Four months after hitting the mandatory retirement age of 60, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and the Corps Marshal of the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi, are still in office, giving rise for disquiet in both organisations.
Idris and Oyeyemi clocked the mandatory retirement age on November 25 and 26, 2020, respectively.
But citing tenured appointments they are holding, the duo have clutched on to their seats.
Tenure crises have in the past few years rocked a number of federal government agencies and security outfits.
Investigation by Daily Trust shows that the Public Service Rule, which guides employment of federal civil servants, stipulates 60 years of age or 35 years of service as terminal point for all employees. The rule provides no exception.
A federal government circular obtained by Daily Trust also shows that all public servants appointed into an office should remain compliant with the retirement terms, except if they had resigned before taking the office.
The two scenarios were created by the federal government with the renewal of the appointments of Idris and Oyeyemi, without taking into cognizance their impending retirement.
The government has also remained silent over the fate of the two, in spite of outcries, and court cases.
Idris was first appointed into the position by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2015.
Prior to the appointment, he was Director of Finance and Accounts in the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
The appointment was renewed in June 2019 for another term of four years.
At the time, Idris had less than two years to retire as a public servant.
A civil society organisation, Youth Empowerment and Equal Justice, has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to declare that Idris is illegally occupying the office of the AGF.
Like Idris, Oyeyemi’s tenure was extended in 2018 when he had about two years to retire.
He was first appointed in 2014 by then President, Goodluck Jonathan.
As provided in the Civil Service Rules, the FRSC Condition of Service pegs retirement age for officers like Oyeyemi at 60 years of age or 35 years of service.
Oyeyemi is a career officer who joined the services of the then newly created FRSC in 1988.
Both Idris and Oyeyemi have continued to stay in office by relying on their tenured appointments.
The reappointment of Oyeyemi was in itself controversial as the Act establishing the FRSC makes provision for an only four-year tenure for commissioners in the FRSC, which includes the corps marshal.
Investigation by Daily Trust shows that as a member of the commission, Oyeyemi’s appointment is governed by Section 2(1) of the FRSC Establishment Act 2007.
The section states that “A member of the Commission, other than an ex-officio member, shall hold office for a period of four years”.
The overstay of the top officials, aside from creating grumbling in the service, also raises the question of whether an appointment can override statutory provisions of the condition of service for government employee.
What the laws say
The terms of service of the corps marshal and all staff of the FRSC, according to Section 17(1) of the Act, is in tandem with the public service of the federation.
By this provision, all members of the corps are recruited and promoted in accordance with the provisions of the public service rules.
Rule 020810(i) of the Federal Government Public Service Rules states that “The compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years of age or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier”.
For emphasis, the second clause under the same rule rules out any longer stay after attaining the mandatory period.
“No officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier,” it states.
Under Chapter 12 of the FRSC Condition of Service, it is stated that: “Retirement is at the age of 60 years or at 35 years of service whichever comes first.”
‘Retirement age sacrosanct’
The prevalence of cases like these had prompted the Office of the Head Service of the Federation, then under Stephen Oronsaye to issue a memo in 2009 insisting that public officers respect the provisions of retirement terms.
According to the memo, tenure of office was no reason for public servants to stay beyond their expected dates of retirement, insisting that retirement age was sacrosanct.
The circular, dated July 27, 2009, and signed by Oronsaye was titled “Interpretation of Public Service Rules on Compulsory Retirement Age/Year of Service in Relation to Tenured Appointment of Serving Public Officers”.
“For the avoidance of doubt,” Oronsaye wrote in the 3-page memo, “and in order to maintain discipline and integrity of the public service, extant Public Service Rules, which prescribe 60 years of age or 35 years of service for mandatory retirement should strictly be complied with. Accordingly, the following guidelines shall apply:
“(i) that career officers who wish to take up tenured appointments should, at the point of taking up the appointment, retire from service to ensure they run their term uninterrupted;
“(ii) that career officers who have not retired or choose not to retire from service, before the commencement of their tenured appointment, must leave office on the attainment of the mandatory age/years of service for retirement; and
“(iii) career officers who are currently holding tenured appointments are required to retire from the service with immediate effect and continue to run their term. Failure to do so would mean that they would vacate office on attaining the mandatory retirement age or at the expiration of their term, whichever comes first.”
President is right on Idris – Minister
Addressing reporters after a meeting with President Buhari last month, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said retaining the accountant-general was in line with presidential powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The minister said Section 171 of the Constitution empowers the president to exercise discretion in appointing persons into some extra-ministerial offices, adding that the same constitution spelled out the offices in the category, to which the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation fell.
The minister said the Trade Union Congress and the Association of Senior Civil Servants, were wrong in their demand for Idris’s exist on account of his age.
“We have had two meetings on that and I have educated them that the 1999 Constitution, the supreme law of the land, is the grundnorm, all other laws rose from it and any law that is in conflict with the provisions of the constitution doesn’t stand, it’s struck down.
“Therefore Mr. President has exercised his powers under Section 171 of 1999 Constitution as amended in reappointing Mr. Ahmed Idris with effect from June 25, 2019, not even today. So the man has a tenure of four years which by terms of appointment elapses June 2023,” he said.
Oyeyemi holding a political office – Spokesperson
When contacted by Daily Trust, spokesperson of the FRSC, Bisi Kazeem, said Oyeyemi is serving a political office which is tenured and the appointment was at the leisure of the president.
“The corps marshal is a political office and his tenure of office is at the pleasure of the president unlike a career civil/public servant’s appointment whose appointment is governed by Civil/Public Service Rules and Section 7 (1) of the FRSC Act, 2007 provides that the corps marshal shall be appointed by the president.
“The only qualification required by Section 7(1) FRSC Act, 2007 is that the person so appointed by the president shall be a person possessing sound knowledge or ability in the organization and administration of road traffic and road safety matters.
“This clearly shows that the corps marshal is not a career public service officer. In fact, this is the first time a member of the corps was appointed as corps marshal by the president.”
Crisis over extended stay of chief executives and heads of government institutions has been recurring, especially in the current dispensation.
The four service chiefs replaced last month by the president spent five years, six months in office, outliving many of their juniors in service, due to a number of extensions they got from the president.
The tenure of the Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI) of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammed Babandede, was similarly extended by President Buhari, changing his statutory retirement date of September 12, 2020.
A lawyer, Daniel Makolo has filed a suit before a National Industrial Court in Abuja seeking a declaration that Babandede could not lawfully remain in office beyond September 12, 2020, in the face of the provisions of the Public Service Rules (PSRs) 100238 and 020810 made pursuant to sections 160, 169 and 172 of the Constitution and sections 2 and 3 of the NIS Act 2015.
Before his eventual exit in January, the Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Jafaru Ahmed, also had his tenure extended by President Buhari.
Appointed in 2016, he was supposed to retire in July 2019 after clocking the statutory age of 60.
The Fire Service Controller General, Joseph Anebi, was billed for retirement in September 2018 before his tenure was extended by the president. He left in 2019.
The former Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Abdullahi Gana, was given a six months extension on July 17, 2020, despite being due to retire after clocking the statutory 60 years of age.
He was eventually replaced by Abubakar Audi as the substantive Commandant on February 18.
The tenure of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was on February 4 extended by President Buhari after he attained the statutory 35 years of service.
Some lawyers, including the umbrella body of lawyers, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have since gone to court to challenge the action of the president, contending that the extensions are contrary to the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, and the Police Act, 2020.