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EXCLUSIVE: Controversy as top NUC officials snub eight years tenure limit rule, refuse to retire

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EXCLUSIVE: Controversy as top NUC officials snub eight years tenure limit rule, refuse to retire

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The newly revised PSR says “a director or its equivalent by whatever nomenclature it is described in MDAs shall compulsorily retire upon serving eight years on the post.”

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The acting Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Chris Maiyaki, and two other officials are enmeshed in a controversy of overstaying in service, after putting in more than eight years in the directorate cadre of the agency.

Their continued stay in office is said to be against the nation’s newly revised Public Service Rules, 2021, which came into effect in July 2023, and a subsequent directive of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan.

The two other concerned officials are the agency’s Deputy Executive Secretary in charge of Academics, Noel Saliu, and the Director in charge of the Establishment of Private Universities, Constance Goddy-Nnadi.

 

While Mr Maiyaki and Ms Goddy-Nnady were appointed substantive directors on 16 October 2014, Mr Saliu was appointed on 4 November 2013.

 

Revised PSR
On 27 July 2023, the civil service boss, Mrs Yemi-Esan, issued a circular addressed to Permanent Secretaries, the Accountant-General of the Federation, the Auditor-General for the Federation, and Heads of Extra Ministerial Departments, notifying them of the implementation of the nation’s revised Public Service Rules, 2021.

The circular, with reference: HCSF/SPSO/268/T3/2/37, is titled: “The Revised Public Service Rules (PSR)”.

Part of the new revised PSR is the tenure policy with reference number 020909, which notes that all government employees who have attained the position of director or its equivalent must retire upon serving for eight years.

“A director or its equivalent by whatever nomenclature it is described in MDAs shall compulsorily retire upon serving eight years on the post,” the PSR reads in part.

The circular from the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation that mandated implementation also reads in part: “Following the approval of the revised Public Service Rules (PSR) by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the 27th of September 2021 and the subsequent unveiling during the Public Service Lecture in commemoration of the 2023 Civil Service Week, the PSR has become operational with effect from 27th July, 2023.”

The circular, therefore, advised the permanent secretaries and other concerned officials to “ensure full compliance with all provisions of the Public Service Rules (PSR), 2021”.

Policy’s long history
Upon his appointment as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in June 2009 by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, Stephen Oronsaye’s first task was the review of the then-existing public service rules and the introduction of eight-year-tenure for directors and permanent secretaries.

PREMIUM TIMES’ findings revealed that the policy was introduced to address two key issues – stagnation and inefficiency with the Federal workforce.

According to multiple sources, it was observed that civil servants were found to be doctoring their ages in order to stay longer in service and that many officers spent as long as 15 years serving as directors.

“The situation led to agitations by many workers who were stagnated as either deputy directors or in other senior positions simply because there was no vacancy. Some of them knew that those holding on to the position of directors were long due for retirement but had doctored their ages. So that was one of the reasons for the policy,” a retired director in one of the ministries who does not want to be quoted, told this newspaper.

“There was also the problem of inefficiency on the part of the officials because the appointment as directors and permanent secretaries was usually based on politics and connections. So many who got appointed but lacked expertise remained in office for as long as 20 years. The culture hindered efficiency.”

However, there are those who still believe that the revised policy conflicts with the mandatory 60 years’ retirement age for civil servants provided for in the same rules.

 

 

Meanwhile, when the policy was introduced, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that between October 2009 and 2010 about 15 permanent secretaries and many directors were retired.

One of those affected by the policy at the time was a Deputy Executive Secretary at the National Universities Commission (NUC), Ignatius Uvah, a professor, who compulsorily retired having spent more than eight years as director.

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Mr Uvah’s case has been a potent precedent of reference in the argument that both Messrs Maiyaki and Saliu, despite their positions as acting executive secretary and deputy executive secretary, respectively, are caught by the tenure limit provision in the PSR.

