Nigeria scrambles to replace retiring perm secs

By on 24/05/2017
Nigeria's House of Reprasentatives where Oyo-Ita was censured for failing to comply with its directive to recover one year’s pay from permanent secretary Hijaya Jamila Shu-ara (Image courtesy: Shiraz Chakera).

The Nigerian federal government has drawn up a civil service leadership succession plan, in a bid to replace 16 permanent secretaries who are due to retire this year.

The move was announced by head of the civil service Winifred Oyo-Ita at a retirement ceremony for Dr Saheed Yemi Adelakun, permanent secretary (PS) for the Common Services Office earlier this month.

It came after President Muhammadu Buhari flew to London for hospital treatment on 7 May, following a seven-week medical absence during January and February. Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo is heading the government in his absence.

Rumours that the president has died have been swirling around social media across the country following reports on some Nigerian news outlets, forcing the president’s office to issue a denial on Monday.

Not dead, President Muhammadu Buhari (Image courtesy: Chatham House)

Adelakun is the fourth permanent secretary (PS) to retire in two months, with the information and culture PS, Ayotunde Adesugba, also retiring on 15 May. Rabi Jimeta, PS for water resources, and Hijaya Jamila Shu’ara, PS for education, retired in April.

“They have to retire in line with [the] public service rule,” Oyo-Ita said at the ceremony, as reported by the Daily Trust and Tribune Online news sites. “Either they have spent 35 years in service or they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 60, whichever comes first.

“These federal permanent secretaries, some of them have started retiring this year, others [will have retired] by the end of the year. Then there is the succession plan, so the selection process of permanent secretaries is ongoing.”

On 5 April, Oyo-Ita was censured by Nigeria’s House of Representatives for failing to comply with its directive to recover one year’s pay from Shu-ara after the PS’s tenure was extended for one year beyond her retirement age in February 2016, according to This Day website.

A House committee had found that the extension breached civil service law.

The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) warned that the practice could undermine the civil service and described Oyo-Ita’s stance as “very unfortunate”, Today website reported.

The same day, 5 April, Oyo-Ita signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalising a public-private partnership with the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG) to provide technical and financial support for a drive to improve the civil service.

She said the partnership was the first of its kind in Nigeria and a “momentous milestone” that would support her office’s 2017-19 strategic plan, which aims to create an “efficient, productive, incorruptible and citizen-centred” civil service.

AIG is a group of West African business people, politicians and academics, led by banker Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, that aims to transform the performance of the public sector in Africa.

It is launching five funded scholarships for Nigerian and Ghanaian candidates to join a Master of Public Policy degree programme at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government in October 2017.

The group is also sponsoring a visiting fellowship at the school, and launching an annual statistical report on Nigerian public service and a public sector award for meritorious service this year.

For more on the AIG, see our report of 3 May.

For up to date government news and international best practice follow us on Twitter @globegov

See also:

Nigerian government signs skills deal

Nigeria’s president sounds warning to perm secs over corruption and incompetence

U.S. government urged to recruit ‘aggressively’ in face of retirement boom

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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