The Lagos State government has described as “nonsensical” the claims that it forcefully retired, at least, 21 permanent secretaries to make way for the emergence of the state’s new Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola.
Jimi Agbaje, the governorship candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), who made the allegation said the compulsory retirements occurred within the past 11 months.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had, on December 31, announced the appointment of Mr Muri-Okunola, 46, as the 21st Head of Service of the state’s civil service.
The newly appointed HOS was a personal aide to the former governor of the State, Bola Tinubu, in 2003 and was later appointed executive secretary on the state’s Land Use and Allocation Committee.
Mr Agbaje in a statement last Thursday said the appointment of Mr Muri-Okunola was “politics taken too far,” adding that it was “insensitive, unjust and disruptive of the civil service hierarchy.”
“There is a sense of shock and injustice in all this. It is bound to create bad blood and injustice within the system,” he said.
“These are seasoned personnel capable of fitting perfectly and effectively in that office. But in this era of impunity, they have been offloaded prematurely.”
Mr Agbaje said Mr Muri-Okunola was a “part of the oligarchy controlling and monopolising all the levers of power in the state. He added that his previous position as the personal aide of Mr Tinubu gave him what he described as “abnormal privileges.”
“Muri-Okunola lacks broad-based exposure. Whoever becomes HoS is usually a civil servant with widespread exposure, as he must be abreast of all issues related to the bureaucracy and governance.
“But all these rules and traditions have been bent for this appointment,” Mr Agbaje said
“It is befuddling to imagine how officers, who are 15 years older than the new HoS, will take orders and directives from him.”
When contacted for comments on the allegation, Kehinde Bamigbetan, the commissioner for information, admitted that some permanent secretaries were retired before Mr Muri-Okunola was appointed HOS, but insisted the appointment was in line with civil service rule.
He also suggested that those who were retired might be due for retirement after serving the statutory number of years allowed civil servants or may have been laid off for disciplinary reasons.
“The system does not work that way,” Mr Bamgbetan told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone.
“You have to analyse, for example, how many of those who were retired were already in their retirement age. You either spend 35 years or you are up to 60 years. So, you first have to do the mathematics of subtracting those ones from it.
“And then you have to also take those who are under some sort of disciplinary purview, oversight. Those are secrets of the system that you are not likely to uncover,” he said.
He added that allegation was nonsensical because it was done after the fact.
When asked if he did not think that people would find the retirement of 21 permanent secretaries over such a short span of time strange, Mr Bamigbetan said this report was helping to push an irrational narrative.
“Let me tell you. What you are trying to do is to push a very irrational and nonsensical argument, with due respect to you. PREMIUM TIMES is supposed to be a very rational and critical medium, but you don’t now descend to the era of rumour mongering,” he said.
He urged this reporter to find out what happened to each retired permanent secretary before querying the decision of the government and did not disclose the reason for the retirements.
“I am just letting you know that the civil service system has been established for decades. It wasn’t just created yesterday. It has its own internal system of operating.
“If people have been asked to leave for one reason or the other, unless if you go into the individual case to know the circumstances. Because there are many reasons.
“You have to look at the civil service rules and convince yourself that those who have to go before their age did not do anything that undermined or violated the civil service rules before you can make a clean case.”
Mr Bamigbetan said the new head of service still had 13 years to make his statutory number of years in the civil service and, thus, there was no need for the rush to make him the HOS, assuming he was not qualified.
“There was no urgency. The person you are talking about has 13 years to go so there was no urgency,” he said.
“Had it been that he had just two years and they allowed him to become HOS before his term expires that is where you will make a case. He is 46 he won’t retire until he is 60, so he had 14 clear years. So, there is no urgency. There is no basis for the story.
“So why will anyone need to retire when the person that would have been the beneficiary have 14 good years ahead of him?
“The only reason where you can make that argument is if the person concerned has to taste that office before he leaves the system. So, where is the urgency? There is no urgency. So that defeats the argument. So, you ask yourself what would have been the motive.
“Is the person in a hurry? Would the person likely to be there for 14 years? If as HOS by the time he spends 10 years he may even bow out on his own voluntarily. t doesn’t make sense.”
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