Yar’adua’s absence: 15 new Perm Secs can’t be sworn in

Consequences of having an AWOL President

President Umaru Musa Yar

Nigeria: FIFTEEN new Federal  permanent secretaries who were appointed by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in October last year have been cooling their heels for nearly three months because his absence from the country has stalled their swearing-in ceremony and assignment of portfolios. One of them actually died last month while waiting to be sworn-in.

On October 26, last year, Yar’adua approved the appointment of the new permanent secretaries to replace the 10 federal perm secs who retired earlier that month due to the new service tenure system, which required that anyone who had been a permanent secretary or director in a Federal ministry for eight years should immediately retire from the service.

The new permanent secretaries who are yet to be sworn-in include Umar Faruk Baba from Bauchi State, Sheik Goni Musa [Borno], Josephine Ajorisedere Awosika [Delta], Mohammed Sani Lawal [Jigawa] and Abdulkadir Tijjani Ahmed, from Kaduna. The latter is now deceased.

Also waiting to be sworn in are Willoughby Stephen Olukorede from Lagos, Odusote Ibukun Abimbola [Ogun], Mohammed Sambo Bashar [Sokoto] and Aliyu Salihu Gusau [Zamfara].

Other perm secs still cooling their heels are Daudu Ibrahim Jalo, who will represent the North East geopolitical zone; Olorumfemi Biodun Nathaniel for the North-Central, Mahe Ibrahim Gaya for the North-West, Ozodinobi Anthony Zikora for the South-East, Ene-Ita Anne Nkese for the South-South and Fatima Binta Bamidele, for the South-West.

Daily Trust learnt that even though the Oaths Act 2004 provided that perm secs can be sworn-in by either the president or the Chief Justice, the Presidency refrained from applying the Kutigi-Katsina Alu formula here because, apart from swearing-in, the perm secs must be assigned their portfolios, which requires presidential approval. A senior government source said Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was not willing to approve such a sensitive matter without Yar’adua’s approval.

The former permanent secretaries stopped going to work on October 1, last year and handed over to the most senior directors in their ministries. Though their retirements took effect from December 31, they were directed by the Head of Service to start a three-months pre-retirement leave from October 1.

Spokesman for the Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation Tope Ajakaiye told Daily Trust last night that the reason for the delay could be because the retired permanent secretaries “left office not quite long ago.” He however refused to answer a question on whether the Vice President had the power to swear-in the already appointed permanent secretaries.

“I cannot answer that question now. All I know is that when they are sworn-in, they will take up posting immediately. Besides, you know they [the old perm secs] just left on December 31,” he said.

The perm secs who left due to the new tenure system included Ammuna Lawan Ali, who was in the Ministry of Information and Communication, Dr. Haruna Usman Sanusi [Labour and Productivity], Nu’uman Barau Dambatta [Transport]; Mrs Safiya Muhammad [Environment]; Solomon Matankari [State House] as well as the embattled permanent secretary in the Ministry of Power, Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu, who is standing trial over the multi-billion Naira rural electrification agency fraud.

Other perm secs who retired were Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed of the General Services Office (GSO), Garba Buwai of the Economic Affairs Office (EAO) and Bello Usman Maitambari, all permanent secretaries in the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF.)