ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY: EXCERPTS
Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia: ”On a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the Premier used to pay all expenses for himself and those he sponsored from his own resources. He also paid customs duties on any goods he brought on which were subject to customs duties. On one occasion, the customs officer charged him (Premier) customs duty of £26.10s which he promptly paid by his Bank of the North personal cheque. However, in a subsequent correspondence, the Customs Office refunded the cheque with an apology because the Sardauna’s goods had been over assessed by £1. A new demand of £25.10s was made on him and replacing cheque of £25.10s was issued. ”The best type of leadership is one that is exercised by example; and, in general, there is little doubt that politicians of the First Republic led this nation by the power of their example. Their conduct in government and even out of it made it ever so clear that they were not in politics for what they could get out of it: theirs was a commitment to making life better for the people.” — Mallam Adamu Fika
EXAMPLE 2: The attitude of our leaders in the last two decades or so but particularly since the return to civilian rule in 1999, no doubt, contrasts sharply with those of the past leaders. The President then used to earn £7,150, which he inherited from the colonial era and fixed since April 1953 and remained the same until January 1966; the Prime Minister was on £5,000 fixed since the office was created in 1957, but in 1962 his salary was reduced to £4500 and remained on that salary until he was murdered in January 1966. A Minister at the Federal or Regional Level was on a salary of £3000, fixed since 1954; but this as reduced to £2,700 and remained as such until January 1966. A regional Premier earned £4000 fixed in 1954, when the office was created but was reduced to £3600 in 1962. The Senate President and Speaker of the House each earned £3000 before 1962, but was reduced to £2700 in 1962. Salary of a Senator or Member was £1000 before 1962, but was reduced to £900. The salary of the Clerk of Parliament remained at £2,940. Those were the good old days in the past.” Mallam Adamu Fika
There can be no auspicious time than now to publish this paper presented by a retired bureaucrat, Mallam Adamu Fika, CFR; one of the officers trained by the first generation of top career public officers who took up the mantle of leadership from the colonialists when they exited in 1960. The paper, which addresses several issues plaguing the Nigerian polity also provides workable solutions is divided into two parts. The first part is being presented today. Enjoy your day and reflect on the issues addressed. It is a ”MUST READ for all public officers and public servants, particularly those engaged in policy making, formulation and implementation. It contains lots of thought provoking issues and opinions. This is the second and concluding part of the paper. Relax, enjoy and learn useful lessons from the postulations.
MERIT BASED SYSTEM: The question of control of appointment, promotion and discipline of public service arose during the August 1953 session of the Constitutional Conference when one of the NCNC delegate wanted such to be controlled by the politicians. To this, the presiding British Minister, himself a politician strongly advised the Nigerian leaders to adopt the British system of merit based public service. He pointed out that “the principles of the British system, which has stood the best of time, are that the Civil Service is recruited by a body completely independent of Ministers, and that it has its own machinery for promotions, which except at the highest level, are not even submitted to Ministers for formal approval. Even when that approval is sought, Ministers are, by tradition, guided by the advice of the senior members of the service. There is no question of the dismissal of holders of offices in the civil service, at any level, in consequence of the change of government. The British tradition is the appointment and dismissal, and, with exception, the promotion of the civil servants, is outside the competence of Government. History has shown that no other system works satisfactorily. It will be disastrous to have a civil service under the control of the Executive and for appointments to change according to the turn of the political wheel will lead to instability”.
Our leaders accepted the advice and reaffirmed their acceptance in January 1954, when the leaders – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Aminu Kano and Professor Eyo Ita issued the following statement committing their respective parties: “We fully support the principle that all Public Service questions, including appointments, promotions, transfers, postings, dismissals and other disciplinary matters should be kept completely free and independent of political control. We hope that the traditional principle of promotion according to qualification, experience, merit without regard to race will be maintained”.
In the constitution, resulting from the deliberations of conferences, section 14 provided that: “The power to appoint persons to hold or act in offices of the public service of the Federation…..and to dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices should vest in the Public Service Commission of the Federation” In sub-section (2) judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court of Lagos and any police officer in the Police force were removed from the competence of the Public Service Commission and vested in the Judicial Service and Police Service Commissions respectively. In addition, the power to appoint a person in the offices of the Permanent Secretary, Principal representatives of Nigerian abroad, Director of Audit, Clerk of the Parliament, Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in charge of Regional command was a joint responsibility of head of Government and the relevant Service Commission.
Our leaders acted honourably and kept their promise. They acted strictly in accordance with the relevant provisions of the constitution in handling public service matters. The London Constitutional Conference “recognized that in view of the importance and dignity of the position of chief representative of a country overseas – Ambassadors and the Commissioners—it, from time to time be best to fill such posts not by career officers in the Public Service, but by distinguished citizens appointed for broad reasons of policy”. To the credit of our past leaders, they did not abuse that opportunity for between 1960 and 1966 they appointed only twelve non-career heads of missions out of over 100.
