The Buhari administration in Nigeria has restrained cabinet ministers from directly removing heads of agencies and parastatals they supervise.
Now in place is a multi-layered procedure that appears to strengthen the role of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in the disciplinary process, a government circular shows.
The circular, dated May 19 and endorsed by the SGF, Boss Mustapha, conveyed the “concern” of the government about the tendency by some ministers to arbitrarily remove chief executive officers of agencies and its impact on stability and service delivery.
The circular was dispatched to all ministers and several other senior officials, including the head of service, the president’s chief of staff, military chiefs, the central bank governor, and permanent secretaries, among others.
Ministers had in the past arbitrarily exercised powers to discipline heads of agencies, commissions or departments they supervise, including suspending and dismissing them from office.
For example, In January, the power minister, Sale Mamman, removed Damilola Ogunbiyi and Marilyn Amobi, respectively the chief executives of the Rural Electrification Agency and the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company apparently without clearance from the presidency or adopting a process of query and panel probe.
President Muhammadu Buhari would later reverse the minister’s action. But the minister in the past days has also sacked the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, Usman Mohammed, alongside four directors of the company, although he said his action was approved by Mr Buhari.
The SGF’s circular now protects heads of agencies from their supervising ministers’ arbitrariness but may have created a hurdle of red-tapism that may delay – or even prevent – sanction for abuses.
Also, ministerial threats of sanctions in the event of no performance, like the one issued by communications and digital economy minister, Isa Pantami, to agencies under his ministry last August, may no longer yield any effect.