…confusion keeps 3 career public officers at home
…Buhari handicapped over conflicting memos
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Abuja – The Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari and the Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, have disagreed over the disengagement of three career permanent secretaries from the public service.
As a result of the disagreement, the three women have been left at home in the past three years even though they are being paid salaries by the government.
The three permanent secretaries: Mrs. Fatima Bamidele, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele and Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, ran into trouble when Buhari came into office as they were reportedly being investigated over alleged misappropriation of funds in their respective ministries.
They were therefore placed under watch while their counterparts were assigned to ministries by the Buhari administration, which promised change in the land.
Under a restructuring Programme, the administration quickly retired no fewer than 17 permanent secretaries while 18 new ones were appointed, 16 from serving directors and two from the private sector.
But in 2016 the HoS wrote a letter to the president absolving the three permanent secretaries of any offense and recommended that they be redeployed on one hand and be retired ‘in public interest’ on the other hand.
These issues were contained in two contradictory letters by Oyo-Ita dated February 16, 2016 and March 17, 2017 and addressed to President Buhari.
In the letter dated February 16, 2017, the Hos told the President that the allegations against Bamidele, Ejele and Odusote were baseless as no solid evidence was adduced to buttress the allegations of fraud and misappropriation of funds.
But she prayed the president to retire them on the grounds that their positions had been filled and taken up by new appointees from those states.
In a memo to the president, Oyo-Ita said, “Since it would be difficult for me to recommend their reinstatement because their positions have been occupied by the appointments of new permanent secretaries from their states.
“Furthermore, their reinstatement would defeat Government’s policy of a lean service.
“Finally, states that do not have permanent secretaries from their indigenes would complain such an action.”
The HoS asked the president to among other things, “approve the retirement of Fatima Binta Bamidele, Ibukun Abimbola Odusote and Nkechi Ejele in the public interest”,
But her recommend irked the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and he fired back at Oyo-Ita.
In a memo dated April 25, 2016, with reference No. Abba Kyari queried the Oyo-Ita in a letter dated April 25, 2016 with reference No SH/COS/ 100/A/ 1437, the COS asked her to justify her recommendation for the retirement of the three women ‘in the public interest’.
The CoS’s letter read: “ From your submissions, it would appear that the three officers all of whom have been exonerated by the Investigation Committee are yet to meet the criteria for retirement either on length of service, age, or even the tenure principle. None of them would also seem to have fallen under approved criteria used in respect of their erstwhile colleagues.
“You may therefore wish to provide the basis for your recommendation for their retirement “in public interest” other than your explanations in para 5 and 6 of your letter under reference”
But the HoS later wrote another letter dated March 17, 2017 with reference number HCSF/911/ S.I/7/205 to the President on why her position should be taken.
She further explained to the President that the investigations into allegations of serious misconduct against the three permanent secretaries had been reviewed by the Federal Service Management Committee (FSMC) under her chairmanship.
It was not clear as at last night which of the positions the president would take while the three permanent secretaries continue us to stay at home and receiving salaries for rendering in service to the country.