EXCLUSIVE: Foreign Affairs Ministry, Head Of Service Clash Over 1,000 Workers
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.
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AMAZING DECAY IN THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ABUJA.
THERE WAS A THING CALLED DIPLOMATIC POSTING IN THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, ABUJA.(FOREIGN MISSION DUTY TOUR).
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE NOT A FALLACY OR PETITION.
First, you call it a school, a journey or another phase of life. Though diplomatic posting is supposed to be one among the public service career, in essence a call to serve our fatherland and to represent the interest of your country. Hmmmm…. my experience during this diplomatic assignment has caused me to pose a lot of questions about the real meaning of diplomatic posting from the point of view of the Nigerian ELITES CLASS. This experience has prepared me for a Spartan trek in my new phase of life.
The hullabaloo began from the day you are employed into the MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ABUJA a so-called ELITES CAMP (THE FOREIGN SERVICE). Even though every letter of appointment is boldly printed MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ABUJA. This fact never qualified some cadre of employees (THE BRANCH B CADRE) to be called a bona fide member of the esteemed organization. REASONS UNKNOWN… because there is no supporting facts for such disparity. Some itching minds may start asking questions about my intentions for this write-up. The reason is, my 19 years of dedicated and uncompromising services to the same services that have been discriminating against me. At this point, some reasonable persons would like to pay unwavering attention to my story lines. Even though this issue is just a journey and another phase of life. Do you think this evidence is substantially enough? The answer is NO. After prolonged years of service, but still I am asking questions of dissatisfaction it will not make sense to outsiders who lacked knowledge about what is happening in the inner circle. The problem is first with ” THE FOREIGN SERVICE RULES which those whom designed its framework are from the other privileged cadre, (BRANCH A ELITE STRATA ARM OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ABUJA). They designed this malignant rules by assigning nomenclatures that are antagonistic in nature to discriminate and disenfranchised some members of staff from certain benefits in the ministry that was meant for all the staffers. Years before I joined the service staff identify cards where categorised by colours blue and red, today, I will not have enough time to back up on that. While the prerequisites for the disadvantaged cadre ( BRANCH B) is the minimum requirements of entry into the public service of Nigeria but for the ELITES CADRE ( BRANCH A) is a minimum of 2/2 lower credit from any Nigerian University in the field of Arts, social sciences and humanities degrees. Maybe this is the justification for the disparity. Again, is this enough reason for these practices of imperialism in an organization in an independent country like Nigeria. The practice has been established for decades unchecked because of the BROUHAHA covered by the lips service and hypocritical tendencies that have eaten deep into the fabric of NIGERIA FOREIGN SERVICE. Though nearly all of the BRANCH A are half-baked graduates with lesser potentials to drive this magnificent dream of NIGERIA FOREIGN SERVICE to the world stage. They are a bunch of opportunistic guys. A share of this blame is apportioned to the system of dichotomy in the entry point into the public service of Nigeria. TOPIC FOR ANOTHER DAY. This unnecessary spaces created by perpetrators have rubbished Nigeria representation at the international arena with large chunk of unpatriotic diplomats who are only after their stomachs, fame, elegant Lifestyle, luxury cars and homes, show off and self aggrandisement at detriment of national interest. Any country without a vibrant foreign service and good foreign representation will be lacking in good policy directions, and good Governance. Don’t also forget that some of these people have not credibly passed the required mandatory standard examinations set by the foreign service academy (FSA) before embarking on foreign posting abroad. Diplomatic posting has become a mere lucrative business among BRANCH A OFFICERS. “What is Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander.” Is worthy to note, that BRANCH B officers are not allowed to participate in the foreign service academy one year mandatory training as it is the practice in developed countries and other African countries such as South Africa who are the contemporaries of Nigeria, In the diplomatic space, and considering our rivalry with South Africa in this context. BRANCH B officers or administrative Attaché are deprived from acquiring a diplomatic passports for the purpose of diplomatic posting, which the military Attachés and immigration Attachés with the same designation at post are all the carriers of the diplomatic passport for the same course. Is this enough reason for my argument? it is still NO.
While in the diplomatic assignation that’s where the disparity, discrimination, oppression, and suppression that can lead to traumatic brain injury and psychological disorders were clearly mated on members of BRANCH B in a foreign land without any justice system put in place to address or rescue the victim. I heard of a story of a BRANCH B that was allocated an office space under the staircase simply because she was very vocal, and she came back to Nigeria with a psychological disorder. Another communication officer who was posted to Pretoria was made to be trekking from Sandton Johannesburg daily to Pretoria, which was (55,8 km) for a duration of five months by the Head of Mission and was denied a schedule of duty. He is an old man in his late 50s, retired now. DEHUMANIZING RIGHT! Who can speak against the ALMIGHTY Heads of missions for the fear of recall and malicious references to the portions of Public Service Rules (PRS) always wrongly quoted to achieve victimisation of the innocent officers who may make the attempt of protesting or challenge a Head of mission. At this stage, the looting of funds allocated to missions for the purposes of providing good livelihood or good welfare of all officers to ensure proper national representation is been hijacked and misappropriated for the benefit of BRANCH A officers living almost all official quarters in most of our diplomatic missions in a state of deterioration, by the Heads of Missions. While this fact has become a norm and usual practice in all Nigerian missions with even much more to say which time, and space might not permit me. The latest conspiracy theory is a proposal presented to the presidency for the redeployment of all BRANCH B officers into the pool of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for an unjust course. Meanwhile, this fact is not the practice in other countries of the world. Even though the victims ( BRANCH B) are not the ones responsible for the mismanagement of the epileptic system of Ministry of foreign Affairs (MFA) that is already in ICU for an urgent rescue by the federal government.