While the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan continued with the policy, it remains unclear why it was suspended by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari. Sources however linked the decision to what they described as “recklessness common with Mr Buhari’s administration”.

Maiyaki, others stay on
Meanwhile, seven months after the directive by Mrs Yemi-Esan, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) has refused to ensure compliance with the directive by the NUC officials as the trio has continued to stay in office.

Mr Maiyaki currently supervises the commission since the former Executive Secretary (ES), Abubakar Rasheed, resigned and returned to the classroom.

Though Mr Maiyaki, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, could not be appointed as acting NUC’s executive secretary since only the President is empowered to make such an appointment, he has been permitted by the ministry to continue to oversee the administration of the agency.

Mr Maiyaki, who joined the agency in 1993 as Personnel/Administrative Officer I, became a Deputy Director in charge of Special Duties and Protocol, and Chief of Staff to the Executive Secretary in November 2009.

He was appointed a substantive director by the agency in October 2014. He has, therefore, spent nine years and two months in that position.

On his part, Mr Saliu, who joined the service of NUC in June 1990 as a Research Officer II, became the Director in charge of the Inspection and Monitoring Department (DIM) in October 2013. This implies that he has served in this capacity for 10 years and three months.

He was appointed the Deputy Executive Secretary, (Academics), by the former Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, a position he still occupies.

Constance Goddy Nnadi
Constance Goddy Nnadi
Meanwhile, Mrs Goddy-Nnadi joined the agency in March 1993 as a Personnel Officer I. She rose through the ranks to become a Deputy Director in 2009 and Director in 2014. She has, therefore, also spent more than nine years in office as a director.

Murmuring at NUC
Since July 2023 when the directive by the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation had been issued, many young officers working with the agency had looked up to the three senior officials to “do the needful.”

They believed their retirement, if implemented, would allow relevant officers to be duly promoted and occupy positions meant for their cadres.

One of the officials at the education ministry, NUC’s supervising authority, expressed surprise that Mr Maiyaki and his colleagues have refused to retire as mandated by the rules.

“So I am surprised these NUC officials are still in office. I didn’t even know they had been directors for such a long time,” the source, who craved anonymity, said.

Meanwhile, a widely circulated anonymous protest document insisted that Messrs Maiyaki and Saliu, by virtue of the nomenclature of their current positions of acting executive director and deputy executive secretary, respectively, cannot claim to be exempted from the tenure policy.

The unsigned document reads in part: “The refusal to implement the tenure policy at NUC is generating a lot of bad blood and acrimony amongst staff. Part of the argument by a certain cabal at NUC is that Mr Maiyaki and Dr Saliu are not affected since they are deputy executive secretaries.

“This is completely untrue. First, the revised PSR is clear that it affects directors or its equivalent by whatever nomenclature it is described in MDAs. Second, the first implementation of the policy at NUC led to the retirement of then Deputy Executive Secretary, Prof. I.I. Uvah of blessed memories. Third, there is no other rank defined between Directors and Permanent Secretaries mentioned in the revised PSR, thus ‘Directors or its equivalent by whatever nomenclature it is described in MDAs’ covers all officers from Directors and between Permanent Secretaries.”

The statement added that if the affected officials are in doubt of the interpretation of the new policy, “…the least he (Mr Maiyaki) could do is to seek clearance from the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation as to the applicability of the policy to himself, and this he has not done.”

Other MDAs comply
Meanwhile, while the education ministry has refused to enforce compliance by officials of NUC, other ministries including those of Finance and Health, immediately directed their personnel to comply with the directive.

A memo addressed to directors and heads of units in the finance ministry, which was dated 3 August 2023, and signed by the Director of Administration, Mariya Rufa’I, advised concerned staf members of the ministry to comply with the directive by the head of civil service.

The memo reads in part: “All Directors (SGL 17) who have spent eight (8) years and above on the post are by this Internal Circular directed to submit their notice of retirement in line with section 020909 of the revised PSR effective from the date stated thereof.

