Abia State Government: Errant Interpretation of Civil Service Rules by Hon. Chief Obinna Oriaku (Ekwedike)

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One of the distinguishing features of civil service all over the world is “Bureaucracy” which allows for thorough scrutiny of all government policies and programs as to insulate them from human or technical errors. Another like it, is the job security that makes civil service enviable when compared to the private sector. But recent events in Abia state suggest that it’s either the government of Abia State is averse to due process or ignorant of the provisions of the Civil Service Rules as provided in law.

In fairness, commendations must go to the Alex Otti’s government for mustering sufficient political will to take hard decisions .However ,care must be taken not to overstep his boundaries to prevent, in the long run, some avoidable repercussions .

Abia State civil service like every other civil service in Nigeria is governed by rules and regulations contained in the Civil Service Rule book. Therein all implementable conditions of service vis a vis disciplinary measures against erring civil servants are carefully stated.These bureaucratic measures help to strengthen the system and prevent undue victimisation. But regrettably, the recent compulsory retirement of a Permanent Secretary and the summon of some civil servants, who allegedly absconded verification exercise,by the office of the Governor’s Chief security officer (CSO) leave much to be desired .

In treating an alleged case of ‘ serious misconduct’ by a civil servant the following extracts from the Abia State Civil Service Rule book suffices:
1.CS rule 04102 ” the power to dismiss and to exercise disciplinary control over officers is vested in the Abia State civil service commission.”
2. CS Rule 04302 stipulates that as soon as a superior officer becomes dissatisfied with the behavior of any officer subordinate to him,it shall be his duty so to inform the officer in writing giving details of unsatisfactory behavior and to call upon him to submit within a specific time such written representation as he may wish to make to exculpate himself from disciplinary action . CS Rule 04303 similarly stipulates , ‘ where a tribunal of inquiry set up by the Government makes recommendations of a disciplinary nature on an officer ,Abis State Civil Service Commission shall not act on such recommendation until it has called the affected officer to reply to the allegations made against him by the committee of inquiry


3. CS rule 04601 of Section 6( Retirement in public interest) ‘ if the Abia State civil service commission considers that it is desirable in the public interest that an officer should be required to retire from the service on grounds which cannot suitably be dealt with by the procedures laid down in Rule 04306,it shall call for a full report from the Head of the extra – Ministerial department or the committee delegated to investigate the case,and if considering that the report and giving the officer an opportunity of submitting a reply to the complaints by reason of which his retirement is contemplated the commission is satisfied, having regards to the conditions of the service ,the usefulness of the officers thereto and all other circumstances of the case,that it is desirable in the public interest so to do,it shall retire the officer and the officers service shall accordingly terminate on such date as the commissioner may specify.”
Thus there is nowhere in the rules ,except I am corrected ,where the State Governor will direct the Head of Service to expressly force a Permanent Secretary or any other Civil Servant duly confirmed to retirement or sack . Ostensibly,the Government may not have be properly advised .

As former Commissioner of Finance, I was shocked when I was told that I don’t have the power or right to issue a query directly to a civil servant that we caught red handed in fraud. I was advised to route my complaint to the Permanent Secretary who will formally report to the Head of service for investigation.That is the spirit and letters of the civil service tradition handed over by the colonial masters which of course have not been abrogated

The essence is to guarantee fairness and discourage arbitrariness in dispensing justice to workers. It reinforces security of civil service jobs.

Beyond the forced retirement of workers, confirmed report said that workers who were alleged to have falsified their age , truancy and other fraud related offences are being sent to report at the office of the (CSO) chief security officer to the Governor. This is very pathetic, Abia civil service is not an extension of Uchenna & sons Nigeria ltd.

This is an aberration to civil service tradition and should be discouraged stopped . No matter how corrupt these civil servants appear, there are many sincere ones that can be trusted and detailed to make up the disciplinary committee.

It is totally wrong and unacceptable that workers will be investigated by a political appointee when the civil service Commission and office of the Head of Service exist . They are the two Statutory units responsible for the discipline of staff among other Statutory functions.

The government should also be circumspect in the way matters affecting civil servants are handled. There is palpable fear and tension among the workers which is not good even for the government.

Most of them complain about the unending verification which keeps being extended beyond the initial terms of reference.

The present government should not over reach themselves trying to instill discipline in service , due process must be followed to preserve the integrity of the service.

Obinna Oriaku

Ekwedike

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