Perverting Remuneration of the holders of Certain Public Offices: In an attempt to ensure that holders of certain public offices performed their duties without fear or favour to the political executive and members of the legislature, remuneration of such officers were fixed by law and insulated from the arbitrariness of politicians in both the executive and legislature. The independence and political neutrality of the officers are guaranteed by the constitution because of the sensitive nature of their work, and also because in the performance of their duties, they are not subject to direction or control by any other body or authority. These bodies were the Public Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the Electoral Commission, Justices of the Supreme Court and High Court of Lagos, the Director, Auditor and the Director of Public Prosecution.
The criterion for the selecting of these offices for promotion of the recommendation of holders is fact that their decisions are final and are not subject to review by any other person or authority. From 1954 when these Commissions were first established first as advisory bodies to the Governor-General and the Governors, that is before Independence, and then became fully independent of Government after 1st October, 1960, there has always been such provisions in the constitution, protecting the remuneration of holder of any of the offices from the arbitrariness of the political executive or the legislature.
In the 1960 Constitution the remuneration of the holders of such offices was provided for in Section 127, as follows: i) There shall be paid to the holders of the offices to which this Section applies such salary and allowances may be prescribed by Parliament
ii) The salary and allowances payable to the holders of any office to which this section applies shall be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation
iii) The salary payable to the holder of any office to which this Section applies, and his term of office, other than allowances shall not be altered to his disadvantage after his appointment.
4) This Section applies to the Offices of Governor-General, Chief Justice of the Federation, Federal Justices, Chief Justices and other Judges of the High Court of Lagos, members of the Electoral Commission of the Federation, members of the Public Service Commission of the Federation, members of the Police Service Commission of the Federation and Auditor-General for the Federation.
In the 1979 Constitution the National Population Commission was added as one of such bodies. To me, it did not and still does not appear to merit inclusion in this category of public officers. In the first place it is not one of the extra-ministerial institution because its subject matter is always assigned to a member of the executive secondly the result of its work is subject to acceptance or rejection by the Executive.
From 1989 when Revenue Mobilisation Allocation & Fiscal Commission was established. The Commission also created a number of fringe benefits and, in the name of monetization awarded about 1500% of basic salaries to the beneficiary public officers. The good intention of our Founding Fathers has been perverted into a status symbol and is now applied to legitimize brazen looting of public funds. Such Offices now include the President, the Vice-President, Ministers, members of the National Assembly, Governor, Deputy Governor and members of State Houses of Assembly, and even politicians at the local government level. Now, it includes virtually every elected or appointed politician, including politician appointed on the governing body of a commission and an agency.
Since the original intention was to protect the holders of such sensitive offices from the anticipated arbitrariness of the political class, it does not make sense to extend it to include these same politicians from whom the protection is sought. The truth is that the whole exercise has been perverted and converted into an elitist and conspiratorial club anchored by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.(RMAFC) And since 2002 RMAFC has been reviewing the salaries of those Public Officers at least biennially, while the salaries of ordinary workers had not been reviewed for many years.
Review Procedure adopted by RMAFC: From records of RMAFC, it appears the Commission seeks the opinion of the beneficiaries ….. guide for the commission to recommend increases. When RMAFC embarked on the last review it asked the beneficiaries by group to say which factors should be taken into account and what weight should be assigned to each factor in determining the increases as to their existing salaries. The factors identified RMAFC and agreed to by the beneficiaries were inflation, exchange rate, growth of the economy and political factors.
The response from the various groups of the beneficiaries collated and published by RMAFC and reproduced below:
(a) Federal Level — Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006 (b) State and Local Government LevelsSource: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006. In the second stage, RMAFC asked same beneficiaries if they supported an increase of 100%, 200% or 300% to their basic salaries. The responses collated and published by RMAFC and reproduced below:
(c) Federal Level; Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006, (d) State and Local Government Levels; Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006. Eventually RMAFC awarded the beneficiaries a little less than 200% in basic salaries.
From the foregoing, the attitude of our leaders in the last two decades or so but particularly since the return to civilian rule in 1999, no doubt, contrasts sharply with those of the past leaders. The President then used to earn £7,150, which he inherited from the colonial era and fixed since April 1953 and remained the same until January 1966; the Prime Minister was on £5,000 fixed since the office was created in 1957, but in 1962 his salary was reduced to £4500 and remained on that salary until he was murdered in January 1966. A Minister at the Federal or Regional Level was on a salary of £3000, fixed since 1954; but this as reduced to £2,700 and remained as such until January 1966. A regional Premier earned £4000 fixed in 1954, when the office was created but was reduced to £3600 in 1962. The Senate President and Speaker of the House each earned £3000 before 1962, but was reduced to £2700 in 1962. Salary of a Senator or Member was £1000 before 1962, but was reduced to £900. The salary of the Clerk of Parliament remained at £2,940. Those were the good old days in the past.
