.. As Tenure of Acting Incumbent Expires
As lobbyists intensify their agitations to fill the vacant position of Auditor General of the Federation (AUGF), the stage is set for a battle between core civil servants who want due process followed and powerful politicians who believe in
favouritism and nepotism to fill the post that has remained vacant but with an acting AUGF since May 2009.
This development comes as the tenure of incumbent Acting Auditor General, Mr. Gabriel Ogunsina would expire this week Friday November 20, 2009 unless it is renewed as he still has two years to his retirement age as a substantive director even on the basis of new public service reform.
In a finding by the Economic Confidential, the online economic magazine, while the top echelons in the service would rather have one of the top auditors in the federal civil service to emerge as preferred candidate for the post considering the ongoing-reform in that sector, some powerful political appointees are clamouring for nomination of a candidates who was never even invited for interview by the Federal Civil service Commission.
At the moment speculation is ripe that one Mr. Samuel T. Ukura, a Tiv from Benue State has been nominated for confirmation by the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly.
The Economic Confidential learnt that the nomination is actually a power game of godfathers in Benue State who believe the more candidates they influence into top positions in the federal agencies, the more their chances to control electorates for gubernatorial election in 2011. Already more than five top federal appointments have gone to the state recently through the godfathers as the next Chief Justice of the Federation may also come from the state in January 2010. One of the godfathers is a popular senator the other is a Kitchen-cabinet Minister. The planting of some of the cronies are political gimmicks to boost more loyalists and brighten the chance of contenders in future elections.
Some senators, like core civil servants are not comfortable with the recent nomination. In fact the Chairman of Federal Character Committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi and his members were said to have been inundated with several complaints and petitions not only from civil servants and professional bodies but also from Benue State on the lopsidedness of the nomination of Mr. Ukura. Legislators from other states are also compiling names of top executives of federal agencies that have been appointed through the back door without the due process.
The office of the Auditor General presently has an acting AUGF in the person of Mr. Gabriel Ogunsina from Ekiti State who is the most senior director with only two years to retire from the service. He is followed in seniority by another director, Mr. Timothy Osonuga from Ogun State.
Though it was found out that President Umaru Musa YarÁdua is not particularly interested and who becomes the substantive Auditor General, the desperation of the political gladiators and the antic of some top officers of the Federal Civil Service Commission are given him some headaches.
Surprisingly the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Ambassador Ahmed Gazali who is supposed to be guided by the provision of the service, never invited any of the top directors in the Office
of the Auditor General of the Federation for an interview but others outside the service before recommending Mr. Ukura.
The action of Federal Civil Service Commission is said to negate due process and the rule of law mantra of the present government without considering the qualifications of the career officers in the system. The process too is against the current federal circular No. SGF/OP/1/S.3/T/1/ of August 14, 2009.
The circular from Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed which a title: “Procedure for Appointing Chief Executives and Heads of Parastatals of Government-Owned companies, Agencies and Institutions,” states that “Without prejudice to eligible serving officers competing for these positions, must be based on strict adherence to the principle of justice, equity and fair play. To ensure stability, continuity and improvement of staff morale, serving officers shall be encouraged to aspire to top positions of their establishments through effective career development and succession planning.”
The circular also added that: “In this connection, Mr. President has directed that in line with extant guidelines, requests for such appointments should always be channelled to His Excellency through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who will process them for approval and in turn communicate any approval to the appropriate supervising ministers.”
The official directives therefore ended with: “Please, bring the contents of this Circular to all concerned for immediate compliance.”
The intrigues which have characterised the process of appointing AUGF started May 2009 when the then outgoing AUGF, Mr. Robert Ejenavi attempted to extend his tenure before President YarÁdua directed the most senior director, Mr. Gabriel Ogunsina to take over in an acting capacity.
The Economic Confidential reported then that Mr. Robert Ejenavi from Delta State whose tenure officially expired on Monday May 18, 2009 after clocking the mandatory 60 year retirement age was said to be nursing grudges against some of the eligible directors in the office. He also alleged to have sworn that non of senior directors in the office would take over from him not even in acting capacity because of an alleged past misunderstanding they had over his (Robert) record of service which were claimed to have been fraudulently doctored. To deprive any of the senior officers in the office taking over even in an acting capacity, the outgoing Auditor-General had refused to go on mandatory pre-retirement leave a requirement in the public service and continued to lobby top public functionaries to extend his tenure.
The battle then moved to the Federal Civil Service Commission which published advertorial in several newspapers calling on candidates from all sectors: academic, public and private sectors to apply for the position of Auditor General. The advert according to a source at the Commission was influenced by the outgoing Auditor General who had early recommended some outsiders for consideration. The requirement in the vacancy announcement stipulated that the prospective candidate must possess a good honours degrees; be a professional qualified accountant, possess a minimum of 15 years post professional qualification experience; have held a position not less than that of a Director in an auditing environment for a period not less than three years and must be a Nigerian citizen not above 50 years or have a minimum of two years to retirement.
While all the directors in the Office of the Auditor General have met the entire requirement stipulated in the vacancy except the condition that the candidate should not be above 50 years was deliberately targeted against them.
Recently the Association of Public Service Auditors of Nigeria, APSAN which comprises Audit staff in the offices of the Auditor-General of the Federation, state and local governments in Nigeria expressed their discontentment over alleged plans by the FCSC to fill the position with an outsider. The president of the association Samson Idoko pointed out that such actions would undermine the independence of auditors as contained in the Constitution of Nigeria. APSAN said the behind-the-scene manoeuvring to handpicked junior auditor from outside compare to those in the system would bastardise the touted public service reform agenda being championed by the new Head of service Mr. Steve Orosanye to encourage and promote the best within the