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Panelists underscore need for transparency, accountability in public service

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Dr Dasuki Arabi , Director General of Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), has underscored the need for adherence to policies by governments at all levels, to promote transparency and accountability.

Arabi made the call with other members of the panel at a discussion on “promoting transparency and accountability in the Nigerian public service; the policy options required,” on Friday in Abuja.

The event, the 4th edition of Integrity Icon and Awards ceremony, centered on celebrating five honest and outstanding public officials, including an NSCDC officer and a civil servant with the Police Service Commission.

They stressed the need for Nigerians to comply with policies in the public service to achieve meaningful progress.

Newsmen reports that Integrity Icon is a national campaign led by Accountability Lab Nigeria with support from Luminate, Ford, and MacArthur Foundations aimed at identifying and celebrating the most honest government officials.

Arabi said, “Digitisation of public service process will help to improve transparency and ensure accountability.

“So the policy of e-government master plan should be imbibed by all, government files and record should be digitised to ensure all processes go front line.”

A Media Strategist, Eugenia Abu, called for reforms at the grassroots, to ensure transparency and accountability.

According to her, some people that ought to be held accountable at the various local governments are the council leaders.

“Local Government Chairmen are not what we used to know them to be, therefore there is the need for them to get reformed and be proactive in governance.

“We must ensure Local Government Chairmen are doing the needful on engagement of citizens and citizens hold them accountable to chat the way forward,” Abu said.

Ann Iyonu, Director of Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, decried lack of political will on the part of government officials to often hinder the effective implementation of policies.

According to her, even though there is no need for more policies, it is implementation that is a problem.

Iyonu said, “How do you get public institutions to comply with implementation of these policies?

“You do not need plenty of policies, but to get civil servants to comply with the Acts; if circular is what civil servants respect, let the Head of Service issue it and see to who complies or not.”

Meanwhile, Hajia Halima Ben, from Open Government Partnership Nigeria, stressed the need for government institutions adherence to policies.

“Mandating Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) to respect Freedom of Information is key; we do not have to reinvent the will, when we have many policies.

“Therefore the need for political will to ensure every MDA complies with policies and promote the effective implementation; also record keeping and relevant awareness must be encouraged to achieve goals,” Ben said.

On his part, Mr Fidelis Edeh, from Service Accord Foundation, said knowledge sharing should be encouraged on ways to promote due process.

“We need to change from bad behaviours and change comes by requisite knowledge about doing things the right way.

“There should be knowledge sharing on right ways people should adhere to rules, to promote behavioural change,” Edeh said.

The high point of the event was a discussion on what it means to be public servant, role of Nigerian government, how people should think about inclusive and fair society, and conferment of awards to honest civil servants.

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ECOWAS Court nullifies ECOWAS Commission staff’s dismissal

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice has nullified the dismissal of Mr Momodu Cham, a former staff of the Commission, saying it breached Article 69 of the ECOWAS staff regulations.

Cham had filed the suit following his dismissal from his position as a Procurement Officer with the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (GIABA), a specialised ECOWAS agency.

The applicant, a community citizen residing in Banjul, Gambia, had joined the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) and its President, as first and second Respondents, respectively, in the suit challenging his sack.

Delivering judgment, Justice Dupe Atoki, the Judge Rapporteur, held that the cessation of Cham’s salary by the Commission before the exhaustion of the appeal process was arbitrary, unlawful, null, and void.

According to Justice Atoki, the action of the Commission is contrary to Article 73(b) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

The Court, therefore, ordered the Respondents to pay Cham his salary arrears and other entitlements from January 2021 to June 2021, as compensation.

It further ordered the Commission to pay Mr Cham’s salaries and emoluments from July to December 2021 as compensation for the unlawful dismissal.

“Requesting an on-the-spot response to charges without prior notice or an opportunity to prepare a defense violates procedural safeguards outlined in the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

“The regulations are designed to ensure an Applicant’s rights are fully maintained until the Council’s final decision.

“Consequently, the summary dismissal of the Applicant by the 2nd Respondent breached Article 69 of the regulation.