MY STOROY AT POST:
Prior to departure to assume duty at post, I spent five years at the Consular and Immigration, Service, Division (CISD) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abuja. I discharged all my responsibilities meritoriously with strength, vigor, commitment, and dedication to the Nigerian public (PUBLIC OFFICIALS/PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS) across all boards of human endeavors, foreign diplomatic missions and diplomats resident in Nigeria inclusive. The nature of my duty was a challenging but satisfying one. While still building my service profile until December 2015, the news of so-called diplomatic postings came knocking at my door post though with mixed feelings, I reluctantly accepted and signed my posting letter to warm up for a journey today, I considered another school or phase of life. After all preparations were set and done, we beat farewell to families and friends, then departed Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja, Nigeria at 1400hrs on 21st February 2016 on board Ethiopia Airways flight and arrived Pretoria South Africa 12:30pm at wonderboom local airport. Before arrival, my colleague contacted me in Addis Ababa Ethiopia and confirmed my flight was wrongly booked. So instead of disembarking at O.R. Tambo international airport in Johannesburg there will be another connecting flight to Cape Town international airport, what such a local country tour? but it was not a funny experience. While in Cape Town my family and I were stranded and it took faith, courage, and charisma for me to surmount this mountain. Talk of connecting another local flight to payment for excess luggage, to the language barrier Et cetra. Finally, we touched the ground at the local airport on 22nd February 2016, only to discover that my colleague was despatched with a driver to receive us at O.R. Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, so another waiting with hunger for hours before they finally arrived. From the airport to a designated hotel booked by the High commission of Nigeria Pretoria and then assumption of duty on the same day. Before my departure, I called the Head of mission then who I presumed to be someone I do call a friend, but he did not response to my calls and SMS. This event was already a signal of what is awaiting me at my new place of national assignment. Now, at the High commission in Pretoria I met the Head of chancery (HOC) and the needed documentations was done, then the next thing was to report to the Head of the mission who refused to see or meet with his new staff for two weeks. After two weeks, he decided to see me and read the riot act to me ( a threat). This kind of intimidating reception was strange and unfamiliar to me but I just have to breast up to accept the unknown conditions and new realities as a part of the new phase of life. In an unbefitting small apartment in the lodge, my family and I had to spent my first 28-days, plus additional two weeks paying from my pocket. This event was just a tip of the Ice berg come to think of the challenges of adopting to a new environment, while no schedule of duty was assigned to me as the Head of Mission told me my services was not even needed in the mission, as a BRANCH B officer. One thing led to another he was reluctant to get my accreditation done, which strayed for five months without proper documentations for myself and my family, and we were out of status almost like illegal immigrants. We could not access medical services without a required permit in the host country. Who cares about that but not until I resolved to protest and writing a petition to headquarters (HQ) to please return me back home before we got documented. From hotel to a rented apartment for two, months, the Head of mission and finance Attaché refused to pay for my accommodation while the land lady threatened to kick us out of the apartment. With the intervention of the Head of a chancery and several calls by the management of the property the rent was finally paid, and I was told that my level was too junior to stay in an apartment I struggled to secure through the help of my colleague who was the first occupier. The mission politics and disparity gradually unfolded in different phases, and that led to changing my schedules from Consular and Immigration assistant to store management and protocol to secretarial duties, which are not my field of training, then finally to administrative duties. The story is not as short as you may think because at a point in time I revolted and requested to return to Nigeria after being subjected to psychological trauma and deprivation of my benefits, but was still subjected with over working and overwhelmed with six different schedules a time. What about the official quarters, which was a bush allocated to me without bedding for four years plus with licking roofs. The swimming pool was a habitat for Spirogyra, algae, and frogs. Some Head of missions in conspiracy with corrupt Finance Attachés are currently suspending medical aids or medical insurance for The BRANCH B OFFICERS (ADMINISTRATIVE ATTACHÉ) during the pandemic period as contrary to the existent regulations. And several inhumane treatments of the cadre by the FOREIGN SERVICE CADRE (BRANCH A) OFFICERS in the name of disparity. WHOEVER IS THE PROPONENT FOR THE REDEPLOYMENT OF BRANCH B OFFICERS POLICY AS A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS OF Ministry Of Foreign Affairs (MFA) SHOULD BE ASKED ABOUT HIS RATIONALE BEHIND THAT DASTARDLY ACT.
My final question will be is this the kind of Foreign Service and Diplomatic Assignation we all bargain for? This idea has to stop now or NEVER!