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Preserving the Civil Service as Engine Room of Government Policies

By Tajudeen Kareem

THE Nigerian Civil Service remains the strong engine room of government, regardless of contrary views to this time tested belief. It is indeed the repository of institutional knowledge and policy continuity; both critical ingredients for sustainable development, especially in a country aspiring for greatness as Nigeria.

To avoid any vacuum in the smooth running of government, the Presidency appoints permanent secretaries from the corps of eligible directors who customarily go through a rigorous screening exercise including written tests and interviews. This procedure is predicated on a new policy contained in the resolution of the National Council on Establishment which makes it mandatory for Federal Permanent Secretaries to prove their mettle.

The process has in-built mechanism designed to inspire healthy competition in the civil service and promote competence and suitability. The selection process is expected to put ‘analogue’ civil servants on their toes, knowing that there is reward for service and skills, as opposed to the era where progression was merely judged by seniority in service.

It is now an open secret that the office of the Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita actually resisted immense pressure to manipulate the last elevation of directors; a process widely acclaimed as transparent and rigorous. Months after the selection of 21 new permanent secretaries, lobbyists are unrelenting in their nepotistic disposition, classifying one office as more juicy than the other, as if some seats are reserved for a particular section of the country.

Discerning Nigerians are not unaware of some ill-motivated, well-orchestrated criticisms of the HOS. Now their grouse is the posting of a ‘fresh’ hand to occupy the seat of Permanent Secretary, General Service in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But their argument fails to hold water because there is nothing like ‘junior’ or ‘senior’ permanent secretary in the Federal Civil Service.

In fact a permanent secretary is rated by the quality of his training, sense of duty and service record— all indicated by the responsibilities handled at the lower rung of the civil service ladder.

Among the recently appointed permanent secretaries is Olusegun Adekunle from Oyo State who is a case study of the right man not only for the job but equal to the task.

Coming from a robust multi-disciplinary background in Law, Public Administration, Intellectual Property Rights Management, Project Management, Multi-lateral Trade Negotiations and Humanities, Adekunle, a career civil servant with over three decades of experience in the Federal Civil Service, brings his skills and professionalism to bear on public service delivery.

This is not far-fetched for someone who has served in many strategic ministries namely agriculture, aviation, finance, petroleum and industry, trade & investment. He has similarly served on the boards of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission and the Petroleum Equalization (Management) Fund.

Adekunle was at various times part of the desk team at the Federal Ministry of Finance that managed World Bank Assisted Social Sector and Reform Projects including the Health System Development Project II, HIV/AIDS Program Development, Malaria Control Booster Project, Community Based Poverty Reduction Project and Economic Reforms and Governance Project.

Similarly, he played a key role in managing Nigeria’s relationship with the OPEC-FUND for International Development, International Finance Cooperation and the Islamic Development Bank.

The new PS, GSO has also invested a significant part of his career life in the Intellectual Property Management and Strategy Sector as Director, Planning, Research and Statistics at the Nigerian Copyrights Commission where he initiated a number of reforms to review the statute and initiation of processes for the development of IP Policy and Strategy for Nigeria.

Adekunle’s skills are not localized, representing Nigeria on major Standing Committees of the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, including the Committee on Copyright and Related Rights; Committee on Development and Intellectual Property; and the Committee on Program and Budget.

Confirming his skills and proficiency in Intellectual Property Rights Management, Adekunle was assigned to wear the proverbial two caps as Director, Commercial Law Department and as Registrar, Trademarks, Patent and Designs in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in 2015.

During his tenure he supervised the inauguration of WIPO-Assisted digitization of Nigeria’s Trademarks database for the Registry and led the delegation of Nigeria to the 2015 WIPO Assemblies and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

In October 2015, Adekunle was deployed to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as Director; Planning, Research and Statistics and later appointed National Representative on the OPEC Economic Commission Board in January, 2016.

He was elected the Alternate Chairman for the 127th session of the OPEC-ECB. A man of immense experience and value, Adekunle is the Alternate National Representative on the Committee of Experts of the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO) where he is leading reforms to transform APPO into a vital regional energy development organ.

In addition, the seasoned lawyer and public administrator played major roles in the development of the revised National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP 2013); the National Petroleum Policy (NGP 2017), the National Gas Policy (NGP 2017); the Petroleum Sector Fiscal Policy, Gas Flare Commercialization Policy and the Policy for exiting the Joint Venture Cash Call Conundrum.

With his indisputable record of meritorious service in public sector, Adekunle is no doubt an asset to the Buhari Administration as the PS, GSO- the hub of the ever-busy office of the SGF.


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