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Public Service Rules and the Ministry of Power: Matters Arising

By Henry Anibe Agbonika

“As we create an environment that allows initiative, enterprise and hard work to thrive, it is more important than ever to call out those who find the rule of law an inconvenience, or independent regulation an irritation.” President Muhammadu Buhari

Once upon a time, human interactions were not regulated. Brute force, oppression and greed were the fundamentals of human existence. It was a time anarchy reigned supreme. It was survival of the fittest. Humans did whatever had to be done to protect individual interests and group turfs, without any consideration. Man was law unto himself. With civilization and emergence of the state however, rules, laws, and processes, became necessary to instill order, regulate human behaviors, activities, and social interactions. Countries also put in place systems under-girding by fixed rules, discipline, and laws, operated by large number of people to manage and deliver public service unto citizens. It is to this systems or bureaucracies that many nations owe their rise and some their fall.

In recognition of the all important role of the public service/bureaucracy in ensuring the much desired development outcomes and a satisfied citizenry, the Government of Nigeria came up with guidelines such as the Public Service Rules, Code of Conduct for public office holders, Code of Ethic in Government business, financial regulations, financial memorandum, etc. In the foreword to the 2008 edition of the Public Service Rules(PSR), it states ‘The main thrust of the 2008 Edition of the Public Service Rules is to ensure that the fundamental ethical issues in the Public Service are strictly adhered to. It is, therefore, aimed at entrenching the issues of transparency, accountability, justice, equity, due process, and the rule of law. All these are very paramount to the conduct of Government business, which all Public Servants must imbibe.’

Unfortunately, Engr. Saleh Mamman, Nigeria’s Minister of Power has demonstrated in recent times, the most flagrant disregard for these rules upon which our collective aspirations are grounded, despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed commitment to upholding the rule of law, and due process across board. Mamman last week sacked the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria(TCN), Usman Mohammed. The question is, does a minister have the powers to unilaterally dismiss the CEO of an agency without recourse to extant rules, particularly the PSR?

A thorough review of a circular dated 19th May, 2020, titled ‘Approved Disciplinary Procedure Against Chief Executive Officers of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies, and Departments’ signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federal(SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, reveals a nine(9) step procedure for disciplinary action against CEOs. Which of the steps did the Minister take? It is pertinent to ask, at what point did Engr. Mamman through Didi Walson-Jack, the Permanent Secretary(PS) of the Federal Ministry of Power(FMoP) refer any act bothering on gross misconduct against the MD to the Governing Board of the TCN in line with the provisions of the Establishment Act and the principles guiding chapters 3 and 16 of the PSR? Was the CEO at any point issued a query by the board based on the above? Did Engr. Mamman in consultation with the PS forward the Ministry’s position along with the recommendation of the board based on the CEOs response, to the SGF for processing to Mr. President, for decision?

For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to stress that the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation(OSGF) is the center of government with a unique cross-government perspective, able to foresee and enhance synergies and reduce conflicts in planning, policy and implementation. In other words, Boss Mustapha is responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes across ministries, with no exception. It is his responsibility to foster greater alignment throughout the Buhari government, and provide coherence to government action.
As part of his responsibilities in this instance, the SGF upon receipt of the Minister’s submission, is to cause for an investigation and advice Mr President in line with Sections 030405 and 030406 of the PSR pending final investigation. Thereafter, it is with the SGF to implement or convey Mr President’s disciplinary action or otherwise to the CEO, and not the Minister.

Clearly, Engr. Mamman had acted ultra vires. But this is not the first time. In December 2019, he unilaterally ordered the sack of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), and the suspension of that of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), a decision reversed by President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2020. In a dramatic twist, the REA Managing Director was appointed as the Chief Executive of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and Co-chair of the United Nations-Energy. This calls to question, the honorable Minister’s judgment in suspending her earlier.

Rather than feel ashamed and remorseful about his actions over the last couple of months, supporters and promoters of the Minister have began a well orchestrated plan to discredit the person of the SGF for daring to demand that due process be followed in all of government’s dealings. This is a new low. Engr. Mamman is clearly a threat to stability and service delivery as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari. If he is allowed to continue in this rascality, the government’s commitment to provide essential services and serve as a responsible steward of state resource particularly in relation to the power sector will remain a mirage. It can be argued that vested interests in the power sector who were against Usman Muhammed’s planned recapitalisation of Discos in the year 2020 are working in tandem with the Minister to frustrate efforts at pushing the power sector towards sustainable growth and development. The only way Engr. Mamman can prove that he means well for Nigeria and Nigerians, is to ensure the country’s grossly inefficient Discos are recapitalized, and ensure stability of government’s policy direction in the power sector.

Consistent with President Muhammadu Buhari’s charge to Nigerians to call out those who find the rule of law an inconvenience, or independent regulation an irritation, we must call out Engr. Mamman. He is yet to demonstrate that he can be held accountable through political and legal processes. The Minister should therefore be punished for violating rules and regulations guiding conduct of public officials.

Amidst the plot and shenanigans by faceless stakeholders, Boss Mustapha should continue to hold his head high in the discharge of his duties and obligations to President Muhammadu Buhari, and the good people of Nigeria. All government officials, with the exception of none, must acquaint themselves with rules, regulations, and extant laws guiding the public service.

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