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Worried over mounting legal costs, FG warns against irregular sack of civil servants

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THE NIGERIAN government has warned heads of its miniseries, departments and agencies (MDAs) against flouting laid-down rules and regulations in terminating appointments of civil servants.

A circular issued to heads of MDAs by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) noted that legal suits arising from irregular dismissal of civil servants had resulted in avoidable expenses for the government.

The OHCSF coordinates and supervises the workforce of the Nigerian government.

Civil servants dismissed from several MDAs have been dragging the Nigerian government to court to seek redress over the termination of their appointments, especially in cases where the dismissal did not follow due process.

Some of the lawsuits have resulted in the reversal of the dismissals, as well as costs awarded against the Nigerian government.

Head of Service of the Federation Folasade Yemi-Esan warned against the mounting legal costs being incurred for the Nigerian government through dismissal of staff without following due process in the circular dated December 6, 2021, and titled ‘Need to prevent avoidable litigations arising from poor handling of disciplinary cases in MDAs.’

The memo was numbered HCSF/3065/Vol.1/125.

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The circular noted that the Nigerian government had observed with great concern the increase in court cases arising from dismissal and termination of the appointment of staff without proper administrative procedures by some MDAs.

“This has led to avoidable litigation leading to court judgments against government with huge consequential financial burden,” the circular said.

The circular added that in most cases, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) was joined as a defendant in the litigation instituted by the aggrieved staff or their unions.

The consequential appearance by legal officers representing the OHCSF in the lawsuits was depleting the limited resources of the office, according to the circular.

“In the light of the above development, all MDAs are strongly advised to follow due process in handling staff matters, especially disciplinary cases,” head of service warned.

The circular reminded the heads of the MDAs that the Nigerian government had laid-down extant rules and regulations guiding disciplinary processes concerning civil servants.

The guidelines include: public service rules issued by the OHSCF and guidelines on appointments, promotion and disciplines issued by the Federal Civil service Commission.

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The circular warned that henceforth, permanent secretaries and chief executive officers whose poor handling of disciplinary matters led to avoidable court cases, consequential financial implications and embarrassment to government would be held liable and would be punished for the development.

The head of service directed permanent secretaries to draw the attention of the heads of agencies under their purview to the contents of the circular for compliance.

The circular was copied to the Chief of Staff to the President; the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Office of the Vice President; ministers; Secretary to the Government of the Federation; permanent secretaries; service chiefs/Inspector General of Police; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria; chairmen of the Federal Civil Service Commission; Police Service Commission; Federal Character Commission; Code of Conduct Bureau; Code of Conduct Tribunal; Independent National Electoral Commission, and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Others include: chairmen of the Federal Inland Revenue Service; Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission; National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and Independent Corrupt Practices and related Offences Commission.

The clerk of the National Assembly; Secretary of the National Judicial Council; Accountant General of the Federation; Auditor General of the Federation; Surveyor General of the Federation; Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and directors general/CEOs of parastatals and agencies were equally copied.

* Nigerian government owing about N150 billion in judgment debt

The ICIR reports that the development was as a result of pressure on the Nigerian government to offset mounting legal costs arising from several lawsuits.

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In October 2019, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami had revealed that the Nigerian government owed N150 billion in judgment debt.

Defending the 2020 proposed budget of the Ministry of Justice before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Malami had explained that the N150 billion debt came from bad cases, contract failures, damages and fines against the Nigerian government for human rights abuses.

The total estimated budget of the Ministry of Justice in the 2020 Appropriation Bill was N33 billion but Malami urged the Senate committee to allocate an extra N30 billion to the ministry to service judgment debt annually.

Malami equally disclosed that the Nigerian government paid N10 billion to offset judgement debt in 2017.

He said the government was under pressure to pay up the outstanding N150 billion and suggested that 2.5 per cent of total loot recovered by the Nigerian government should be given to the Asset Recovery Unit in the Ministry of Justice to service legal costs.

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