding laid down rules and regulations, they proceeded to get the police to forcibly remove those transferred without waiting for them to formally hand over to the new junior teachers imposed on the senior principals.

“The worst aspect of that action is that high level politics, treachery and diabolical tactics have now been employed by all who feel threatened to defend themselves and to remain relevant in the scheme of things. At the end of the day, it is the education system that becomes the ultimate victim since the spirit of hard work, commitment and dedication has been replaced by favouritism, godfatherism and the ability to pay cash for lucrative postings. Those who lobbied their way in, are using every means to push out the displaced senior principals and entrench themselves in the affected unity schools with immediate effect while those wrongly removed are also working hard to resist the junior ones from taking over their posts,” another principal said.

“Contrary to whatever the perpetrators of the wrong postings may say,   obvious anomalies abound in the current posting exercise because there are claims that many of the directors were removed or redeployed and replaced by deputy directors who had given kick backs to two senior ministry officials and this is very sad commentary in the history of this country.

“You can see that something has really gone wrong because some principals who had served for over eight years were retained and others were reappointed while Director/Principals who have served for less than three years were removed and posted to either schools with less population meant for Deputy Directors or posted to Inspectorate of Education or left floating.

“Some Principals who have a few months to retirement were redeployed, whereas officers who have few months to retire were appointed as Principals. You may wish to note that the document on the process of appointment stipulates that no officer who has less than two years in service should be appointed or removed as Principals.

“While posting is considered normal in the Civil Service, this particular posting negates the principle of justice and fairness. It has disregarded all policies and has created tension and distress in the system,” a top official said.

National Assembly’s intervention too late

Apparently irked by the wrong postings, the House of Representatives, which got wind of the outcry of the 47 principals, most of who happen to come from one part of Nigeria, immediately summoned the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and ordered him to put the redeployment on hold pending the conduct of national examinations like JAMB, NECO, WASCE etc.

When he appeared before the Zakari Mohammed-led House Committee on Basic Education, Adamu gave the indication that he had ordered the postings to be put on hold to enable the schools to concentrate on national examinations that were fast approaching but events in the last few weeks have proved otherwise.

Forces in the ministry, who carried out the postings have sworn that the postings will never be reverted as they were done to reflect Federal Character, a claim criticised and punctured by the fact that federal character is never used in posting and promotions of officers in unity schools but in the recruitment of persons into the public service.

Senate backs ministry

The Senate Committee on Education, which also received the petition filed by the 47 principals, however shocked the principals when it towed the position of the Ministry that it carried out the posting in compliance with Federal Character principle.

Cautious optimism

Many months after reporting their ill-treatment to both chambers of the National Assembly and getting no positive support from them and apparently seeing signs that the lawmakers might have ‘seen’ the issue from the ministry’s prism, the embattled principals have decided to leave their fate in the hands of the Almighty God. But will the vexatious action of the ministry and the muffled lips from the National Assembly serve the greater interest of education in Nigeria?

Disclaimer

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