Civil Service Reform: Yayale loses out in Power game

Barely a year after his appointment as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, is losing out in the power game in the Presidency following his alleged opposition to tenure for Permanent Secretaries and directors.

The Nation reveals that for the first seven months in office, Yayale enjoyed appreciable confidence of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

It was however gathered that in the last few months, the SGF has had cause to have some of his decisions overruled. One source linked Yayale’s current challenge to the plot of an influential but stealthy political formation, believed to firmly hold the political and economic ace in Nigeria.

On August 26, the Federal Government had ordered all Permanent Secretaries and directors, who will be eight years in office by January 1, 2010, to submit their pre-retirement notice. This appears contrary to public outcry. The circular was signed by the Head of the Civil service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsaye.

Yayale was appointed the SGF on September 8, 2008 after the sudden removal of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe who lost out in similar high-level intrigues that usually involve Nigeria’s most outstanding political players.

It was also learnt that the SGF has fears that the tenured appointment might in the long run be anti-North amidst fear on how long the SGF could sustain his disagreement on such a critical policy matter.

Findings also revealed that, unlike in the past, key appointments, which used to be announced by the Office of the SGF, were announced directly by the Presidential Villa.

A highly-placed source said: "I think he is not in the good book of some trusted aides of the President, who decided to plot his gradual sidelining in government. Only God knows how he stepped on the toes of ‘Katsina Mafia’ in government.

"It is apparent in government circle that he hasn’t as much influence as the past SGFs. In fact, there are plans to remove some agencies, including National Hospital, from the office of the SGF to whittle down the powers of Yayale.

"The SGF also dabbled in some issues that were against due process and rule of law policy of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

"There was a time he met with the President trying to justify the need to extend the tenure of a former Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Robert Ejenavi by three months. But he was immediately overruled by the President who stood by his ‘no tenure extension’ policy."

Investigation revealed that Yayale was not too enthusiastic over the recent introduction of retroactive eight-year tenure for Permanent Secretaries and directors.

The source added: "I think the quality of good hands that might be affected by the policy is a major worry to Yayale. He believes in a gradual disengagement than mass retirement of over 140 top civil servants.

"As a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, he knows the implications of the mass purge and his view predated the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

The source added: "Since ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s era, Ahmed had always been opposed to drastic civil service reforms because he felt the speed at which the reforms were being executed might erode the service of its experienced hands.

"It was always a tug of war at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) between ex-Minister Nasir el-Rufai and Ahmed over the reforms. In fact, el-Rufai had always faulted Ahmed on key issues bordering on civil service reforms.

But another source claimed that Yayale might have been touched by the fact that some Permanent Secretaries and directors that he personally nurtured in the civil service are being affected by the tenure policy.’’

The source added: "He believes his ‘boys’ are good and virile enough for the system to grow than being thrown out." According to another reliable source, the SGF alleged cold attitude to the exit of permanent secretaries and directors followed the lopsidedness of the number of those affected.

Yayale is said to be of the opinion that the retirement gale is anti-North. Another source added: "Out of over 140 permanent secretaries and directors that will go, 85 per cent are from the North.

Yusuf Alli - THE NATION



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