The Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, has said that Muhammadu Buhari has the power to extend the tenure of a permanent secretary.
Oyo-Ita was reacting to the position of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Basic Education which said the President has no such power under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The House committee had faulted Buhari’s decision to extend the tenure of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr. Jamila Shu’ara, by one extra year.
Speaking to journalists in an interview on Friday, March 31, the Head of Service said the power vested in the President “to appoint also gives him the authority over reinstatement and extension of tenure of a permanent secretary as the case may be.”
In its report, the committee, chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, pointed that while Section 171 of the constitution empowered the President to appoint top officials of government, including permanent secretaries, the provision did not cover the power to extend a permanent secretary’s tenure.
It, therefore, ordered Oyo-Ita to immediately invoke the relevant rules to recover all the salaries and benefits paid to Shu’ara in the last one year.
Oyo-Ita said: “Yes, I am very much in the centre of the storm as it were as the Head of Service. But what I tried to explain to the House Committee on Basic Education and Services is that the permanent secretary is one of the four appointees in Section 171 subsection 2 (d) of the Nigerian constitution as amended, that Mr. President has the full prerogative to appoint at his pleasure.
“The appointments of permanent secretaries, ambassadors, Head of Service, ministers and other such aides of Mr. President are wholly his prerogative.
“The committee argued that the provision covered appointments and not extension. But I further supported that argument of government with the Interpretation Act 123 of Nigeria which further goes to explain.
“The Act says the powers that are vested in the person who has power to appoint, that those power also gives him the authority over reinstatement and extensions as the case may be.
“Their argument is that extension is not written there verbatim but when you reinstate somebody, it is as good as an extension.
“If somebody was in a position for a period of time and you now reinstate him back to that position, it is tantamount to say you have extended the person’s stay on that position. So, I think the argument is more of legal technicalities and I hope the matter will be resolved very soon.”