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  • In Lagos Civil service, goodbye ‘Hard-work’

  • A new order has started unfolding in Lagos State civil service. The new wave emanated from the decision by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration to jettisoning the statutory procedures in civil service and popular axiom, ‘hard work pays.

    And the administration’s resolve to discourage hard work for mediocrity came from its decision to approved removal of Permanent Secretaries, heads of agencies and Directors for kicking against any sharp practices in the State civil service.

    But the need for a mediocre and corruption free civil service in Lagos State further strengthened by the immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has allegedly suffered severe setbacks, leaving several civil servants to wonder reasons for the sudden shift in administrative style.

    Under the previous administration, several leakages that reduced government efficiencies were blocked using some Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Departments and Agencies, assisting the government to save over N3 billion monthly.

    And rather than the present administration sustains the strategy with the crops of civil servants that prevented the state from bleeding continuously, stopping their colleagues from diverting taxes and revenues into personal accounts, they have either been eased out of the service or deployed to offices where they will be redundant and replaced with those that could facilitate return of the old order.

    According to investigation conducted by our correspondent, the Tutor-General/Permanent Secretaries and Directors were redeployed at different times to erase any doubt that the redeployment was done with any plan to witch-hunt the staff that had worked tirelessly for development of Lagos State.

    During the investigation, it was learned that the Permanent Secretaries were transferred before August 19th, when Governor Sanwo-Olu swore in another set of newly appointed nine Permanent secretaries including the former General Manager of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Mr. Wale Musa and former General Manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, Engr. Lekan Shodeinde.

    Sources said that the redeployment of the Permanent Secretaries were also approved by the governor after receiving persistent briefs from the Head of Service, HOS, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, who ensured that his wishes on the redeployment come to past.

    A Tutor-General/Permanent Secretary, apparently not satisfied with the redeployment that demoted her, disclosed authoritatively to our correspondent that his major crime before the transfer was her refusal to allow corruptible act to hold and reversal of those that had taken place before her assumption in office.

    Another Permanent Secretary, Dr. Taiwo Salaam, who had for several years embarked on local and international seminars and workshops on Transport Management, was also redeployed to Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, which many could not justify reasons for his redeployment and replaced with Musa, who had been an administrative officer for several years.

    Sources said Taiwo offence was that he raised objection to Muri-Okunola’s decision on redeployment of some staffs from the ministry, arguing that the government had sent them on different training and were about implementing all they learnt during their stint outside the shores of the country.

    Also, two Permanent Secretaries names were excluded from the redeployment but their seats were currently vacant, raising concerns among staffs even as sources claimed that they have resigned after realizing that the HOS had started embarking on some strategies to witch-hunt them.

    Besides, in the ministry of Information and Strategy, it was reliably gathered that no fewer than 15 directors were already due for promotion as Permanent Secretaries but were currently denied access, an act linked to Muri-Okunola. This is also unsettling the ministry.

    Also not spared from the wrath of the HOS, who is the youngest to occupy the coveted seat in Lagos, were directors that have had encounters with him before he assumed office and after the governor was sworn in.

    A check on their redeployment revealed that the HOS, not minding the statutory cadre that existed in some of the agencies the directors hold, approved their transfer in a circular with reference number 049 signed on August 7th, ending any opportunity to introduce novel strategies in their chosen career.

    Among the agencies that have special Cadre system is Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS. This indicates that staff under this agency cannot be redeployed until they assumed the post of Permanent Secretary. This was one practice not jettisoned when VIS was upgraded from Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO about seven years ago. The former governor, Babatunde Fashola, now minister of Works and Housing, made it full fledge agency after several years of been a department under the ministry of Transportation.

    The cadre system, experts said, was to ensure that the personnel were not transferred like other civil servants due to the training they were often demanded to embark upon and to sustain professionalism.

    With this present system, none of the Staff has attained that status in the agency; which required that status quo at the agency’s hierarchy would remain. And the most senior officer in the agency is the former director, Gbolahan Toriola; should remain head VIS.

    But rather than allow the cadre system operates independently as it had been before now, Muri-Okunola, tampered with it in the circular sighted by our correspondent, removing Toriola, who had been trained by government locally and abroad, has started implementing the knowledge acquired to solve Lagos challenges.

    One of the major innovations introduced by Toriola was the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), a technology that reduces interference between motorist and VIS officers. This technology captures vehicle number plate, conduct verification on the vehicle and issue ticket when necessary to the motorist.

    Under his supervision, he facilitated the introduction of system and boosted the agency’s revenue from N175.8 million in 2007 to N2.24 billion in 2018.

    Some staffs lamented that Muri-Okunola, however, threw all these achievement into thrash can and ordered his redeployment to Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, where his service cannot be effectively used and ordered that Fashola Akin-George replace him immediately.

    In the circular sighted, while others including Toriola’s date of deployment to the position was stated, Akin-George’s date of assignment to his previous post was not stated rather the HOS categorically stated that he should be made to head the agency.

    Meanwhile, staff of VIS disclosed that Akin-George came into the agency two years ago and had practically no knowledge of the agency nor had he spent over five years in service.

    Poking further into the twist that had unsettled the Transport family, a top civil servant official narrated that Toriola was seen as a wall preventing some officers of the agency from having their way in graft practices.

    Also listed as Toriola’s offense was his redeployment of one Kazeem Animashaun, a relative to the Oloja of Epe, Oba Kamorudeen Animashaun, over alleged sharp practices, to Agbado Oke-Ode Local Council Development Area, LCDA.

    The redeployment stood under the Ambode’s administration. But weeks after the inauguration of the incumbent governor, a top official disclosed that Muri-Okunola directed that Toriola fix Kazeem up to his preferred unit as head.

    It was learned that the alleged atrocities committed by the officer was presented to the HOS. And rather, he rebuffed and insisted that the directive be carried out immediately. While Toriola was still trying to device strategy to implement the directive, Muri-Okunola threatened to institute disciplinary action against him. And to save his job, Toriola was said to have reversed the earlier redeployed on Kazeem.

    Aside that, the source told our correspondent that Toriola was also axed for quoting and implementing the traffic law that restricted technology-driven commercial motorcycle operators especially GOKADA, Opay and others, from plying over 400 roads including bridges and others.

    Both issues, according to the sources, affected allies of the HOS and threatened his investment and other top government officials in the commercial motorcycle operation in the state.

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