Nigerians set target for an independent civil service.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday appointed Danladi Kifasi as the new Head of Civil Service of the Federation, HOCSF.
Until his appointment, Mr. Kifasi, a former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Born on January 1, 1956, Mr. Kifasi was a member of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; a non-Executive Director of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, and an Alternate Governor of Islamic Development Bank.
An indigene of Taraba State, Mr. Kifasi, a chartered accountant and lawyer, was one of three Permanent Secretaries from the country’s North-East geo-political zone shortlisted to succeed Bukar Aji, who is set to retire from service next Wednesday.
Mr. Aji, who took over from the former HOCSF, Isa Sali, on March 21, 2013, would be leaving office after about 17 months in office.
In line with the zoning arrangement by the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, appointment of new HOCSF, considered one of the key pillars of government in the country, was ceded to the zone, consisting Taraba, Bauchi, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Yobe states.
Those knowledgeable with the arrangement said with President from the South-South geo-political zone; Senate President (North Central); Speaker, House of Representatives (North West); Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission (South West); and Secretary of the Government of the Federation, SGF(South East), the HOCSF was zoned to the North-East for structural balance.
With the arrangement, apart from Mr. Kifasi, two other names were identified as candidates in the run-up to the appointment.
They included Umar Faruk, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, from Bauchi State, and his counterpart in charge of Ecological Funds Office in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sheikh Musa, from Borno State.
PREMIUM TIMES had in an exclusive report last week highlighted the enormous pressures from powerful political interest groups the President was battling in attempt to decide on Mr. Aji’s successor.
In the absence of a standard formula for selecting a new Head of Service, the report had revealed the President’s attempt to balance his personal political interest with his desire to appoint a reform-minded person that would help build the country’s bureaucracy.
The emergence of Mr. Kifasi, observers noted, was influenced largely by his closeness and loyalty to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, believed to be a close ally of the President.
Meanwhile, following his appointment, Nigerians and members of civil society groups, who spoke with our reporter on Wednesday identified some areas of concern that should attract his immediate attention if the integrity of the civil service would be upheld as the engine of good governance.
The Executive Directive, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, urged the new Head of Civil Service to work to preserve and protect the gains from the civil service reforms for which Federal Government, development partners and civil society groups have invested huge resources and time.
Mr. Rafsanjani said Mr. Kifasi must see how the recommendations on the reforms could be implemented to sanitise and restore the integrity of the civil service as well as ensure that the civil service is established as a neutral and independent engine room of governance based on merit and professionalism.
“He should ensure that there is zero tolerance of corruption in the service,” the director said.
For the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, the structure, policies and rules guiding the civil service should be reviewed to ensure that the system works regardless of presence or absence of the Head of Service.
He stressed the need for the civil service to promote merit, rather than issues of federal character.
According to Mr. Onyekpere, the new Head of Service should ensure that appointments to positions of responsibility should be more on superior performance than on where people come from.
“Civil servants should not be put in situations that would compromise their positions, while promoting impunity,” he said.
The Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Davis Ugolor, said repositioning the civil service to address the question of corruption and impunity should top the agenda of Mr. Kifasi’s tenure.
Most of the high profile corruption cases in the country, Mr. Ugolor said, would not have taken place without the complicity of the civil servants, adding that if the service is sanitized, the people would be more aware of their duties, roles and expectations.
He said more emphasis should be placed on building the intellectual capacity of the civil service to make it more robust to attract more competent and credible talents like developed countries.
“This requires the review of the pay packet and other remunerations to attract competent hands. Emphasis should be put on training to enhance capacity to respond to modern governance issues, including transparency and accountability,” Mr. Ugolor said.
A representative of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA, Joseph Amenaghawon, said Mr. Kifasi should focus on addressing the issue of budget management and ensure that recurrent expenditure is not placed ahead of capital expenditure.
Mr. Amenaghawon said it would be suicidal to talk about cutting downon the workforce in ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, to reduce cost of governance.
“One of the things Mr. Kifasi should push for should be to concentrate on finding solutions to lack of concern for transparency and accountability in MDAs. He should ensure that some of the issues about promotions and exclusion of certain individuals because they come from certain sections of the country should be rearranged,” he said.