Leadership by Example: When authentic Statesmen led the nation at the centre and the regions, and rules and regulations were respected and proper procedure was strictly adhered to in the conduct of Government business, the country witnessed the best specimen of leadership by example. First Republic politicians were leaders who sincerely believed in, and faithfully practiced the best tenets of democracy; and were always guided in all they did by the public interest. They played their politics with a passion, formulated their policies for the public good and believed they had a sacred mission to lead their societies on to the path of growth and political, social and economic development. And to achieve this they were ready to go to any length, perform any task, offer any sacrifice in order to ensure a higher standard of living for their people.
While they were partisan politicians they still led governments that were inclusive and blind to people’s politics and they tolerated and worked amicably well with the opposition. For them partisanship ended with the elections, and governments formed were for all the people. While the majority had its way, the minority had its say—and it was always listened to. In their control and management of public resources the leaders were accountable to the last penny; because, with the system that they had put in place and jealously guarded, they perhaps couldn’t have been otherwise. The best type of leadership is one that is exercised by example; and, in general, there is little doubt that politicians of the First Republic led this nation by the power of their example. Their conduct in government and even out of it made it ever so clear that they were not in politics for what they could get out of it: theirs was a commitment to making life better for the people.
A very good sign of their commitment to the public good, their public spiritedness and readiness for self sacrifice was the comparatively low level of pay they fixed for themselves, which they didn’t hesitate to further reduce when the situation demanded. For instance, throughout the duration of the First Republic, the Secretary to the Prime Minister earned £3,540, a salary that was more than that of any Minister; and in general, a Minister marginally earned £60 per annum more than a Permanent Secretary. And there were at least three heads of professional departments and a Permanent Secretary (Finance) who earned £3,180, that is, £180 more than any Minister.
This was the situation before 1962. In 1962, the salary of each political office holder was reduced by 10% thus the salary of the Minister was reduced by 10% to £2700 but the salary of the Permanent Secretary remained unchanged at £2940 per annum. And nowhere was the readiness of the political leaders to sacrifice more in evidence than in 1962, when the First National Development Plan (1962-1968) was launched. Almost immediately after launching, it became clear that the plan could not be implemented fully if government revenues were not increased and recurrent expenditure drastically cut.
Accordingly, the government introduced austerity measures, and, in addition to that, decided to cut the salaries of all politicians in government by 10% across the board, from the prime Minister down to those officers earning as low as £400 per annum, and abolished their allowances. But, pointedly, these measures didn’t affect civil servants, because, according to the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello: “with regard to the civil servants, their salaries and some of the allowances are part of their conditions of service, and although the Regional Government has the power to cut arbitrarily the salaries and allowances of its employees,… as a model employer it would be wrong for the government to cut arbitrarily without consultation with them through the normal channels”.
But it was not only on this issue that First Republic politicians led by example. They were also exemplars of democratic virtues. The following incidences in the life of the Sardauna shed light on how they played their politics and how they scrupulously separated politics from governance.
(a) Concern for the welfare of others, particularly Civil Servants: Dr. R.A. B Dikko; the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health requested for the use of the Northern Communication Flight to fly a sick health officer from Iddah. Unfortunately, the only plane operating at the time had been booked for the Premier, for 10.00am the following day. As Secretary to the Executive Council, Chief Sunday Awoniyi controlled and authorized the use of Communication Flight. Finding himself in a difficult situation with little choice, he approached the Premier and informed him that a higher priority of use of the plane had arisen for conveyance of a sick officer. The Premier agreed and ordered his car to be got ready for his own journey, while the plane was put at the disposal of the Ministry of Health for their sick officer. The officer was brought from Iddah to Kano, to be flown abroad but died in Kano before he could be flown out. The Premier, on later reflection on the turn of events, and profoundly thanked Awoniyi for asking him to give up the plane for the use of the deceased officer.
(b) Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia
On a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the Premier used to pay all expenses for himself and those he sponsored from his own resources. He also paid customs duties on any goods he brought on which were subject to customs duties. On one occasion, the customs officer charged him customs duty of £26.10s which he promptly paid by his Bank of the North personal cheque. However, in a subsequent correspondence, the Customs Office refunded the cheque with an apology because the Sardauna’s goods had been over assessed by £1. A new demand of £25.10s was made on him and replacing cheque of £25.10s was issued.
