Reps In Face Off With Presidency Over Tenure Extension Of Perm Sec

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The House of Representatives last week ordered a reversal of the presidential directive which extended service tenure of a former permanent secretary, Dr. Jamila Shu’ara. Failure to comply may create a frosty relationship between the Presidency and the lower legislative chamber, writes ADEBIYI ADEDAPO
Just like the Senate has drawn a battle line with the presidency over continued retention of acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, the House of Representatives has in a similar manner questioned the authority of President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the tenure of a permanent secretary beyond the statutory tenure as stipulated in the civil service rules.
The presidency had on two occasions submitted Magu’s name for confirmation as substantive chairman of the commission but the senate refused to confirm him on those occasions.
Meanwhile, a similar situation has arisen in the House of Representatives as the House Committee on Basic Education, last week ordered a former permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Jamila Shu’ara, to refund salaries and entitlements she received for one year over illegal extension of service.
The committee also directed the Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, to invoke relevant Civil Service rules to recover, within four weeks, all the emoluments Shu’ara collected within the period of the extension.
Shu’ara, who ought to have retired from service on February 17, 2016 after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60, had her tenure extended to February, 2017, through a presidential directive.
After the expiration of the first extension, her tenure was said to have been extended further for another one year through a letter by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
Kyari in the letter which was addressed to the HoS, noted that Shu’ara’s second extension of service was under a special dispensation that should not be cited as a policy.
According to the letter with reference No: SH/COS/100/A/1541, dated March 20, 2017 and addressed to the Head of Service of the Federation, Shu’ara’s tenure of service was “under a special dispensation that shouldn’t be cited as policy.”
But members of the committee faulted the content of the letter, saying the chief of staff to the president could not cite the Constitution on one hand only to turn around and say it should not be cited as a policy.
The committee noted that it was illegal for Dr. Shu’ara to have spent an extra year in service under the guise that her tenure was extended by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Zakari in his report, noted that while Section 171 of the 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 retires from service after serving for 35 years or attaining the age of 60 years, whichever comes first.
The committee in specifics stated that; “The President has no powers under Section 171( 2)(c) of the constitution or any other existing law to extend or elongate the tenure of a permanent secretary, whose tenure expired by efluxion of time or age, whichever comes first.”
The committee had stumbled on Shu’ara’s tenure extension case during a 2017 budget defence session.
When lawmakers discovered the strange development in civil service rules, and sought explanations, Shu’ara had replied that a directive from the Presidency extended her service by one year.
The committee queried the extension and demanded evidence of the presidential approval, which neither Shu’ara nor Oyo-Ita could produce in the course of the investigation.
However, in her defence, the HoS wrote the committee to argue that if the President could appoint, as he also reserve the power to re-appoint or extend the tenure of a permanent secretary, who had exited service.
“Whoever has the power to appoint can re-appoint or reinstate,” she said.
But the committee members disagreed, as they observed that while the sections were specific about appointment, there was no reference to tenure extension, particularly when an officer so appointed had formally exited service in line with the law.
On March 12, there was mild drama when the committee received another letter from the Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, to say that Buhari had again extended Shu’ara’s tenure for one additional year, making it two extensions.
The committee members had at the meeting expressed disgust  over the HoS inability    to present Shu’ara’s service documents, thereby warned her to produce the required by  noon tomorrow or risk their wrath.
Zakari further vowed to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion no matter whose Ox is gored in order to forestall future  practices.
“We as parliament will pursue this  matter to a logical conclusion, we are not happy with the manner the HOSF is handling this matter. This will be the last day we will deal with this matter; you must come with all the required documents, you must tell this committee  everything you know about the matter.”
However, the HoS, Oyo-Ita, during the investigative hearing hearings avoided to play into the hands of the lawmakers as she maintained he calm.
The committee Chairman, Zakari on different occasions chided the HoS  for not providing direct answers to their questions.
Mohammed also said the committee was working on an initial extension granted Shu’ara before it stumbled on a second extension and demanded that the letter to that effect be brought to the committee.
The HoS didn’t turn up with the alleged letter, a development which further infuriated the lawmakers.
Asked if she vacated her office at the expiration of her tenure on February 17, 2016 when her tenure elapsed, Shu’ara said she formally handed over to the next senior officer and left adding that there was no letter of acceptance of her retirement before her recall.
Nevertheless, the lawmakers insisted that the HoS explains “special skill set of Dr. Shu’ara to warrant two different extensions of her stay in the Civil Service having gone past the retirement age of 60.”
The lawmakers, therefore probed the HoS to explain what the President’s Chief of Staff also meant by “special dispensation which should not be cited as policy”.
Oyo-Ita in her repeated response insisted that; “like I explained at previous sittings, although, the public service have guidelines as to the promotion of officers, but when it comes to removal or appointment of officers, Mr. President has the constitutional powers to appoint officers as it is in the case of Dr. Jamila Shu’ara.”
Displeased with her answers, Mohammed put it to her that she may have misled the president in taking a decision on the extension.
She also insisted:”any advise that’s given to Mr. President is given to assist him in taking decisions, and any advice I give to my boss, I don’t think that advice can come to the public domain, it’s purely for Mr. President’s personal consumption.”
Source: News

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