Some senior federal civil servants have expressed displeasure over the portrayal of directors as incompetent after the recent release of examination results for the position of permanent secretaries
The senior civil servants criticised a comment attributed to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HOS), Mrs Folasade Yemi-Esan, that only 20 directors out of 85 initially invited to take the promotion examination to the rank of Permanent Secretary scaled through the exercise.
Dr. Yemi-Esan explained that out of the 85 candidates, four of them did not show up for the examination due to what she suspected was fear of failure.
Yemi-Esan said there was a need to emphasise meritocracy and integrity in the selection process for permanent secretaries.
“It should not be about the number of successful candidates but the quality of the candidates,” she argued.
One of the top senior civil servants told PRNigeria that the posture of Yemi-Esan did not do justice to the directors’ invaluable experience garnered over the decades.
The officer who pleaded anonymity said: “It is distasteful, disgraceful, dishonourable and dishonest for Dr Yemi-Esan who also rose through the public service to denigrate our directors over a discredited examination that has been questioned for favouring cronies.
“Just recently, there were media reports which alleged that the same Head of Service through the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN) extorted about N23million from 92 applicants vying for the position of permanent secretaries of various ministries in Nigeria by compelling them to pay N250,000 each for a one-week training programme.
“Unfortunately, while the position of a permanent secretary is a political appointment that should reflect federal character principle, some states including Bauchi and Ebonyi do not have a representation as they claimed that their directors failed the exams.
“Apart from gender imbalance in the so-called exam that denied adequate female representation who sat for the exam, there are other controversies that are now coming to light.
“We wish to therefore urge President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to cancel the exam and use his discretion to appoint permanent secretaries through a transparent and judicious process that emphasises seniority, experience, and qualification among other credible criteria used in the past.”
On Friday, SaharaReporters reported that a civil society organisation, the Centre for Public Accountability (CPA) had highlighted several irregularities which marred the recently conducted promotion examination from the directorship cadre to the permanent secretary cadre in the Nigerian civil service.
The CPA, which called on President Tinubu to cancel and review the exercise, alleged that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF), Yemi-Esan, unduly influenced the exercise and attempted to plant her stooges in strategic places.
SaharaReporters on October 27 reported that the HOCSF, Yemi-Esan, through the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN), began the issuance of receipts to 92 applicants vying for the post of permanent secretaries of various ministries in Nigeria.
SaharaReporters had also exposed how all the applicants were compelled to pay N250,000 (per head) for a one-week training programme from October 23 to 28, 2023.
Sources privy to the situation had revealed to SaharaReporters that the money, estimated to be N23,000,000, was not remitted to the Treasure Single Account (TSA) amid plans to also manipulate the posting of the permanent secretaries and give “juicy ministries” to the HOCSF’s inner circle.
According to the source, it is consequently in the national interest for President Tinubu, who is statutorily vested with the ability to nominate Permanent Secretaries, to take the required steps to do so on merit, without any tainted involvement from the Federation’s Head of Civil Service.
Meanwhile, the CPA in a statement in Abuja by its convener, Femi Lawson, after an executive meeting, said, “It was reliably gathered that long before this exercise, there had been complaints about the composition of the examiners, as most of them are stooges of the Head of Service under whose authority this exam was conducted with a hidden agenda to influence the outcome from inception.
“Most of the qualified directors have expressed their lack of confidence, bias, non-transparency no trust in the said examiner committee because it was opined that, the Head of Service has interest in who would pass the said exam, but despite this, the exam was still conducted under serious controversy of lack of independence of the examiners body set up by the Head of Service.
“As a result of this long-time controversy and lack of trust in the exercise, four of the qualified directors refused to show up, nor write the said exam. Just as observed, out of the total number of 85 that eventually sat for the test, only 20 were listed to have passed the so-called exam with 50% above while the rest were said to have failed.
“As a watchdog of the society, ensuring that the nation gets it right from the inception of this regime we thus call for total cancellation of the whole exercise and if to be re-conducted, a consulting firm should be made to set and supervise the entire exam process. By doing so, there will be transparency and trust in the said process and the nation will be the one to benefit.”
When contacted by PRNigeria over the allegations, the Director of Communication at the Office of the Head of Federal Civil Service, Mr. Mohammed Ahmed, denied the allegation of nepotism and irregularities in the process.
Ahmed told PRNigeria that the recruitment followed rigorous and transparent processes involving relevant institutions and agencies.
He said, “You should be aware that various levels of assessment to test the candidates’ competence were undertaken including verification and screening of credentials which involved security and Anti-Corruption agencies.
“Similarly, other stages are written examination on public service and policy issues, information and communications technology proficiency and oral interviews which were conducted in the most transparent manner.
“As the Head of Service had said, the emphasis is on meritocracy and integrity of the selection process and the quality of the candidates.”