Information Ministry flouts FG directive, issues counter circular on retirement

THE Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (FMIC) has flouted a Federal Government directive that all directors who have spent eight years or above should proceed on retirement in line with the revised Public Service Rules (PSR).

The directive was issued in a memo dated July 27 by the Head Of Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), Folasade Yemi – Esan.

The revised PSR 020909 stipulates that “A director or its equivalent by whatever nomenclature it is described in MDAs shall compulsorily retire upon serving eight years on tenure policy on the post; and a permanent secretary shall hold office for a term of four years and renewable for a further term of four years, subject to satisfactory performance and no more.”

But rather than adhere to this directive, the Human Resources Manager (HRM) in the information ministry, Grace Okani, ostensibly on the instruction of the Permanent Secretary (PS), Ngozi Onwudiwe, issued a counter order giving additional three months to the affected directors before disengagement.

The revised Public Service Rules (PSR)

The Federal Government recently unveiled the new Public Service Rules (PSR) for immediate implementation.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the amendment of the Public Service Rules in 2021; however, the HCSF issued a circular for its implementation on July 27, 2023.

According to findings by The ICIR, some civil servants are opposed to the revised policy because they think it violates the mandatory retirement age of 60 years or 35 years in service.

 

Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan

Memo from the Office of the Head of Civil Service Of the Federation (HCSF)

The ICIR sighted the memo by the Head of Service addressed to all permanent secretaries, Accountant-General of the Federation, Auditor-General of the Federation and heads of extra-ministerial departments.

The memo directed full compliance with the newly revised PSR.

 

A Memo from the Head of Service Of the Federation directing all directors who have stayed up to 8 years in ministries to retire.

“Following the approval of the revised Public Service Rules by the Federal Executive Council on September 27, 2021, and its subsequent unveiling during the Public service lecture during the commemoration of the 2023 Civil Service Week, the PSR has become operational with effect from July 27, 2023. 

“You are, therefore, to ensure full compliance with all provisions of the Public Service Rules (PSR) 2021. 

“Please, ensure strict compliance with the contents of this circular,” the memo stated.

A Contrary directive

Following the commencement of the PSR, it was expected that all affected persons in the Federal Ministries would exit, but that was not the case in the FMIC, as Okani issued a counter directive through a circular dated August 8.

In the memo, she directed all the affected staff to use the next three months to prepare for their disengagement from service.

A counter Circular signed by the Human Resources Manager of the FMIC, Grace Okani.

“Accordingly, affected officers are hereby, in line with Rules 021210 of the Public Service Rules, given three months to prepare their disengagement from service effective 1st August 2023.

“Futhermore, all Resident Informations Officers (RIOs) affected by the Circular are directed to act accordingly in line with extant rule for disengagement from service,” the circular stated.

The new circular has, however, generated grumbling among the staff of the Ministry.

Some Ministries and MDAs complied with the PSR.

Checks by The ICIR show that some Directors in the Ministry of Finance have been eased out of the Civil service due to the new rules.

A staff at the Ministry who preferred to remain anonymous told The ICIR that Labour Unions in the Ministry led a protest that ensured all the directors followed the revised rules.

“Some unions in the Ministry ensured that all the affected directors did not enter their offices; they were asked to leave,” he said.

In a circular issued on August 3, 2023, signed by the Director, Administration, Ministry of Finance, Mariya Rufa’i, affected directors were encouraged to hand over their positions to the most senior official in their respective offices and start the paperwork process immediately.

It was also gathered that some directors in the National Gallery Of Art, a department under the FMIC, have also complied and retired in line with the new rule.

“National Gallery of Art directors who are affected have stopped coming,” our source stated.

Affected directors in the FMIC

According to a source in the Presidency, the affected directors who are due for retirement in the FMIC are the Director of Federal Government Press, Itu Itu, Director of Finance and Account (DFA), Kayode Musbau and Willie Bassey, Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Pending procurement process

Our source said the extension of the retirement date of the directors in the FMIC, it was suspected, is to enable them to participate in the forthcoming procurement process, which is meant to commence soon.

“Now the HRM released a circular against the Presidency circular that says that all the directors should retire immediately, backdated to July 27th.

“So the circular that the HRM of Information and Culture now released gives them three months to work till they disengage, instead of immediately, contrary to the government position.

“We have some privileged information that the Ministry is going into the procurement process for 2023, which will start any moment from now, so because of that, the DFA has promised the Permanent Secretary some juicy jobs.

“The DFA has to strike a deal with the Permanent Secretary so he can finish the procurement process,” the source alleged.

Response to allegation of disobeying a government directive

In their various reactions to the issue, both the HRM, Okani and the Information Officer in the office of the SGF, Bassey, confirmed the existence of the two circulars.

Okani, in a telephone chat with The ICIR on Thursday, August 17, said she only obeyed a superior order to issue the counter circular.

“The Permanent Secretary told me there is an order from above that since they are the first set under the revised PSR, they should stay for another three months.

“I am not in Abuja presently; I will meet the Permanent Secretary to verify it when I come.

“Since they are the first, they should stay a little bit. I will rectify it when I come so they may avoid setting a precedent. This will be settled,” Okani said.

When asked about the officers affected by the PSR in her ministry, Okani said, “I have the director of Finance and Accounts and the director of the Federal Government Printer, Itu Itu. For others assigned to other offices, we have forwarded their names to the Head of Service,” she added.

In a chat with The ICIR on the same day, Bassey insisted that he did nothing wrong but only obeyed the instruction he received through a circular that asked affected officers to stay for additional three months.

“The Circular I received said I should stay till October. I have a circular from the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the Office of the SGF that all affected persons have been given three months to exit the service. They have given us till October,” he said. 

When asked about the circular, Bassey said, ” You can’t see it; I cannot circulate it. I am a civil servant. Please quote me that we have been given another circular. In the Civil service, you are given time; it is not like the military.”

On the PSR, he said it is new, hence the need for them to be given more time to exit the service.

All efforts to clarify these developments with the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Onwudiwe, yielded no response. A request was made to her Personal Assistant, named Ifeanyi, to speak to her, but he declined.

On the second visit to her office, the PS directed The ICIR reporter to her Special Adviser, Isaac, who disclosed that another memo would soon be issued before the close of work on Thursday, August 17, to rectify the issue. He maintained that the initial circular from the Head of Service was not specific on the implementation date.

” The memo from the Head of Service was not too specific. Under normal circumstances in the Civil service, you are entitled to three months to prepare before retirement.

‘But there is another memo on the way. It will come out before the close of work today or tomorrow,” Isaac said.






     

     

    Latest memo

    On Thursday, August 17, after a visit to the PS office, the Ministry issued another Circular directing the affected officers to hand over to the most senior officer in their office and immediately proceed on what it termed “Pre-retirement training.”

    “In furtherance to our earlier circular Ref. No. FMCT/PS/010/11/113 dated 10th August 2023 on the above subject and in compliance with PSR 021210, I am directed to request you to, as a matter of urgency, hand over to the next most senior officer in your office and proceed immediately on your pre-retirement training.

    “You are hereby kindly requested to accord this matter the urgency it deserves,” the circular stated.

    The latest circular was issued on August 17 and signed by the newly posted HRM from the Ministry of Petroleum, Emma Equere.

    The latest circular was issued on August 17 after ICIR’s visit to the PS office.

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