Civil Servants and Politics: Why the Disenfranchisement? By Adeolu Oyebode
In my usual manner, may I use this medium to associate with Civil Servants against the incessant threats of sack and terrorization as enacted by the civil service laws of the Federal Republic and I think it is most important that we are educated in law, that in a situation where a local law originates its powers from another independent law, the authority of the independent law stands supreme over the derived law. What I am trying to say is that, all laws, rules and standing orders as far as the Nigerian nation is concerned is a product of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (As Amended) and hitherto, the fundamentals must also be put into strong consideration before making interpretations to its use and modifications. I have found very interesting this issue because the political class has been able to strategically disenfranchise the civil servants and the need for this populous class to be conscious of their right is a product of what they read or hear and the amendment or review of such contradicting laws that is in conflict to the sworn laws of our land-The Constitution, is highly essential now!.
Even before I grew up into full political consciousness, the civil servants has always been told to never participate in partisan politics as it was tagged “a breach of the Standing Rules of the Civil Service” and liable to one losing job. One would rather abstain completely from partisan politics as a civil servant in a jobless society like ours instead of trading off his/her daily meal, irrespective of the urge in correcting the system and the administrative competence that could have helped our system. It is always believed in the Nigerian setting that partisan politics will make our administrators and civil servants lose concentration to duty and be more political to the administrative duties at the detriment of the nation and the institutions in question. I wouldn’t want to also shy away from the fact that a typical Nigerian abuses all privileges and laws and tries to bend it to favor oneself but the salient fact remains that the largest percentage of the officers/employees in the Nigerian Civil Service today are card carrying members of political parties, though they may hide them for a while but they are either Women leaders of Party A, Ward Chairman of party B, Youth Leader of Mega Party among others. In order words the threats of invoking necessary laws against any worker that engages in partisan politics is a mockery of our political process and the earlier we either amend or review the Civil Service Rule, the better for us to develop outside hypocrisy of the Ogas’ at the top or the sycophancy of the junior cadres. I know every civil servants claims to be members of the AGIP Party (All Government In Power) but you tend to wonder how sacred administrative information of political/public servants are made available to the public unofficially; how highly confidential letters are photocopied for a particular political class if not for a close affinity and dedication to such political inclinations.
Without being rhetorical, the Nigerian Government has a major responsibility in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which is ‘the welfare and security of the citizens’ as enshrined in section 14:2b, and in justifying how these could be ascertained to have been done, the law went further to highlight the fundamental rights of the citizens which are numerous but in achieving a better nation, the law emphasize the most on “Freedom of Association and lawful Assembly”, this can be found in section 40 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. My inference from the letters Freedom of Association and Lawful Assembly, if I am not mistaken, is to the fact that some assemblies are not lawful, while some associations are prohibited. It is therefore important to infer that when the responsibility of the government is to ensure the welfare and security of her citizens, any association that is against this background is considered unlawful and any assembly that could truncate this process is illegal. Therefore, in bringing up the objective of the perspectives of the writers of the constitution, which had its preamble as “We the People of Nigeria”, all Nigerians must come together and such beget “Associations and Lawful Assembly”.
It is on this belief of mine that I want to say that the constitution cannot over rule itself by disenfranchising a clique of her ‘good people’ from not participating in the restructuring of the political class because they are civil servants; it is an infringement of their fundamental human rights.
Much as I know that what the people wants to read or know is that, what legal authority have we to liberate ourselves from this confinement in belonging or participating in partisan politics?, devoid from what the Ogas at the top use to threaten with, I will like to cite a Supreme Court judgments in the case of INEC v MUSA and ORS , which upheld the Civil Servant’s right to be a registered member of political parties and therefore be actively involved in party activities. The case of INEC v Musa and Ors, Justice Muhammed Uwais (CJN), the Lord Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Rtd), ruled thereof that
“the provisions of section 40 of the constitution are very clear. The import is ‘every person’ including public office holders and civil servants……since section 40 of the 1999 Constitution has specifically allowed every person the right to assemble and associate with any other person in order to inter-allia form or belong to any political party for the protection of his interest, I hold that both the provisions of section 79 subsection (2) (c) of the Electoral Act, 2001 and guideline No. 5(b) are inconsistent with the Constitution.”
From the landmark judgment by one of the most respected and decorated Justices of the Nigerian Nation, I am of the strong opinion that civil servants should not be threatened of sack, on the instrumentation of a Rule that got its statutory powers from the 1999 Constitution of the Nation. It is also on this note that I want to charge National Assembly, the Federal and State Civil Service Commissions to make immediate amendments to their rules. The existing rule is in a legal challenge of contradiction with his source of power.
I am speaking for myself and on behalf of the Nigerian Civil Servants who are being disenfranchised everyday to be involved in partisan politics.
A Public Analyst writes from Ado-Ekiti,
Ekiti State, Nigeria.
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