The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) are at loggerheads over the ministry’s intention to pool about 1, 000 members of its staff.
The ministry is seeking to have some of the staff, mainly low level workers, redeployed to other ministries in a re-organisation plan, documents obtained by HumAngle show.
Credible sources within the ministry told HumAngle that the move was part of plans to reduce cost by shifting the responsibility to other agencies of the public service.
Under the subject, ‘Rationalisation of Batch ‘B’ Staff’, the Committee for the Implementation of Approved Reorganisation of Nigerian Representation Abroad and Headquarters, asked the director of administration to oversee the redeployment of the Personnel.
The memo read, “The Admin Department shall provide the following: 1. A comprehensive list of Branch ‘B’ staff in the ministry
“2. Number of cadre of each Branch ‘B’ staff needed both at the Headquarters and in Missions
“3. Number of Branch ‘B’ Staff that need to be deployed to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for onward information and redeployment.”
HumAngle learnt that the resolution has raised a lot of heat between the ministry and OHCSF.
During the March, 2019 Presidential retreat, a Policies, Programmes and Projects Audits Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
The committee was tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the performance of the Buhari administration in the first four years and articulate a new programme of action.
For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the committee was asked to develop clear guidelines for the promotion and protection of Nigerians abroad.
Furthermore, it was asked to work to secure Nigeria’s membership of G20 and resolve the problem of inadequate funding for Nigerian missions abroad.
It was also mandated to coordinate a temporary workers’ migration programme with bilateral partners and implement a strategy towards the implementation of Buhari’s promise to get 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
In a memo dated May 12, 2020, the management of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed that the president had approved several recommendations to cut cost through the committee.
Prepared by the Administration Department, the ministry in a memo stated that: “In line with the ministry’s recommendations and in addition to inputs from the Office of the Chief of Staff, Mr President approved the following cost-saving measures for immediate implementation:
“the monetisation of all fringe benefits e.g. utilities, education supplements, medical, rents etc. at post and issuance of authority to incur expenditure to individual officers, reflecting all the entitlements including Foreign Service Allowance, as practised by the NIA (National Intelligence Agency) and the other agencies of government with representatives serving abroad;
“the transfer of all Executive, Secretarial and Clerical staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the pool under the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) for deployment to other ministries, departments and agencies of government.”
It added: “The ministry was therefore instructed to liaise with the Head of Service of the Federation for immediate implementation.
“Similarly, the ministry was instructed to keep the required number of these staff needed for its operation and request for replacement from the OHCSF whenever the need arises.
“For this reason, the ministry was directed to forthwith, suspend the recruitment of these categories of staff until further notice.
“In conclusion, the president has also approved June, 2020 as the deadline for the implementation of the above approved recommendations and the ministry is expected to forward a report of the implementation of the approval by the end of July, 2020.”
Office of Head of Civil Service Response
In a letter dated May 18 and received by the Chief of Staff of the President on May 19, OHCSF explained that it would be difficult to grant the request as the staff were not “pool staff’.
The Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, explained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recruited members of staff that they needed based on the waivers granted by the OHCSF.
She said, “I wish to state that it is the constitutional responsibility of the Federal Civil Service Commission to appoint citizens into the Federal Civil Service.
“However, the commission, as provided in Public Service Rules (PSR) No. 020103 delegated this responsibility to MDAs for the appointment of officers from salary grade level 06 and below.
“In doing so, MDAs usually seek waivers from the OHCSF. Such waiver is granted on a consideration of the need and establishment number of the MDAs.
“Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, like other ministries, has been exercising this delegated power.”
Yemi-Esan went on to note that the ministry requested for the recruitment of 767 officers into the cadres between 2014 and 2018.
Out of this number requested, the OHCSF granted waiver for 215 vacancies, representing 28 per cent of the request within the period, she said.
Yemi-Esan said: “It is reasonable to conclude that the officers were needed which was why they were recruited by the ministry.
“It is, therefore, unfortunate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now rejecting the officers it recruited on a need basis.”
She added: “Regarding the request that the officers be returned to the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to other MDAs, it will be difficult to grant the request because the officers in question are not pool staff.
“Again, doing so will be contravening extant rules and regulations thus setting bad precedent.”
She advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to manage the officers it recruited until they qualified for pooling and posting to other MDAs.
HumAngle learnt that in line with extant rules, the mobility of the category and levels of the officers is restricted within the ministries they were recruited but
when such officers attain the levels for pooling, they can be pooled and posted to other MDAs.
Ministry remains adamant…
Apart from OHCSF, the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) spoke against the pooling of the workers.
In a letter addressed to the Chief of Staff to the President, JNC explained that the Scheme of Service clearly defined the role of Batch ‘B’ officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It also noted that the pooling of staff, as one of the reform policies, would not address the issue of overstaffing in the ministry.
It urged the Chief of Staff and members of the implementation committee to reconsider the move and instead offered other alternatives to save costs.
It recommended that “rather than pooling the officers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs should reconsider between posting grade level 15 to 17 as a cost saving measure in line with the Vienna Convention.
“Also, that international duty tours in the ministry should be reduced as the estacode allowances payable to officers drain the resources of the ministry’,’ the JNC said.
But in a memo, Lot Egopija, the Director of Policy, Research and Statistics in the ministry, noted that the pooling of staff could not be jettisoned as it was part of reforms to make the ministry more efficient.
“It is important to note that as at July 2019, the ministry had 989 Branch ‘B’ officers against 770 Foreign Service Officers who perform all the major duties of the ministry’, both at home and in our foreign missions.
“From the ministry’s standpoint, it has been noted over the years that most Branch ‘B’ officers regrettably have demonstrated a lack of aptitude and requisite knowledge in the discharge of their duties.
“The current clamour by the JNC is not in the service of diplomacy nor of national interest,” Egopija said.