Buhari fires Oyo-Ita, extends tenure of 7 perm secs

  • Yemi-Esan now acting HoS
  • Reps may probe extension


President Muhammadu Buhari last night directed the embattled Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, to proceed on an indefinite leave.

The President yesterday replaced her with Dr Yemi-Esan, who is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

President Buhari also approved the extension of the tenure of seven retiring permanent secretaries for a period of one year, with effect from 1st October, 2019.

The extension, the president said, was “to ensure stability in the Federal Civil Service and effective delivery on the nine priority areas of the administration as well as the mandates given to the new ministers.”

Those whose tenures were extended included Mrs Georgina Ehuriah (Interior), Mrs Ifeoma I. Anagbogu (Women Affairs), Mrs Grace Gekpe (Information and Culture), Dr Umar M. Bello (Agriculture and Rural Development), Suleiman Mustapha Lawal  (Foreign Affairs), Mrs Comfort C. Ekaro  (Water Resources) and Mr Olusegun A. Adekunle (General Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation).

Daily Trust gathered from sources that four out of the seven permanent secretaries were due for retirement by the end of this month.

One of the sources confided that the extension followed intense lobby by the “beneficiaries through influential persons around the government.”

Mr Adekunle was on Tuesday night honoured to a valedictory event by the management staff of the office of the SGF to celebrate his planned retirement after 35 years in service before the new development.

The decisions by the president were contained in a circular titled: “Stabilization of the Federal Civil Service,” issued by the SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha.

In a statement signed by the Director, Information, Office of the SGF, Mr Willie Bassey, said the removal of Mrs Oyo-Ita was to allow for the conclusion of the investigation being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Dr Mrs Folashade Yemi-Esan as the Acting Head of the Civil Service of the Federation with immediate effect.

“Dr Mrs Yemi-Esan, who is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources takes over from Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, who has been directed to proceed on an indefinite leave to allow conclusion of the investigation being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“The decision of Government 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 which they jointly signed,” the statement said.

It said the permanent secretaries will also help the newly appointed 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 circle.

It added that the action of Mr President was in exercise of the powers conferred on him under Section 171 (2) d of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The extension given to the seven permanent secretaries came 18 months after the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning similar extension for Dr Jamila Shu’ara, the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum, who was due for retirement after attaining the mandatory 60 years retirement age.

During the debacle, the House ordered Oyo-Ita to retrieve the salaries paid to Shu’ara, who had served out her tenure in February, 2016.

Despite the directive, Shu’ara spent additional one-year in service until February 2017. When she was summoned by the Reps, she told the lawmakers that it was President Buhari who approved the extension.

In passing the resolution, the lawmakers had noted that while Section 171 of the Nigerian Constitution empowered the president to appoint top officials of government, including permanent secretaries, the provision did not cover the power to extend a permanent secretary’s tenure.

Under the extant Public Service Rules, an officer must retire from service after serving for 35 years or attaining the age of 60 years, whichever comes first.


‘Reps may probe extension’

Speaking on the extension, a ranking lawmaker told the Daily Trust last night that the House would never be comfortable with the extension in view of its last resolution.

The lawmaker who does not want to be named, said: “It is not in the best interest of the country and civil service. You know civil service is like the military, where seniority is very important.

“The dream of every civil servant is to attain the pinnacle of his or her career, the permanent secretary position.

“If you continue to extend the service, it would cause stagnation. The junior ones will retire before their bosses. It will bring about indiscipline and would demoralize the civil servants. The House can never be comfortable with this. Issues are going to be raised,” he said.


Oyo-Ita’s last battle

The sacking of the 55-year old Oyo Ita came weeks after she was probed by the EFCC over alleged N3bn contract scam.

She was invited by the anti-graft agency and granted an administrative bail after being grilled by top EFCC officials led by its acting Chairman, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu.

The embattled 19th Head of Service (HoS) was also being investigated for alleged abuse of duty tour allowance, money laundering and alleged theft of government funds.

According to the circular, the president also directed the Office of the Head of the Civil Service to commence the process for the selection of new permanent secretaries to replace those due for retirement.

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