•Petitions SGF, HoS, alleges breach of civil service rules
•AGF, a political appointee, not a civil servant —Official
By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Is the Accountant-General of Federation, AGF, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, who was on June 25, 2019, reappointed AGF for another four years, and clocked 60 years old on November 25, 2020, a civil servant or a political appointee?
This is the controversy surrounding the AGF continued stay in office, and which may disrupt the industrial peace in the federal civil service if not properly addressed soon in line with the nation’s laws.
While the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, says Alhaji Idris is a civil servant who must be bound by the civil service rules, and should immediately retire from office having attained 60 years retirement age, the office of AGF has dismissed ASCSN’s claims, contending that the AGF is a political appointee whose position is not bound by the civil service rules.
ASCSN in a statement by its Secretary-General, Alade Bashir Lawal, threatened to mobilise members to storm the office of the AGF any moment to ensure he proceeded on retirement in accordance with the rules as he had allegedly been boasting that as a close friend to President Muhammadu Buhari, who facilitated his promotion to AGF, he could not be subjected to guidelines on retirement in the Civil Service.
According to the ASCSN’ scribe, Public Service Rule, PSR, 020810 stated clearly that: “The compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier. No Officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier.”
Lawal lamented that “in spite of the very clear provision on retirement in the Civil Service, some Heads of agencies continue to sit tight in their offices refusing to exit the service on the spurious ground that they have link with Mr President and cannot be subjected to Public Service Rules. Those parading themselves as President’s men might just be name-droppers as President Buhari, a disciplined General, cannot be encouraging impunity in any form.
“This negative report from Alhaji Idris is particularly painful and disturbing because the post of Accountant-General of the Federation is a career one and it is strictly guided by the provisions of the Public Service Rule 020810.
“Moreover, there are about 200 qualified Directors in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation with requisite educational qualifications and vast experience to occupy that exalted office as stipulated in section 86 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
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“The 1999 Constitution as amended empowers the Civil Service to make its own rules and that led to the formulation of the Public Service Rules, Financial Regulations, Federal Civil Service Commission Guidelines on Appointment, Promotion and Discipline in the service all of which are inseparable components of Public Service regulations designed to enhance efficient and effective service delivery to the citizens.
“The Association can no longer accept a situation where Civil Servants who Head Government Agencies or become Permanent Secretaries would stay put in office and refuse to retire because the practice is gradually destroying the service apart from demoralizing Senior Civil Servants who have served the country for decades but can no longer advance to the peak of their career because their positions are being blocked by people who claimed to be related to powerful persons in the Presidency.”
Reacting to ASCSN demands for his exit, an official in the Office of AGF, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “The AGF is not a civil servant that should retire at the age of 60. He is a political appointtee. He was appointed for a four -year term in the first instance in 2015. He was re-appointed for a second term in June last year. So what are those people talking about? Ask them.”
However, President of ASCSN, Bola Audu Innocent insisted that Idris was a civil servant, informing that the association had petitioned the Head of Service, HoS, of the Federation, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and copied Chief of Staff to the president, Minister of Finance, the supervising Minister, Inspector General of Police and the Director of Department of State Service, DSS to brief them on ASCSN plans.
“According to him, the AGF ought to have retired but “we understand he still comes to the office, mostly in the evenings. We are given him three weeks which is in accordance with the ILO standard to vacate that office.
“Well, at the expiration of the ultimatum, if he refused to leave, we will shut down the federal civil service.”
Corroborating the President, Lawal maintained that the “AGF is a career civil servant like Surveyor-General or Permanent Secretary.
The Surveyor General recently retired after attaining the mandatory retirement age. When Mr. Idris was made Accountant General of the Federation few years ago, he was appointed out of three Directors sent to President Buhari to choose from. At that time, was he a political appointee?
“Mr Idris is one of the boys that worked with President Buhari when he was Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF during the late General Sani Abacha’s government. He was transferred to the Ministry when PTF was scrapped by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“All 15 Accountant-Generals before him retired when they served for 35 years or reached 60 years of age. Why does he want to cling to the office because of primordial affinity with President Buhari?”
AGF letter to SGF
Curiously, Vanguard’s investigation revealed that the embattled AGF had on October 2, 2020, written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, seeking clarification on his status ahead of November 25, 2020, when he would clock 60 years old.
The letter titled “Re, Renewal of Appointment as Accountant-General of the Federation”, reads in part: ” I most respectfully inform the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that I will be Sixty (60) years of age on 25th of November 2020, while my length of service will be Seventeen (17) years.
“In the light of the foregoing, I wish to most obediently seek for SGF’s guidance and clarification accordingly.”
The question is if the AGF is not a civil servant as claimed, why would he seek clarification on his age and status ahead of November 25, 2020, when he attained 60 years old and 17 years in service?
Vanguard tried in vain to get the response of the SGF to the letter.