In what appeared to be a reactivation of the oath of secrecy administered on officials close to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in Aso Villa in 2010, workers at the presidential villa who handle classified information yesterday took oath of secrecy.
Permanent secretary of the State House, Tijjani Umar, warned the villa staff that disclosing confidential information without authorisation will attract penalties under the public service rules.
Umar stated this during the administration of Oath of Secrecy and Declaration of Secrecy on 42 staff of the presidential villa by Justice Hamza Muazu of the FCT High Court.
In 2010, an Islamic oath of secrecy was allegedly administered on everyone associated with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua whose health condition at a Saudi Arabian hospital where he was being treated for a heart and kidney ailment continued to relapse.
In this same vein, the permanent secretary of the State House explained yesterday that the oaths were administered to staff members who handle classified documents.
A statement by the presidential media office signed by assistant director of Information, Patience Tilley-Gyado, quoted Umaru as saying: ‘‘We discovered that due to deployment of officers and retirement a number of our staff need to be placed under the radar so that they will be aware that their jobs, the kind of documents or information they are handling from day to day and beyond, are so important and must be safeguarded.
‘‘That’s the reason we decided to do the needful by administering the Oath of Secrecy, highlighting the importance of letting them know what information they are managing and the consequences of the breach of such information”.
The permanent secretary, who disclosed that the exercise will be continuous, expressed delight that so far the State House has not recorded any breach of information.
‘‘We have not had any breach. We don’t anticipate having any breach. But then it’s our duty to let them understand that if there is any, there will be consequences after investigations and that also includes after they have retired from the Civil Service,’’ he said.
According to him, the presidency would not tolerate any act of truancy and breach of oath of secrecy by the staff.
‘‘The essence of this exercise is to ensure the safety and security of government information, documents and facilities,’’ he said.
He said leaking classified information without authorization was a grievous offence.
He said, “This exercise is the beginning of doing what is right in various offices. The rules must be enforced and any breach carries a consequence.
“From now on, you are under the radar, we are going to watch and follow you. What we have done today is to administer the oath of secrecy on staff of the State House, who handled classified documents.
“When we say classified documents, they are secret and other documents that ought not to be handled without due diligence. So, I think it’s so important because we are alarmed by the fact that nowadays, due to deployment of staff and through retirement, we discovered that a number of our officers need to be placed under the radar.
“They will be aware that the jobs that they are holding, and the kind of documents or information they are holding from day to day, Monday to Friday and beyond, those documents are so important and must be safeguarded.
“And the breach of such documents would take away from the delivery of service and that was the reason why we decided that we should do the needful by administering the oath of secrecy, and highlighting the import of letting them know what information they are managing, and then the consequences of the breach of such information.
“I think when you let people know, and then along the way, you find them wanting, the consequences are very clear.
“And so before we even went forward to do the administration of the oath, what we did was to do sensitization training for them, so that the Official Secret Act will be spelt out to them very clearly.
“And the Special Services Office of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was here today to take them through all the rudiments of that information that they require, and the type of knowledge that they would need to keep close to them in discharging their day-to-day responsibilities.”
The Permanent Secretary described the exercise as a huge success .
“You could see from the solemn way the exercise was conducted by the Honourable Justice Hamza Muazu of the FCT High Court, the staff are now much more aware and much more alert, going forward, about their responsibilities.
“And then to the likely outcome of what any breach might bring about, we have not had any breach. We don’t anticipate any breach. But then it’s our duty to let them understand that if there is any, which also includes after they have left government service; that will be investigated. And then the appropriate punishment will be given”.
Earlier before the administration of the Oaths, Tukur Yahaya, the director of Special Services Department, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, took the staff through sensitization, explaining the essence of the Official Secrets Act, 1962.