The Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr. Joe Abah has said that access to information is a human right and that the rights have been domesticated in the African continent by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which promotes the rights to seek and receive information within the law.
Dr. Abah made these remarks at the opening ceremony of the training workshop on the Freedom of Information Act for staff of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms from grade levels 12 and above organised by a Non-Governmental organization, Right to know (R2K) in Abuja on Wednesday June 10th 2015. He revealed that Nigeria joined more than 90 Countries of the World in enacting FOI Act in 2011 and that with the quest for improved governance in Nigeria, the FOI presents an excellent opportunity to increase the accountability of Public Servants to the populace, including the media, civil society organisations and individual citizens. He added that the proper use of the FOI will also curb the tendency for impunity in those that exercise state power.
He concluded by showering encomiums on of R2K because according to him the free training is a good example of how civil society can collaborate with government, non-adversarially in pursuit of common objectives.
The one-day workshop on FOI dwelt on understanding key elements of FOI, implications for all public institutions, possible challenges and existing global comparative jurisprudence on FOI.
The Executive Secretary of Federal Government Housing Loans Board( FGSHLB), Dr (Mrs) Hannatu Adamu –Fika has said that more than twenty thousand public Servants have so far benefitted from the various categories of soft loans available under the scheme, to enable Public servants buy, build or renovate their own houses since the Board was established in 1974.
Dr Fika announced this recently in Abuja while addressing Directors from various MDAs at the fifth in the series of the monthly BPSR Lunch Time Reform Seminar Series tagged: “Opportunities for Civil Servants to Own Their Own Homes”, further said that the loans board was charged with responsibility of providing housing loan facilities to public servants in the employment of the Federal Government of Nigeria to enable them own Houses for their use and members of their families while in service and retirement.
The Executive Secretary explained to participants at the seminar that the board had embarked on a number of initiatives to enable public servants own their houses and this include entering into partnership with Federal Government Housing Agencies such as Federal Housing Authority, Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Military and the Para Military Post Service Housing Schemes by granting bulk loans to enable them construct houses for allocation to public servants in their employment.
She said that this partnership had made it possible for many public servants to own houses in estates in Lagos State, Owerri in Imo State, Gwagwalada, Kurudu ,Kubwa and Kuje, all in the FCT.
Speaking further on the efforts of the board to expand the scope of opportunities for Public Servants to own houses, Mrs Fika said the Board also partners with reputable estate developers identified by Public Servants themselves under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the construction of affordable houses for the beneficiaries of the housing loan scheme., adding that under this arrangement eight housing estates have been constructed with over one thousand public servants owning their homes in Abuja alone.
Speaking earlier in his opening address, the Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR), Dr Joe Abah said that housing is one of the three basic needs of mankind and most important for physical survival of man after provision of food, adding that adequate housing thus contributes to the attainment of physical and moral stability of a nation and stimulates social stability, work efficiency and the development of individual.
The Director General however described the state of housing in the country, particularly as it concerns Civil Servants as that of crisis situation, manifesting and expressing itself in quantitative and qualitative forms.
He lauded the efforts of the Federal Government for embarking on a number of key initiatives to combat the housing problems in the country. While agreeing that the problem of housing in the country was far from being solved, Dr Abah commended the Federal Government for the establishment of Housing Loans Board to provide Public servants with soft loans to purchase build or renovate their personal houses for peaceful pre retirement life.
Dr. Abah concluded by reminding participants that the seminar was organized to provide a platform and opportunity for closer examination of issues of the Staff Housing Loans Board and to generate ideas and suggestions on how Public Servants can access loans with ease.
The Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms Dr. Joe Abah has been conferred with the patriotic citizen award of Fellowship in Public Policy by the Institute for Government Research Leadership Technology.
At the investiture ceremony in Abuja on Friday 24th April 2015 tagged annual lecture and fellowship investiture with the theme executive health, the Institute explained that the central purpose of the award is as a result of Dr. Abah’s adherence to sound ethics, governance and innovations introduced in the running of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms. It added that the decision was taken after a painstaking research on the understanding that he will continue to contribute in the improvement of the Public Service Policy, general administration and strategy deployment.
