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Date Published: 06/22/09


By Emmanuel Onwubiko  

In a very special way, this writer commends all those good readers of this column who have continuously sent in their text messages in reaction to some of the previous publications. In no distant time, some of these text messages which at the last count are more than five dozens would be published. I had wanted to run them today but the issue of the civil servants and how to curb the rising corruption among political office holders has become increasingly important that we must discuss. Luckily, a new Head of Civil service of the Federation in the person of Mr. Stephen Osagiede Oronsaye has just been sworn in by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. We will attempt to give a human rights-based agenda to this new head of civil service of Nigeria.

Several learned commentators on public affairs in Nigeria have severally stated that the fundamental reason why corruption in the political governance structures has persisted and seems to defy all drastic measures to eradicate the socio-economic menace is because the greater majority of the Federal, State and local council civil servants are either corrupt or are guilty of the crime of conspiracy in assisting the political office holders to perpetrate these dastardly acts. I agree.

The civil or public service of any nation is regarded as the engine room that coordinates the delivery of dividends of the governance structures to all segments of the populace in that sovereign entity. In Nigeria, the civil or public service is the strategic sector in all tiers of government that implement the daily policies of the government of the day from Federal, state and the local government levels.


It is with that understanding that in order to eradicate corruption, that the immediate past administration initiated and executed large scale radical reforms of Nigeria’s public service. In his forewords to the public service Rules 2006 and the pension Reform Act of 2004, the immediate past president wrote thus;

“In my preface to the Year 2000 edition of these Rules, I expressed my concern for discipline and proper conduct and practices by all Public Officers in accordance with these Rules and Regulations, so that hard work, honesty and transparency prevail in the transaction of government affairs. Since then we have continuously emphasized our determination to reposition the Public Services for greater accountability, transparency and effective service delivery.”

“The reform of the Public Service is one of the central themes of the Government’s development Agenda. For without a transparent and effective Public Service, government business and service delivery to the public will be crippled and mired in dishonesty and graft. I am convinced that an efficient, transparent and accountable Public Service should be the hallmark of our democratic transformation and development. The Nigerian people deserve nothing less.”

The then President Olusegun Obasanjo continued:

“The Public Service therefore needs to be transformed into an effective instrument of good governance operating under appropriate and time-honoured rules and regulations and capable of delivering the democratic needs of our citizens. These Rules, therefore, have been reviewed and amended to instill greater discipline and probity into all operators and stakeholders in the Public Service”.

Leaders of organized civil society and labour unions discovered that the immediate past administration was not honest and transparent in the execution of the civil service reforms because there were credible allegations of deliberate dismissal of certain category of civil servants who were perceived by the government then as “enemy combatants” because of their involvement in championing the advocacy for a transparent and accountable administration by the political office holders.

Put differently, the then government was accused of dismissing some civil and public servants whose faces they never liked. The Federal Capital Territory under Nassir El’Rufai as the minister was accused of wide spread victimization and witch hunt.

If the information I have about this gentleman is correct, then Nigerian civil servants are in for good times especially all those civil servants determined to become agents of positive transformation and advancement of the principle and ideals of accountability, transparency, honesty and loyalty. I must confess that Mr. Steve Oronsaye does not know me in person, but since 1998 when I arrived Abuja, we have worshipped in the same Catholic Parish and he has distinguished himself as a good mobilizer.

Stephen Osagiede Oronsaye was born in Lagos on November 16, 1950 to his parents who hailed from Uhunmwonde and Oredo Local Council Areas in present day Edo State of Nigeria. Before joining the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 1995, as Director, Special Duties, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye was a partner in the accounting firm of KPMG Nigeria, which was reputed at the time to be the largest accounting practice firm in Nigeria and one of the top eight in the world.

Oronsaye obtained his accounting qualification in 1978 by training with the firm of Peat Marwick Cassleton Elliot & Co. between 1973 and 1978. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1978 and became a Partner of the firm in 1989.

On joining the Federal Ministry of Finance in 1995 as Director, Special Duties, Oronsaye carried out assigned fiscal duties and reconciled the nations foreign reserve accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria. At different times, Oronsaye reported directly to three honourable Ministers: Chief Anthony Ani (MON), Malam Ismaila Usman and Malam Adamu Ciroma.

In line with the Civil Service Reforms, The Guardian newspaper recalled that Mr. Oronsaye undertook the successful merger of the Administrative and Accounting functions of the offices of the State House, computerization of some of the processes and procedures of the State House, Personnel records, Accounts and Access controls for the offices.

In 2006, Oronsaye headed the committee on the review of the Civil Service Rules and Financial Regulations. The revised documents were passed to the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) for finalization. Mr. Oronsaye, at various times, also served as Chairman of several ad-hoc committees set up by the Federal Government.

Knowing Mr. Steve Oronsaye as a practical human rights advocate, it is hoped that his new office of head of civil service of the Federation will not change him and make him to stop believing and implementing those fine ideals for which most people either in the religious or social communities know him for. What makes a man great is when he remains truthful to those good ideals that have shaped his life from the word go.

  • Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.
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