December 13, 2022

Undeserved assault on the bureaucracy (4)

By Eric Teniola

From last week, the piece continues narrative on Sir Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa, a pioneering Nigerian surgeon, Inspector General of Medical Services, and former Chief Medical Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria

AS Inspector General of Medical Services, he worked assiduously for the establishment of a university teaching hospital in the country. The result was the creation of UCH, Ibadan. On September 27, 1975, he was retired and was given two weeks notice to pack out of the government quarters in Ikoyi that had been allocated to him since 1953.

Sir Manuwa had nowhere to go. Finally, he packed some of his belongings and relocated them to a house in Surulere, Lagos. The stress and humiliation were too much for him to bear. He died six months after his retirement. 

There were several examples of public servants who had the same experience as Sir Manuwa. The tragedy of it was that there were no queries issued to these public servants before their retirement. In short, they were caught unawares. Till today both the military and the civilian governments have indulged in sudden retirement of public servants.

The assault on the bureaucracy is even more alarming in the Federal Civil Service today. Ministers now run their ministries as if they were their personal empires, disregarding rules and regulations. There is the case of a female minister who appointed her daughter as personal assistant and directed all those connected with the ministry to take instruction from her instead of the Permanent Secretary. 

Regulations, I am told, are no longer followed. There is a lack of coordination among various organs of government. Today, if the ministers do not humiliate the bureaucrats, it is the members of the National Assembly that constantly humiliate them, especially at committee hearings.

I read in the media, recently, a minister suspended the managing director of a parastatal under him. The minister got the president’s approval to probe the parastatal before suspending the managing director. On his own, the minister constituted the committee to probe the managing director.

No one is defending corrupt officers, but regulations must be followed, and I asked myself in all of these and many other instances: “Where is the Federal Civil Service Commission, the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, or the office of the Head of Service of the Federation. If any punishment is to be carried out in the federal public service, these three must be involved. I remember that in 2000, the Head of Service, Mr. Abu Obe, circulated revised editions of the financial regulations and public service rules.

“The regulations and the rules are commandments that public servants must constantly adhere to. Since 1976, when the Financial Regulations were last reviewed and published, the conduct of government business has undergone many transformations. Since the mid-1980s, especially, anyone with the slightest idea about how the machinery of good government should work, would have noticed that the time-tested ways of conducting government business have degenerated and fallen apart.

Compliance with the Public Service Rules and Financial Regulations has been jettisoned, and instead, regimes of indiscipline, disorder and arbitrariness have been established. All the elements that enhance efficiency, reliability, and continuity of the system have been tampered with, resulting in major and severe setbacks for the conduct of government business.

Government operations were conducted as if laws and rules did not exist to govern how and where public funds were spent. Public funds were disbursed illegally without recourse to financial regulations; the facilities of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, NSPM, were recklessly abused; and the contingencies fund was used without regard to the rules governing its operation. 

The Public Service Rules and Financial Regulations were comprehensively reviewed in 2006 as part of President Olusegun Obasanjo Public Service Reforms, when he appointed Dr. Goke Adegoroye (71), from Akure, as the pioneer Director General of the Public Service Reform Bureau. A substantial number of public officers behave as if there are no rules and regulations that govern their conduct.

This attitude has recently been compounded by the seemingly deliberate and sustained acts by the heads of government of military regimes to destroy all systems of proper conduct. Our laws have always been very clear: public affairs must be conducted according to stipulated rules and procedures. There can be no doubt that these rules apply to all public servants, including the president.

Accordingly, the attention of all public officers is invited to the very first rule, which stipulates that: “These Rules apply to all servants except where they conflict with specific terms approved by the Federal Government and written into the contract of employment or letter of appointment.

In so far as the holders of the offices of the President, Vice President, and others mentioned in Section 84(4) of the Constitution are concerned, the Rules apply only to the extent that they are not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation in so far as their conditions of service and any other law applicable to these officers are concerned.” 

Public service rules by themselves will not lead to good governance if they are not backed by political will and the preparedness of government to impose total adherence to these rules to promote the public good. I am aware that certain public officers have been accused of corruption and embezzlement.

In fact, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, the former Accountant-General of the Federation, is among those accused. Even his predecessor, Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla, is also accused of the same offence. Recently, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Clement Iloh, was jailed for four years for a similar offence.

There are many more accused of similar charges whose cases are still pending, but they cannot be more than one percent of the entire civil service. “But like others who are corrupt, these are cases that could be likened as exceptions, and exceptions cannot prove to be the rule.”