The Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, has faulted the position of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Basic Education that President Muhammadu Buhari has no power under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to extend the tenure of a permanent secretary.
She said the power vested in the President “to appoint also gives him the authority over reinstatement and extension of tenure of a permanent secretary as the case may be.”
Oyo-Ita said this in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Friday.
She was reacting to the House committee which said it was illegal for the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr. Jamila Shu’ara, to have spent one extra year in service under the guise that her tenure had been extended by the President.
The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, in its report, noted that while Section 171 of the constitution empowered the President to appoint top officials of government, including permanent secretaries, the provision did not cover the power to extend a permanent secretary’s tenure.
It then directed Oyo-Ita to immediately invoke the relevant rules to recover all the salaries and benefits paid to Shu’ara in the last one year.
But the Head of Service said the position of the federal lawmakers on the matter was wrong.
She said the argument was more of legal technicalities, while expressing the hope that the issue would be resolved soon.
She said, “Yes, I am very much in the centre of the storm as it were as the Head of Service. But what I tried to explain to the House Committee on Basic Education and Services is that the permanent secretary is one of the four appointees in Section 171 subsection 2 (d) of the Nigerian constitution as amended, that Mr. President has the full prerogative to appoint at his pleasure.
“The appointments of permanent secretaries, ambassadors, Head of Service, ministers and other such aides of Mr. President are wholly his prerogative.
“The committee argued that the provision covered appointments and not extension. But I further supported that argument of government with the Interpretation Act 123 of Nigeria which further goes to explain.
“The Act says the powers that are vested in the person who has power to appoint, that those power also gives him the authority over reinstatement and extensions as the case may be.
“Their argument is that extension is not written there verbatim but when you reinstate somebody, it is as good as an extension.
“If somebody was in a position for a period of time and you now reinstate him back to that position, it is tantamount to say you have extended the person’s stay on that position. So, I think the argument is more of legal technicalities and I hope the matter will be resolved very soon.”