BY Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, AHURAKA ISAH, SOLOMON AYADO and Michael Oche, ABUJA
The Senate yesterday passed for second reading, a bill for an Act seeking to make it an offence, employment by Ministries, department and Agencies (MDAs) to fill existing vacant positions in federal government offices without advertising the vacancies.
The Bill seeks to promote integrity and transparency in the recruitment of personnel into the federal civil service by making it an offence for a federal ministry, agency or parastatal to fill existing vacancies in their organisations if such vacancies have not been published.
If the Bill is passed into law, it becomes an offence for heads of MDAs who violate the provisions punishable on conviction with a fine of N3 million or 2-year jail term or both.
This followed a motion moved by Senator Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti South) for a Bill titled ‘A Bill for an Act to make it an offence for vacant positions in the Federal Civil Service to be filled without their being advertised and for other matters connected therewith, 2017.’
The Red Chamber passed the Bill to second reading and referred the Bill to the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service to work on it and report back in four weeks.
When it is passed into law, it shall be an offence for MDAs to fill a vacancy in their establishment unless the vacancies are placed on their notice board for 3 months before the commencement of the recruitment exercise.
In addition, the vacancies and the positions with the requirements are to be sent to the Federal Civil Service Commission immediately upon the existence of such vacancies for appropriate action.
The Bill reads: ‘’Any person who violates the provisions of Section 1 of the Bill commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Three Hundred Thousand Naira (N3 00,000) or to imprisonment for a term of not more than Two years or to both.
“Where a Federal Ministry, agency or parastatal commits an offence under subsection (1), any officer, director or agent of the Federal Ministry, agency or parastatal who directed, authorized, assented to or acquiesced or participated in the commission of the offence is a party to and guilty of the offence and is liable on conviction to the punishment provided for the offence, whether or not the Federal Ministry, agency or parastatal has been prosecuted for or convicted of the offence”.
In her lead debate, Senator Olujimi said the Bill seeks to mandate the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) to compile and publish a complete list of all vacant positions in the federal civil service and its parastatals once every quarter.
The lawmaker said the Bill, when passed into law, would make it an offense to fill any vacant position in any ministry, parastatals, corporation and government department, unless it is in accordance with the provisions of the Act under consideration.
She said, “It is common knowledge today that employment in Government parastatals in most cases is not based on merit as god-fatherism, favouritism, nepotism and ethnicity have taken the front burner.
“Millions of Nigerian men and women are denied equal opportunities in recruitment today, as most vacancies are not advertised publicly”.
Olujimi insisted that the failure to publish existing vacancies by government agencies has given rise to corruption and fallen standards of education due largely to the fact that educational qualifications are no longer criteria for employment.
Her words: “Similarly, the unemployed seek short cuts to gain employment because of the lack of trust in the system.
“Nigerians engage in all sorts of vices to get their relatives, friends and loved ones into vacant positions and this has been accepted as the general norm. This is unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue”.
In their contribution, other Senators who bemoaned the rampant incidence of secret recruitment into the federal civil service in the guise of replacement said the Bill would help restore transparency and equity in federal employments.
In his submission, Senate President Bukola Saraki stated that the Bill, when passed into law, would give millions of Nigerians a sense of belonging in matters of state.
“For the unity of this country, everybody must know that they have a sense of belonging”, Saraki stated
Saraki subsequently referred the Bill to the Senate committee on Establishment and Public Service, with a directive to report back in four weeks.
FG Set To Activate No-work-no-pay Law
Meanwhile, the federal government has concluded plans to activate the no-work-no-pay law in checking the excesses of workers in the public sector, particularly those who embark on strike without following due process.
Aside the no-work-no-pay policy, the period for which workers embark on strike would be regarded as non-pensionable period.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige disclosed this, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja yesterday.
The minister who noted that the law had been in existence since it has been captured under the trade dispute Act said part of other regulations which the government was considering is the need for affiliate labour unions to clearly spell out their tenure system and make such document available to the ministry that intercedes whenever there is labour disputes.
He explained that there is need to forestall situations where some union’s executive members become sit-tight administrators who criticise government from their comfort zone on a persistent basis.