(c) Standing up for Selfless Public Service: A part member of the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) applied for a car advance and requested for an increase of sitting allowance. Since the requests were not covered by existing policy, the matter had to be referred to the Premier who decided to reply the member directly: “I appoint you and other people to serve on various Regional Boards with the firm belief that you will render useful service to your compatriots. In other words, it is a sort of National Service. ”The idea is by all means not for you to regard the opportunity as a money making privilege! In this connection, I would like to inform you that I was made to understand that in the last meeting you insisted, quite adamantly, on the question of elevating members’ allowances. This attitude will certainly not be of any credit to you, or us, in the eyes of the general public… If your intention is to make money rather than helping your fellow countrymen, then the best course for you to take is to resort to trading or some sort of business which can quench your inordinate monetary thirst.”
American example—In an attempt to muzzle the public service it has often been argued here that because of the presidential system in operation in the country, the role and character of the service will have to change to conform.
But nothing could be further from the truth: Both America and Britain practice the same system of merit based public service. It was only after trying the spoils system with tragic consequences that the United States of America from where our presidential system was borrowed, imported and implanted the principle of the merit system from the United Kingdom in 1884. Irrespective of the system in operation, there is no difference in the core values of public service – integrity, impartiality, objectivity, merit, permanence, accountability and independence. As the machinery for the achievement of the political and economic development goals of the nation, the role of the public service is the same and its characteristics remain the same irrespective of the system of government in operation.
Indeed, it was to this independence and the service quality of permanence that former U.S President, Gerald Ford referred to as he assumed duty while lauding the role of the U.S Federal Public Service in the aftermath of the difficulties occasioned by the Watergate scandal. Ford made this observation: “Whatever else, recent experiences have proved one thing about the Federal Government, it can continue to function and move ahead even under the most difficult circumstances. This is due chiefly to the more than two million career civil servants who, day in, day out, give of themselves in a thoroughly dedicated and efficient manner to assure this continuity”.
Conclusion: Obviously, there can be no replacement for the past; and Nigerians cannot hope to see a return to past glory for their nation until they honour the past. As we can all see, our contempt for the past and disrespect for our past leaders and their ways have landed us in a political and socio-economic quagmire from which there is no hope for escape unless we change our ways. While our past leaders spent their lives establishing and laying down the foundation of merit in our public system; we are spending ours demolishing their legacy. No wonder everything is irretrievably breaking down; and, as a result of this breakdown in the Public Service and, with it, in all our national institutions, the nation itself is slowly grinding to a halt. And the reason for this is clear enough.
EFFECTS OF ABSENCE OF MERIT: We have painfully found out that the absence of merit and independence in the public service is the most effective key to unlocking the floodgates of corruption and accelerating the rate of the breakdown of national institutions. And once the gates are open, there is no stopping the torrent: it will most assuredly sweep everything that gets in its way. And while we must respect the past, we must also respect ourselves and learn to respect the will of the people as drawn up in the constitution made in their name, and be guided by that will as expressed periodically in elections in which the people freely cast their votes. The way to respect the past is by taking the right lessons from it; and the way to respect ourselves is by showing respect to the system and electing as leaders people who will lead us by example.
It was a direct result of the absence of leadership by example and the abandoning of merit that the custodians of public wealth found it easy to appropriate all of it for themselves; and they are today living in a world away and different from our own. Their headache is treated in European hospitals, their children educated in American schools; their drinking water is bottled, their power supply from generators provided, maintained and fuelled at public expense; and their traffic jam is cleared for them by the blare of sirens. They are in every way and in every sense totally divorced from the harsh realities of life and the many excruciating problems in present-day Nigeria, problems which they have signally failed to solve.
As we can see, the Nigerian problem is not in the economy; it is not in the politics or in the society—it is in us. And it will not change until we ourselves change. In order for us to begin the process of change, the future of this nation must be entrusted, as it was in the past, into the hands of people—politicians and civil servants—who will, in word and deed, and through self-sacrifice, lead us by example; and who will always exercise the leadership function in the public interest and for the public good.
We must therefore first bring about a most fundamental change in the way we do everything; and the first step in this long journey is to look back into our past and take what we will need; for, we must begin in the past—and go on to the future. I started this lecture with a quotation from Chief S.O. Adebo. I will end it with other quotation this time from the preface written by Professor Wole Soyinka in a biography on Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emmanuel, where he said: “Today Francesca silky soprano evokes nostalgia for those days when work and leisure fused into one seamless process of creativity that defines the collective existence of a community that came to define itself around the impulse to simply create to express oneself in explorative ways within the artistic template. Does this sound like the familiar lament of old fogies like us, a lament known and scoffed at as the language of ‘the good old days’? Of course.” “But look around and tell me if the present comes remotely close as a befitting replacement.”
I thank you very much for your patience.
Mallam Adamu Fika CFR, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of Civil Service presented this paper at the Barewa Old Boys’ Association annual lecture in October 2011.