By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Currently, several policy decisions, house-cleaning exercises, resolute needful executive actions and even pesky political distractions clutter President Muhammadu Buhari’s table.
But that’s just a part of the story. Perhaps only pretty discerning few know more than Mr President, that today, the stakes are extremely high and Nigerians are mindful that a failure to achieve democratic stability, through a disciplined, transparent, inclusive governance process, may imperil the country’s future as a coherent state.
It is against this background that the suspension of the Head of Service, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita and the appointment of Dr (Mrs) Folashade Yemi-Esan as the Acting Head of the Civil Service of the Federation is better appreciated. Mrs Oyo-Ita was directed to proceed on an indefinite leave to allow conclusion of the investigation being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into some issues in which her name prominently featured.
Besides sending seismic shock waves throughout the federal civil service and beyond, the move also warns foes and alerts friends of the administration to the fact that this president means business.
Conscious of maintaining system stability, the president also approved the extension of the tenure of seven retiring permanent secretaries for a period of one calendar year with effect from October 1, 2019. This is to engender stability in the federal civil service and ensure effective delivery on the nine priority areas of the administration as well as the mandates given to the new ministers.
Similarly, President Buhari directed the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to commence the process for the selection of new permanent secretaries to replace retiring ones.
The government’s decision to extend the tenure of these permanent secretaries is premised on the need to ensure that the new ministers are properly guided, briefed about their sectors and to ensure that a solid foundation is laid for the delivery on the presidential mandate, an undertaking which they jointly signed. The insight that informed the presidential directives can hardly be faulted.
Significantly, the permanent secretaries captured in this presidential tenure extension reflected commendable inclusivity – an area that detractors readily exploit to criticise the president. The presidential gesture significantly reflects, and very largely, ethnic or geo-political zonal spread or balance.
For validation of the claim made supra, the affected permanent secretaries include: Mrs Georgina Ehuriah, Ministry of Interior; Mrs Ifeoma Anagbogu (Women Affairs); Mrs Grace Gekpe (Information & Culture); Dr Umar Bello, (Agriculture & Rural Development); Suleiman Lawal, (Foreign Affairs); Mrs Comfort Ekaro, (Water Resources) and Olusegun Adekunle, General Services Office (Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation).
The permanent secretaries will be very instrumental, working with ministers to manage the process for the preparation of the 2020 Budget in line with the commitment of government to return to the January-December budget cycle and help develop various policies and programmes aimed at lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
The action of Mr President is clearly in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 171 (2) d of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).