Tahir Mamman, former vice-chancellor of Baze University, Abuja, now Nigeria’s Minister of Education
Tahir Mamman, Nigeria’s Minister of Education
“Accordingly, all affected Directors are advised to commence the process of documentation with the Administration Department for compulsory retirement by virtue of the section under reference”.

A similar memo, which was dated 4 August 2023, was also issued by the Federal Ministry of Health (now Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare), urging its affected workers to comply.

NUC keeps mum
NUC has refused to comment on the development, even as it ignored a Freedom of Information request letter sent to it by PREMIUM TIMES.

The agency’s Public Affairs Director, Haruna Lawal, on many occasions, promised to speak to the leadership of the organisation on the matter before he could make a categorical statement.

When Mr Lawal was first contacted, he said: “I am not aware of the development. I don’t know when each of them was appointed. But maybe, what I will do is… When are you going to publish the report? If it’ll reach Monday, maybe I’ll find out and then call you.”

When informed of a letter earlier sent to the agency seeking information on the subject, Mr Lawal requested an acknowledged copy of the letter, promising to revert on Monday, 5 February.

“Please kindly share the letter with me and then on Monday, I’ll find out from the Chief Executive. If he’s not around, I’ll ask my colleague who is the Director, Human Resources, to find out so I don’t make any mistake.”

However, when called on Monday as requested, Mr Lawal said the acting 6.2 executive secretary was briefed and that a proper meeting would hold the following day. He pledged to call our reporter on Tuesday.

Mr Lawal has, however, failed to call back since then and he has also refused to pick the calls made to his phone.

Meanwhile, calls to Mr Maiyaki were not answered and messages sent to his phone were also not replied to as of the time of filing this report.

A message that was delivered to Mr Maiyaki’s known phone line on WhatsApp was also neither acknowledged nor replied to.

Buck-passing
Meanwhile, both the Federal Ministry of Education, the supervisory authority for NUC, and the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), the circular’s issuer, have engaged in buck-passing over the matter.

When contacted, the immediate-past Director of Press and Public Relations at the education ministry, Ben Goong, said the OHCSF should be contacted for follow-up on the matter.

Noel Salisu
Noel Salisu
Mr Goong, who was just transferred from the ministry, said the PSR and its implementation are matters domiciled in the office of the OHCSF.

But the Director of Communications at the OHCSF, Muhammed Ahmed, could not be reached on the phone, and he was not in the office when our reporter checked. He also did not reply to a message sent to him.

However, a top official of the ministry, who asked not want to be named for lacking the authority to speak publicly on the matter, said “the ball is in the court of the education ministry.”

The source said since the office had sent out a circular directing the permanent secretaries and other concerned authorities to take action, it was not the responsibility of the office to monitor individual officers.

“Do you know how many directors or permanent secretaries we have? How could the office be monitoring each officer that is overstaying? That should be the responsibility of the affected MDAs,” the source said.

OSGF reacts
When contacted, the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Segun Imohiosen, confirmed that Mrs Goddy-Nnadi has overstayed in office having spent about 10 years as a director.

Mr Imohiosen, who said he sent the officials’ details to the appropriate department for response, reported that since Mrs Goddy-Nnady commenced her career at NUC in March, 1993, as a Personnel Officer I and rose through the ranks to become a director in 2014, she was due for retirement.

“From the profile of Director Establishment of Private Universities above, she has overstayed her service going by the PSR, because she is supposed to have retired by now since she became a Director in 2014 (almost 10 years as a Director),” the spokesman said.

However, Mr Imohiosen said he could not obtain a categorical response on the position of both Messrs Maiyaki and Saliu who are deputy executive secretaries.

He also directed our reporter to both the education ministry and the office of the head of the civil service of the federation.

When confronted with the fact of a former deputy executive secretary who was affected by the policy, Mr Imohiosen said that was why he referred our reporter to the two government offices for appropriate interpretation.

He said: “Your argument sounds logical and I think it will be appropriate for the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to handle this,” he said.

Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.

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