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Reps say Buhari lacks power to extend perm sec tenure

John Ameh, Abuja

The House of Representatives said on Thursday that it was illegal for the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr. Jamila Shu’ara, to have spent one extra year in service under the guise that her tenure was extended by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Its Committee on Basic Education, which investigated the controversial tenure extension, stated that the President had no power under the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) to extend the tenure of a permanent secretary, who had served out her full service length and retired in February, 2016.

The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, in its report, noted that while Section 171 of the constitution empowered the President to appoint top officials of government, including permanent secretaries, the provision did not cover the power to extend a permanent secretary’s tenure.

Under the extant Public Service Rules, an officer retires from service after serving for 35 years or attaining the age of 60 years, whichever comes first.

Shu’ara, 61, served out her tenure in February, 2016.

The committee directed the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, to immediately invoke the relevant rules to recover all the salaries and benefits paid to Shu’ara in the last one year.

Part of the committee’s recommendations read, “The President has no powers under Section 171( 2)(c) of the constitution or any other existing law to extend or elongate the tenure of a permanent secretary, whose tenure expired by efluxion of time or age, whichever comes first.

“The Head of Service should invoke the relevant rules to recover all the emoluments paid to Jamila Shu’ara for the period of her tenure’s extension.

“The Federal Government should ensure that civil service rules and procedures are strictly followed.

“The HoS should ensure compliance with this subject matter and report back to the House in four weeks.”

The committee had stumbled on Shu’ara’s tenure extension saga during a 2017 budget defence session.

When lawmakers discovered the “strange development in civil service rules” and sought explanations, Shu’ara had replied that it was Buhari who extended her service by one year.

The committee queried the extension and demanded evidence of the presidential approval, which neither Shu’ara nor Oyo-Ita could produce in the course of the investigation.

However, in her defence, the HoS wrote the committee to argue that if the President could appoint, he also retained the power to re-appoint or extend the tenure of a permanent secretary, who had exited service.

“Whoever has the power to appoint can re-appoint or reinstate.

“Photocopies of Section 171 of the constitution Section 11 of the Interpretation Act are attached for consideration,” Oyo-Ita added.

But members disagreed, saying that while the sections were specific about appointment, there was no reference to tenure extension, particularly when an officer so appointed had formally exited service in line with the law.

On the directive to produce Shu’ara’s personal file, Oyo-Ita replied that all files of civil servants were kept with the Federal Civil Service Commission.

“I have requested for the personal file of Shu’ara from the FCSC and I am expecting the response,” Oyo-Ita stated in her letter.

Earlier on March 12, there was more drama when the committee received another letter from the Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, to say that Buhari had again extended Shu’ara’s tenure for one additional year, making it two extensions.

The second extension was to cover February, 2017 to February, 2018.

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