“Therefore, the cessation of the Applicant’s salary and other emoluments after invoking the right of appeal is a violation of Article 73(b) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations,” Justice Atoki held.

The Court, however, declined to grant any orders for mandatory injunctions against the Commission and reinstatement of the applicant .

The Applicant had contended at the trial that he was suspended on July 11, 2019, following a forensic audit report by Ernst and Young UK, which implicated him in irregularities related to the purchase of IT equipment for GIABA.

He said that on Jan. 26, 2021, he was summarily dismissed, and his salaries and emoluments were withheld in violation of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

Cham had prayed the court to grant him several reliefs, including a declaration that his dismissal was arbitrary, null, and void.

He also sought an order setting aside his dismissal and the immediate payment of his salary arrears and other entitlements from January 2021.

The applicant had also prayed for his reinstatement to his position as a Procurement Officer and compensation for costs incurred in prosecuting the suit.

The Respondents, in their defense, had however, maintained that the applicant was properly suspended and later dismissed following a forensic audit report and a subsequent query.

They had also argued that the dismissal was appropriate due to the allegations of gross misconduct, embezzlement, theft, fraud, and abuse of trust.

The three-member panel also had Justices Gberi-bè Ouattara, presiding, and  Sengu Mohamed Koroma, as a member.

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Tinubu names National Theatre after Wole Soyinka

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President Bola Tinubu has named the National Arts Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos, after Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka.

Tinubu announced this in a tribute he wrote to celebrate Soyinka in commemoration of his 90th birthday.

The tribute dated “Professor Wole Soyinka at 90: Tribute to a national treasure and global icon,” was personally signed by the President and made available to journalists on Friday.

Tinubu expressed his delight to join admirers around the world in celebrating Soyinka, adding that July 13 would be the climax of the series of local and international activities held in his honour.

Tinubu wrote, “Professor Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Literature Prize in 1986, deserves all the accolades as he marks the milestone of 90 years on earth. Having beaten prostate cancer, this milestone is a fitting testament to his ruggedness as a person and the significance of his work.

“It is also fitting we celebrate this national treasure while he is still with us. I am, accordingly, delighted to announce the decision of the Federal Government to rename the National Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, as the Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts.”

Tinubu stated that Nigeria not only celebrates Soyinka’s remarkable literary achievements, but also his unwavering dedication to the values of human dignity and justice.

When he turned 80, I struggled to find words to encapsulate his achievements because they were simply too vast. Since then, he has added to his corpus with his series of Interventions, which have been published in many volumes.

“Professor Soyinka is a colossus, a true renaissance person blessed with innumerable talents. He is a playwright, actor, poet, human rights and political activist, composer, and singer.

“He is a giant best riding not just the literary world but our nation, Africa, and the world,” he averred.

According to the President, Soyinka is one Nigerian whose influence transcends the Nigerian space and who inspires people around the world, explaining that since his youth, he has been a vocal critic of oppression and injustice wherever it exists, from apartheid in South Africa to racism in the United States.

“Beginning from his 20s, he took personal risks for the sake of our nation. His courage was evident when he attempted to broker peace at the start of the civil war in 1967. Detained for two years for his bravery, he narrated his experience in his prison memoir, ‘The Man Died.’

“Despite deprivation and solitary confinement, his resolve to speak truth to power and fight for the marginalised was further strengthened.

“Our paths crossed during our struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election,” Tinubu stated.

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Tinubu sympathises with victims of building collapse in Plateau

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President Bola Tinubu receives the news of the tragic collapse of a school building, which resulted in multiple deaths and many surviving victims in Jos, Plateau, with profound grief.

His spokesman, Chief Ajuri Ngelale, in a statement on Friday, said the President described the incident as a huge loss to the nation, as well as a devastating development – too excruciating to imagine.

“The President condoles with the bereaved families, families of all the victims, and the people and Government of Plateau State.

“President Tinubu commends emergency responders, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), security agencies, and all citizens involved in the search, rescue, and resuscitation efforts.

“The President assures the people of Plateau State of his fervent support at this difficult time,” said the statement.

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