The Institute with the mission to promote learning and training through cutting edge research with stakeholders globally inducted forty eight eminent Nigerians as Patriotic Citizens at the ceremony.
The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr Danladi Kifasi has underscored the importance of hand over notes in the public service, particularly one that provides key knowledge and information regarding the state of affairs of a ministry and its agencies and parastatals, so that the period of transition can be as short and smooth as possible.
Kifasi said this today while delivering a key note address at the BPSR organized Workshop on Ministerial Handover Briefings for Directors in MDAs
He said that this year’s transition was unique in the sense that since the return to democratic rule in 1999, government was changing from one political party to another and for this reason the incoming government would require relevant information, in order to enable it effectively take over the reins of government as quickly as possible.
According to him, “New Ministers need to have key information that they require about their roles, the ministries that they will superintend, the issues that they need to focus on and the key stakeholders that they would need to engage with. The information that they receive should be complete, particularly with regards to key issues, such as current status of key initiatives in the ministry and the management resources, both human and capital”, he further said.
The Head of Service warned civil servants on the danger of withholding information or failing to provide adequate information, describing it as unprofessional, unethical and unnecessary, adding that information could only be hidden for a while and soon the state of affairs would emerge.
He however advised civil servants to improve their ability to be complete in the way they write, which was why this training workshop was coming at opportune time, and why the body of permanent secretaries also welcomed the initiative for the training.
The Head of service hoped that with this important workshop they can now support the development of Ministerial hand over notes that are consistent in terms of quality, scope and content, while allowing the idiosyncrasies of each Ministry
The Director General of Bureau of Public Service Reforms, BPSR, Dr Joe Abah, while speaking at the workshop noted that preparation of hand over notes often suffered some glaring pitfalls such as lack of coordination between mainline Ministries and agencies, uneven in quality, with some being very good and others being very poor; some hand over notes can range from just 5 pages to more than 500 pages, adding that it was in trying to establish consistency in writing the hand over notes that was the reason behind organizing the workshop.
He commended the DFID Federal Public Administration Reform Programme(FEPAR) for its technical and logistical support towards successful hosting of the workshop.
The Public Service: onwards and upwards!
On 17 March, Dr Joe Abah, Director General (DG) of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) met civil society, media, and political parties at a Policy Dialogue in Abuja, Nigeria. Speaking at the one-day event organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Dr Abah said 'the Nigerian Government’s efforts to reform the Public Service is beginning to see significant gains in the area of service delivery'
While acknowledging that there are no silver bullets for reforms, Dr Abah noted 'that the government has made a substantial impact with the introduction and roll-out of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System, saving the nation about N185 billion’ which hitherto had been lost to the ghost worker syndrome.
In the area of electoral reforms, Dr Abah pointed out that despite the poor turn-out in the Anambra election, the Ekiti and Osun elections were better conducted. 'Generally things have improved from the Maurice Iwu’s days' said Dr Abah.
While lamenting the strikes in the health sector and the high cost of tertiary care, Dr Abah underscored the sector's achievements, including the total eradication of guinea worm, 80% polio immunity coverage across the country, and noted that the World Health Organisation not only gave Nigeria a clean bill of health on the handling of Ebola but references it as a lead case study in containing the deadly disease.
Dr Abah also pointed out progress in the education, power, transport and petroleum sectors, highlighting the impressive achievement of the e-wallet system coming from the agricultural sector which now makes it possible for farmers to get fertilizers directly.
Dr Abah further talked about a public perception survey carried out by BPSR and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2014, which felt the public pulse on attitudes toward government reforms in some key sectors. Dr Abah went on to say results from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) surveyed, showed that most Nigerians got their news from radio and that the telecommunication and petroleum sectors were rated highest in terms of impact and access respectively.
Dr Abah also talked about the National Strategy for Public Service Reforms which once approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will provide the road map for executing reform programmes.