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FCTA civil servants and the wait for ‘Godot’

FCT Minister Nyesom Wike

By Festus Fifen

It was a sigh of relief for civil servants in the FCT Administration (FCTA) when on 18th July 2018 Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, then Ag. President, assented to the Federal Capital Territory Civil Service Commission Bill, making it an act of parliament.

The announcement of that singular assent created a glimpse of hope for those whose careers have either been stunted or hopes of career progression dashed. The existing arrangement prior to that assent meant that no civil servant in the Federal Capital Territory Administration could rise above grade level 17 which is that of a Director in the Federal Civil Service system.

Civil servants in the FCTA were removed from enjoying directly from promotions and other sundry benefits from the Federal Civil Service Commission after the implementation of Order 1, of 2004 which changed the then Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (MFCT) to Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).

What is worse in this whole name changing is that, there has been no agency for the recruitment, discipline and promotion of the FCT Civil Servants, the closest contraption on ground is the Human Resources Department which is headed by a Director. Another shortcoming the change brought going forward was that civil and public servants of the FCT are not listed by the Federal Civil Service Commission.

Despite this lacuna, since 2004 the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) has been posting Permanent Secretary to the FCT even as the Federal Civil Service Commission hasn’t been dealing with the civil servants there as a place where directors or the Head of the human resources department can regularly supply candidates for promotion to the prestigious consolidated salary cadre of Permanent Secretary or even Head of the Civil Service. This has physically and emotionally affected the mind-set and productivity of an average civil servant in the FCTA.

Thus, FCTA public servants have been sad that they have also lost their “revered” seniority status even to their juniors at the Federal level which operate under the Federal Civil Service Commission, this has resulted in complex administrative confusion, avoidable bickering, despair, loss of faith and confidence in the system.

This development is even more worrisome as their peers in other ministries who are operating under the Federal Civil Service Commission can be promoted to become Permanent Secretary and be posted to the FCTA to now become superiors to those senior to them in the civil service because their condition of service allows them to become Permanent Secretaries.

So one can imagine the joy and excitement the news of the assent to the Federal Capital Territory Civil Service Commission Act 2018 would bring, unfortunately that joy and excitement later became like“Waiting for Godot”. For those not in the literary world of word weaving, waiting for Godot is the title of a play by an Irish writer Samuel Beckett about two men, Vladimir(Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) engage in variety of discussions and encounters, waiting for a third man the titular Godot, who never arrives.

The excitement of civil servants in the FCT when the current Minister of the FCT Barrister Nyesome Wike announced the approval by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the implementation of the FCT Civil Service Commission after more than 5 years by civil servants in the FCT Administration knew no bound as it was perceived and seen as the light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

The approval as communicated by the Minister follows the enactment of the Civil Service (Establishment) Act in 2018, which allows for creating a commission responsible for appointing, promoting, disciplining, and transferring civil servants within the Civil Service of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

This also meant that the Head of Civil service of the Federation can no longer post Permanent Secretaries from the Federal Civil Service to the FCT. Another implication of this development points to the fact each Secretariat in the FCT Administration will now have a Permanent Secretary with one among them rising to the Position of the Head of Civil Service of the FCT as obtainable in the states of the federation. It also means that FCTA members of staff can reach the peak of their career without the avoidable barrier that is currently plaguing the system.

The issue of customized trainings based on the peculiarity of the structure available in the FCT is another achievement the commission will introduce as what is obtainable now does not facto in the peculiarities of the FCT not being a full fledge state like others. The system will also be opened up with more Directorates for those stagnated at the Deputy Director and Assistant Director Cadre to also have a career progression since most times promotions are based on availability of space at the top. With these developments, no one will stay in one position longer than necessary as there would always be an opening at the top.

But since the announcement of the approval for the take-off of the Commission a lot of unseen forces that fought the initial passage and implementation of the then Bill now an act of Parliament have all swung into action devising means to frustrate the full implementation and take-off of this laudable development. But the question is who is afraid of change?

With these recent developments it will not be out of place to urge the FCT Minister Barr. Nyesome Wike to quickly Appoint an Acting Head of Civil Service of the FCT pending the full take off of the Commission since the workers via a subtle protest rejected the posting of a New Permanent Secretary from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation following the retirement of the last Permanent Secretary Olusade Adesola.

All civil servants in the country and FCT in particular should throw their weight and do everything legally and morally permissible to have this commission running as soon as possible.

Fifen, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja

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