President Buhari - Media Chat

She did ramble a bit but I picked one very important question she asked the president. It was something to do with how the president will infuse the civil service with his ‘burning fire’ for reform, so that they can turn a new leaf. She said something about the president being like a lone warrior.

I’d never seen her before… nor heard of her. I noticed though that she wasn’t sitting very professionally when I tuned in to Channels TV to watch the presidential chat yesterday and commented about her posture.

She did ramble a bit but I picked one very important question she asked the president. It was something to do with how the president will infuse the civil service with his ‘burning fire’ for reform, so that they can turn a new leaf. She said something about the president being like a lone warrior. Honestly I cannot remember much of what the president said in response, but he did say that the civil service already had their traditional trainings and that they also do promotion examinations. I think Dr. Ngozi’s question was far more important and goes to the very heart of our problems today.

I saw other bits of the interview – some parts I missed – today. I also heard Dr. Anyaegbunam asking the president about EFCC and ICPC. She said she wanted to see serious reforms in the anti-corruption agencies; something to show that we are on to a new trajectory in Nigeria and that we shall win the war. Again, I didn’t get the president’s direct answer to that question.

You see, the president is like a magician. You just have to be awed at his presence. He has this gaze and deliberateness that transfixes most people. You are careful around him lest you get tongue-lashed too; for he is quick to anger. So, Auntie Ngozi here ended up asking the questions and also providing most of the answers herself. The idea is you don’t go hitting the president below the belt no matter how angry you are with the situation. To be granted access to the president is to understand that you are not there to make the man sweat, or angry. Or else…

Meanwhile, one very critical problem that no president has been able to solve – and the chief reason behind the lethargy, inefficiency, corruption and frustration in the ‘civil’ service – is the ‘shitty’ pay they get officially.

The man from Premium Times, Ibanga Isine, tried to be more direct, and I caught him ask questions about ‘inclusiveness’ (that same question the president was asked at the US Institute of Peace), the aspect about the South-East feeling a bit left out. And also he asked the question about the government and its security agencies disobedience of court judgments. I have seen people say the Premium Times guy was taking things personal. The president’s answer to the first question about Igbos was well… not good. The reason behind the disobedience to court judgment too… not tactical enough. I would have preferred the president emphasising our Nigerian-ness, and promising more inclusion of every group, rather than ‘the CBN governor is Igbo, the NNPC GMD is Igbo…’ I would have also hoped that even if he may want to disobey court orders because of the gravity of some people’s offences, he should do so without making any official statement about it, and we should be careful lest we institute an environment of anarchy – as people will soon take the courts less serious since the president has said it is okay to disobey them if you believe people may jump bail (even if verdicts have not been reached). God help those who fall into the traps of their nearest District Police Office (DPO). Better to deal with errant judges towards court reform, than rubbish courts entirely.

I believe the journalists did well. The excoriation of the journalists I have seen on social media is not justified. Kayode Akintemi of Channels was professional. I didn’t hear my own Editor-in-Chief (Mannir Dan-Ali – Daily Trust) say anything though. Again, when you are with the president, you don’t behave like a mad dog. You listen more than you talk. But worse than not asking tough questions, is the un-critical praise of everything the man says, afterwards especially on social media.

Meanwhile, one very critical problem that no president has been able to solve – and the chief reason behind the lethargy, inefficiency, corruption and frustration in the ‘civil’ service – is the ‘shitty’ pay they get officially. Attached herewith is the breakdown of the total entitlements for people who work in our civil service (consolidated basic + allowances). From this, you will see that Assistant Directors – after 20 years of work – earn about N120,000 per month. The highest level in the service (G16 step 9), goes home with like N450,000 monthly. That is after like 33 1/2 years of work, and at the level of Director. These are grandfathers and grandmothers, or at least people with children in university and great expectations from the society.

Civil servants are angry. And the more you call them ‘servants’, the more they ‘deal’ with all of us. To make things worse, all that huge pay in the oil, telecoms, and other privileged sectors has not made the the ‘public servants’ there less corrupt.

Their colleagues in different parastatals earn 10 times their salaries in some instances. In places like the oil sector, it could be about 30 times! Civil servants are angry. And the more you call them ‘servants’, the more they ‘deal’ with all of us. To make things worse, all that huge pay in the oil, telecoms, and other privileged sectors has not made the the ‘public servants’ there less corrupt. In case you don’t know, CIVIL SERVANTS work for core ministries. PUBLIC SERVANTS work in parastatals.

Who is going to deal with this? Same government, same years of service, same qualifications, yet such a huge variance in salaries! All of the parastatals are spun out of the ministries anyway. I heard a first-hand story of an Assistant Director transferred out of a ministry to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), as one of the pioneer Directors. He immediately started earning like 20 times his former salary and traveling all over the world for different ‘conferences’. 18 months after, the Permanent Secretary asked that he be recalled. Who will go back to suffering? The guy came back to the ministry, thundering “Are you people crazy? I can pay the salaries of three Perm Secs!”

Except we want to deceive ourselves, the corruption problem is not about to be solved by scaring people to death. Even if you jail a number of people, and block many loopholes, contractors will still suffer as they pay out most of their profits to these wounded lions. Obasanjo couldn’t fix this, ditto Yar’adua and GEJ. Who will?

Except we want to deceive ourselves, the corruption problem is not about to be solved by scaring people to death. Even if you jail a number of people, and block many loopholes, contractors will still suffer as they pay out most of their profits to these wounded lions. Obasanjo couldn’t fix this, ditto Yar’adua and GEJ. Who will?

So you see, Anyaegbunam actually has a point. In the meantime, the need for some impetus to the attitudinal change is the reason we formed that Institute for Service Excellence (isegg.org). At least let us chip in our little quota for God and country.

It would be great if President Buhari can help tackle this problem. Really great.

(I have attached the original (source) document and the one I retyped for clarity. The president advised that we practice investigative journalism, so a little bird dropped this on my lap a couple of months ago.)
Consolidated Civil Service Salary Structure (CONCSS)

‘Tope Fasua, an economist and consultant, is CEO of Global Analytics Consulting.