Condemnation and backlash have greeted the announcement of the suspension of the National Social Investment Programme Agency Boss, Halima Shehu.
The latest is coming from the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Comrade Auwal Ibrahim Rafisanjani.
Mr. Rafisanjani who gave the charge on the trending report underscored the need to checkmate the excesses of Ministers overseeing Agencies and Parastatals.
Rafisanjani urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to follow due process in handling issues relating to the suspension or removal of public officers and political appointees confirmed by the Senate.
The suspended Shehu who was billed to handover starter packs to Victims of Kidney harvesting at New Karu Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State, was alleged suspended via a letter purportedly signed by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu.
As at the time of filing this report, the Presidency, Office of the Secretary to.the Government of the Federation (oSGF) and the Minister are yet to make any official statement to the alleged suspension of the NSIPA National Coordinator/CEO.
Before her recent her confirmation by the Senate, Hajia Shehu was the National Programme Coordinator of National Conditional Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, successfully managed the scheme transparently with success stories.
She also digitalized the the National Conditional Cash Transfer programme with a view to ensure transparency and accountability in the deployment of the fund to millions of beneficiaries across the country.
While stressing the need to ensure strict adherence to due process, the CISLAC helmsman argued that any public officer and political appointees can only be suspended or removed if such person is declared to be corrupt, incapacitated or resign, as provided by extant laws.
He said: “They (Ministers) need to coordinate and provide leadership not to create confusion and not to make the place to be effective and inefficient.
“I think it is important that all the Ministers should actually have good understanding of the roles they play because many of the Ministers because of lack of proper orientation they have not been able to grasp the work, many of them especially new appointees, they need to have the understanding and rudiments of work they are suppose to do according to our laws and according to the terms and reference given to them.
“But if any Minister feels that he or she has a quarrel or misunderstanding with another public official who he suppose to be supervising, and then takes arbitrary decision, I think that is not acceptable and that is not good.
“So we encourage the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to continue to organize more of capacity enhancement and leadership responsibility so that there will be harmony within the various Ministers and other public officials because I think lack of training and capacity enhancement is one of the major problems we have that’s why some public officials are not performing; because many of them just assumed that they were appointed as Ministers to have the share of the national cake not to really do the service.
“So, there must be concerted efforts to bring back regular capacity enhancement. That’s what happen in other places; even if you are a public official and you found yourself as political appointment, you’ll still need to go through capacity engagement because everyday new emerging issues are coming and they need to know how to tackle these in the best manner.
“So, in Nigeria the training and retraining, refresher course have declined and I think it is one of the challenges that we have that is making efficient and transparent and accountable leadership to be very low and poor,” he emphasized.
While responding to the question on whether the Minister has powers to issue a letter of suspension to another Appointee of the President who was screened and confirmed by the Senate, Comrade Rafisanjani argued that government must follow proper and transparent due process on issue that warrant suspension or removal, adding that “you can not just sack. Even small workers you cannot outrightly sack them like that.
“If the President appointed her and you have any cause to remove her, the Presidency should have also go through the same process of appointing and removing but if you do this as an outright thing, it would suggest that we are not a country or due process and there must be reason.
“The Constitution is very clear on how to remove a public official. If the person is not corrupt and there was no evidence of corruption, if the person is not incapacitated and there was no evidence of the person being incapacitated, or if the person has not willingly resign I think those are the key issues that our constitution always look at, on how to remove or suspend public officials.
“But you cannot just wake up and suspend somebody just like that. I think the question of security tenure, the question of ensuring that in the first place you find public officials who are competent who are qualified, who are not corrupt is the major reason why we are emphasising that government at all levels must shop for quality and those who have no deficiency in terms of their capacity and intellectual experience in the work that they are assigned to do.”
One of the top officials of Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation who spoke under condition of anonymity with Humanitarian Correspondents, attested to the integrity of the NSIPA National Coordinator during the last administration.
The official who expressed shock over the allegation said: “She (Shehu) has not even done any programme yet. She is just getting ready and making plans to hit the ground running this January. I don’t know what went wrong.
“What I do know about her is that, she has experience on the job from inception of NSIP, she was a Directorate in the office before her appointment as National Program Coordinator of Conditional Cash Transfer, successfully managed the NCTO transparently with success stories.
“She was also the National Director of Humanitarian/Social Directorate that coordinated, canvassed and mobilised the beneficiaries of NSIP for the presidential campaign.
“All the programmes of NSIP are laudable and very impactful, Federal Government should give it a proper direction, stabilization, frequency, consistency and sustainability in the interest of the indigent beneficiaries. All I care.”