The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has waded into the controversy surrounding the retirement of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo.
This is just as a coalition of civil society organisations, on Sunday, alleged a media campaign against Ojo, stating that the Clerk should remain in office till his retirement next year.
It was learnt on Sunday that Gbajabiamila had contacted the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation to clarify whether Ojo could decide not to proceed on a three-month terminal leave, which is reportedly billed to commence on Monday, or remain in active service till his retirement on February 14, 2023.
A letter from the office, which was addressed to the Chief of Staff to the Speaker, dated November 11, 2022, with Reference Number HCSF/314/93, was titled, ‘Re: Enquiry of Pre-Retirement Leave of a Retiring Civil Servant.’
Signed by the Director of HOS, Adebayo Odejinmi, for the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, the response to the Speaker read, “I am directed to refer to your letter dated 10th November 2022 on the above subject, seeking clarification on pre-retirement leave.
“The pre-retirement leave is provided for in the Public Service Rule (PSR) 100238, which states: ‘Officers are required to give three months notice to retire from service before the effective date of retirement. At the commencement of the three months, officers should proceed immediately on the compulsory one-month pre-retirement workshop/seminar. For the remaining two months, retiring officers are expected to take necessary measures to put their records straight so as to facilitate the speedy processing of their retirement benefits.’
“Going by the provision, it is compulsory for the retiring officer to give a notice of three months prior to his/her retirement. Among other intents, this provision is to enable the MDA to arrange a replacement in good time for the officer.
“As provided in the rule and where organised, the retiring officer will attend the one-month pre-retirement seminar. He/she is expected in his/her own interest to gather his/her records from various MDAs he/she might have served. This is to facilitate the processing of his/her retirement benefits.
“It is, therefore, not out of order if the officer chooses to work in office during the period.
“Please, accept the assurances of the warm regards of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.”
In a related development, a coalition of CSOs, namely the Centre for Public Accountability and Transparency, Peoples Alliance for Indigenous Rights, Society for Civic and Gender Equity, and the Partnership For Good Governance, at a joint press conference in Abuja on Sunday, claimed Ojo had issued a three-month notice to the National Assembly Service Commission of his retirement.
Okonkwo Emman represented CPAT, Bonfice Clement stood in for PAIR, SoCEGE had Jovita Jude, while Kanjal Awam represented the PGG.
The coalition partly said, “As stakeholders in ensuring good governance, accountability and transparency, we feel obliged to urge the media not to overheat the polity and cook up stories that have no empirical basis.
“The National Assembly Service Commission, as we know, will always carry out its functions in a credible manner by following due process stated by the Head of Service of the Federation, giving clearance on pre-retirement leave of a retiring civil servant.
“The CAN, as we all know, has already given a notice of three months to embark on retirement leave on February 14, 2023, in accordance with the Rules of the Civil Service of the Federation.
“We strongly believe that the story flying of ‘plans to influence members of the commission to appoint’ a certain individual is planted by those afraid of going through the process.”
The CSOs noted that the job of the Clerk to the National Assembly includes serving as a chief adviser to both President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as communicating to all state Houses of Assembly, especially on matters relating to concurrence of the parliaments in the tiers of government.
They said, “So the idea that only certain categories of staff can perform this duty has no basis in law. It is expected that anyone who has risen to the levels of director and permanent secretaries should be well abreast of parliamentary operations and should be able to effectively run the Office of the CNA.
“If it were, these people building monuments of falsehood and disaffection would have shown where it is stated. The idea being planted that a certain region should be excluded in the appointment is dangerous and against the federal character principle.
“It should be based on seniority, competence and geopolitical zones and allowed in the interest of national cohesion, establishment effectiveness and inclusion. The National Assembly Service Commission should be well abreast of public service rules.
“The National Assembly Service Commission should be seen to be fair and transparent in interpreting the rules of the commission in discharging its responsibilities.”