He said, “There were certain industrial matters that were looked into today in council. Council had earlier directed the SGF to set up a technical committee on industrial relations matters in the federal public service. This committee was set up precisely on April 27, 2016.
“It was chaired by the SGF, with the Head of Civil Service of the Federation as co-chair. Members were chairman of National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission; Ministry of Labour; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Science and Technology, as well as the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and they produced a report. This report was all encompassing and council looked at it today.
“First and foremost, the report emphasised the need to implement the law on-no-work-no-pay. The on-no-work-no-pay is not a rule, neither is it a policy. It is a law captured on trade disputes Act of the Federation.
“Section 43, to be precise, says that workers have a right to disengage from an employer if there is a break down in discussions or negotiation. But for the period that the worker does so the employer should not pay and those periods are to be counted as non-pensionable times in the period of work.
“So, council today re-emphasised that that law is still in sitting and that it should be brought to the knowledge of workers in the public and private sector, especially those in the public sector”.
Ngige further stated that the plethora of strikes in recent times was allegedly orchestrated to frustrate the current administration and portray it in bad light.
He said recent industrial actions, including those carried out by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), among others all flouted the constitutional provisions, which state that government must be well notified ahead of any strike.
He added: “We have to do that because of the spate of industrial crisis we have suffered in the last two months when we had plethora of strikes all over the place. So, council has said this should be re-emphasised to workers so that they will know.
“Council looked at another recommendation in terms of people who are permanently doing union activities. They are presidents of trade unions for life and they sit-tight, criticise those who are trying to do third term or fourth term, while they themselves are sitting tight.
“It was agreed that my ministry should continue with our work in terms of fishing out the unions that don’t have constitutions that prescribe time limit for their elected officers. Such unions should be made to comply with the law, so that people can be elected, serve out their term and other people will take their place. That is democracy in account”.
Poly Lecturers Give FG 21-Day Strike Ultimatum
But yesterday, Polytechnic lecturers in the country under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) gave the federal government a 21-day ultimatum to address issues bedeviling them or face a strike.
The Union, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, frowned at what they described as neglect of the polytechnic sub-sector by the federal government.
The letter signed by ASUP president, Usman Dutse, which had attached to it a communiqué issued at the end of the Unions NEC held in Abia State, reminded the federal government that the union had withdrawn the services of its members in a one week warning strike in February, 2017 over same issues.
He stated that after a meeting between ASUP and the Minister of Education on the August 22, 2017, the union had expected the government to make progress on some of the issues raised
He said the minister had at the meeting assured the union that within one month issues presented by the union would have been addressed.
FG To Ban Private Practice By Doctors In Public Hospitals
Meanwhile, the federal government is set to regulate activities of public health workers, medical doctors in particular, who engage in private practice.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, disclosed this after the weekly FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa yesterday.
He said law of the land does not allow any public officer to do anything other than farming.
According to him, a technical committee had been set up to look at the Yayale Ahmed report on the health sector.
Adewole noted that the federal government also came up with a resolution to peg the minimum years for doctor’s residency practice at seven.
He said: “Council considered an important memo on industrial relations, particularly in the public sector. That report dealt extensively with several issues but for us the health sector the most important is the need to do comprehensive job evaluation.
“So, government has decided to set up a committee that would evaluate what exactly we do as individuals and how much should we be paid in a way that we can really pay appropriately across board through the entire country.
“Council also looked at the issue of residency training programme and decided that the training should last for a fixed time of seven years. After training for seven years individuals should exit the programme so that other people can come into the programme. “Council has also decided to look into the issue of private practice by medical doctors in the public sector and a committee has been set up to look extensively into that issue because we want to resolve the issue of what the law of the land states and what the rule of professional ethics says.
The minister continued: “The law of the land does not allow any public officer to do anything other than farming. So, that committee will make appropriate recommendations to government on these important issues, which is of considerable interest to quite a number of Nigerians.
“In addition to that, we will also look at the Yayale Ahmed report which tried to look into the relationship between professional groups in the health sector, and the office of the SGF has been mandated to forward a white paper on the Yayale Ahmed report to FEC so that once and for all government can restore harmony in the health sector”.