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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Top civil servants kick against Buhari’s Standard Operational Procedure

Top civil servants kick against Buhari’s Standard Operational Procedure

Abubakar Malami

*Query rationale behind gazetted document

In what is turning out to be a very strange move at the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, some top civil servants of the agency are picking holes in the much celebrated Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, through the the instrumentality of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, as required by the constitution.

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This is generating tension between national commissioners and career civil servants of the CCB.

The document at the centre of the simmering tension was approved by President Buhari on Friday, December 23, 2016, and gazetted as Code of Conduct Bureau Standard Operational Procedure, 2017, on January 27, 2017.

But a memo signed by some directors of the CCB, dated 03/04/2017, faulted what came across as an apparent transmutation of the Conduct Bureau into an anti-graft body, as against the toga of a “routine administrative ministry”, which the originators of the memo claimed ought to be the true dressing of CCB.

The memo reads: Aan expanded management meeting of CCB was held on March 29 & 30, 2017, to review the CCB Standard Operational Procedure (CCB-SOP) recently introduced and resolved that its seemingly hasty implementation be stood down following observed inconsistencies, with the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); subsisting acts passed by the National Assembly e.g Procurement Act, Annual Appropriation Acts, etc, policy directives of Government On Public Service Rules, Financial Regulations and other related statutes and regulations.

“The meeting observed that the CCB-SOP is not in conformity with its universal definition, which is, “a step-by-step set of instructions compiled by an organisation to help workers carry out routine operations to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniform of performance.

The CCB-SOP as presently framed and presented for implementation is short of this universal acceptable standard hence will not achieve nor sustain the aforementioned objective.

“In line with section 160(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as mentioned) on which the CCB-SOP is anchored, CCB’s “rules and procedure” should have addressed and operationally defined the specific mandate of the Bureau which is to “establish and maintain a high standard of morality in the conduct of Government Business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability” emphasising the tools of Assets Declaration, process and procedure for investigation, intelligence gathering, monitoring and verification.

“Also, the Third Schedule Part 1 A(4) provides that, “The terms and conditions of service of the staff of Conduct Bureau shall be the same as those provided for public officers in the Civil Service Of The Federation”.

This can only be altered with a constitutional amendment by the National Assembly and not an in-house CCB-SOP.

As it stands, the document while conflicting with the constitution unilaterally usurps the law making function of the National Assembly. Please note that CCB like any other MDA in the public service operates on the basis of a hierarchy with roles clearly defined.

“The Bureau Executive Council (BEC) should not seen to approbate and reprobate on “all” matters of bureau operations. Attention is also drawn to the fact that members of the BEC are tenured appointees who will eventually leave but the preservation of records and continuity through institutional memory and ethos will be jeopardised if the CCB-SOP is implemented as it is.

“It is also our considered view that CCB-SOP cannot;
1. Take over the power of the Attorney-General of the Federation in instituting proceedings or discontinuing cases in established courts and tribunals.

2. Take the place of constitution provision on conditions of service of staff in all ramification.

3. Institute BEC to be “formulator, executor, implementer, monitor, evaluator and supervisor” of policy without checks by any other authority as this could lead to abuse of power

4. Take over the role of Appropriation, Budgeting, Funds allocation, Procurement processes and procedures, human resources, accounting and auditing standards which are already statutorily established in the public service.

“Prayer

“From the foregoing observed inconsistencies, we request your good offices, to rethink the CCB-SOP implementation document along these lines;
1. a) All activities relating to its implementation be stood down until all these issues are resolved, and

2. b) Humbly request that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as well as the National Assembly be involved in the process.

3. c) Taking a look at the recently unveiled Standard Operational Procedure of Code of Conduct Tribunal.

8) Please accept the assurance of the expanded management members esteemed regards.

“Thank you”.

However, finely worded as the memo is, there are a few factors that knock the bottom off the arguments.

Firstly, since the inception of CCB in 1989, the agency has operated without a constitutionally empanelled Bureau until 2010 when the present Bureau was constituted, making its members the first constitutional officers with all the powers conferred on the Bureau by the constitution.

Secondly, during the long period that CCB operated without constitutional authority, the career civil servants who are defined in the Third Schedule of the constitution as staff of the Bureau, ran the strategic specialized agency like a seemingly unproductive administrative ministry without a mandate to actualize.

That is not all. Our reporter also discovered that in the two and half decades that the civil servants held sway at the Abuja headquarters and the 36 states and FCT offices, nothing concrete was ever achieved.

Since 2010, when the new members were appointed and confirmed, the CCB has attempted to shake off the toga of redundancy.

In fact, Our reporter learnt that the SOP approved by President Buhari through the Justice Minister, is with a view to strengthening the present anti-corruption war.

Sources within the CCB disclosed that there were “written documents in which the Chairman and members of the Bureau sought the input of the Directors even though Section 160(1) of the 1999 constitution empowers the Bureau to make the SOP. The Directors in a jointly signed memo declined the request.”

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