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Opinion: Public Service And The Hakeem Muri-Okunola Example




By Michael Effiong

In today’s Nigeria we are always quick to heap condemnation on public servants and officials when they falter,  we should therefore not hesitate to commend when they act responsibly-and this what ignited this piece.

I am a professional journalist and news junkie, and have been for decades and would not be shy to say except I have very important meetings, or gym sessions, I try to have a feel of early morning television and radio shows before dipping myself into the business of the day.

From AIT’s Kakaaki, I usually swing to Channel TV’s Sunrise Daily, and now I have added, Arise TV’s Morning Show before rounding off on TVC’s This Morning anchored by the veteran, Yori Folarin.

Unlike the other shows, This Morning is a programme that allows immediate audience participation via a phone-in segment-and it was during this segment last week that Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, the Lagos State Head of Service made quite an impression.

The discussion was on the JUSUN strike and there was a healthy debate in the studio when suddenly the Anchor announced that he had Hakeem Muri-Okunola on the line.

As a celebrity reporter of over 30 years, I know famous people and faces, and definitely knew Hakeem Muri-Okunola. I was first shocked, then the Nigerian in me kicked in “How can a whole Head of service call? Then I thought maybe it was just a same name coincidence, then the caller began to speak. The voice was unmistakable, it was the Head of Service, the cool, bespectacled gentleman everyone calls HMO.

Mr. Muri Okunola began by explaining that he had no problem with the agitation of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), especially because they are agitating to enforce a constitutional position and provision. But wondered why the Lagos State Chapter of JUSUN was on strike when the state government was not in breach of the said provision that the others are fighting for.

He went on to explain that Judicial autonomy was not strange to Lagos State as it has been in force for years. He said Lagos State is in 100 per cent compliance in respect of recurrent expenditure and 80 per cent compliant in terms of capital expenditure. He said the capital expenditure issue is as a result of dwindling revenue of the state which has affected spending projections of all the other tiers of government.

In the view of Mr. Muri-Okunola he does not see why members of JUSUN, Lagos State Chapter should embark on a strike.What are they fighting for? he asked rhetorically.

Since the call came towards the end of the programme, there was little time for Anchor and guest to digest this information and allow others weigh in.

Though what Mr. Muri Okunola has stated is in the public domain as it had already been disclosed by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu during a meeting with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Lagos State Chapter but the fact that he picked up his phone to call and explain is the “koko”.

Some cynics will say, what is the big deal? Is it not a mere phone call? Well, I dare say in today’s Nigeria where even the file-carrying level 4 clerk thinks he is doing you a favour to perform a duty he is paid for, that call is a big deal.

What he did should be the norm, but is anything normal again in Nigeria today? The abnormal is our new normal especially when people who are elected into office see themselves as rulers instead of the servants they ought to be.

Unlike some haughty Public officers, the Lagos State Head of Service, did not speak about JUSUN with derision. He simply explained what he termed as the facts and allowed the viewers to make their own deductions.

I am a good judge of character and I can say that his composure and comportment during the call showed him as a good manager of men. He came across as friendly, urbane, sincere and someone who has the right balance of standing up for principles when need be and using diplomacy when necessary.

When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode swore him in on December 28, 2020, Muri-Okunola made history as the youngest person ever to attain the position of Head of Service in Lagos State.

The then Governor described the appointment as a new chapter in the state’s civil service. He expressed strong optimism in the ability of Mr. Muri-Okunola to effectively take charge on account of his capacity, knowledge, exposure, experience and youthful energy. He urged him to lead by example and encourage accountability and professionalism in the service.

Those were weighty words that conferred a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the 46 year-old, it is enough to overwhelm anyone who is to begin the assignment of being the numero uno civil servant in the Centre of Excellence. But it seemed Mr. Muri-Okunola was not fazed.

People can speculate about his network, his heredity and say that he rose rapidly because of this or that, but Mr. Muri-Okunola has got juice period! Though I have not bothered to investigate how he has so far performed as Head of Service, but he has shown capacity and competence on the job by that seemingly innocuous action. If he has faltered, we would have heard about it.

When people in government speak to the citizenry, it is not a favour. Today, many top government officials hide from the people and churn out statements through their spokespersons, but nothing beats the human touch.

Another good example is the video message being circulated by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu on his second anniversary plans. That hit the mark big time too.

Speaking directly to the people or about a problem serves many purposes: it can deescalate tension, it can reduce friction and has the tendency to build goodwill and better friendships as we say in Rotary International. The bond between the government and the governed would rather than widen be shortened.

According to the late Super Civil Servant, Allison Ayida, a nation’s civil service should habour its best brains because if the nation was a car, the civil service will be its engine.

In his view, Nigeria’s gradual degeneration from the zenith to the nadir of the development index is as result of the dwindling standard of personnel in the civil service. “In those days, our best and the brightest joined the civil service, today, it is no longer the case. The engine is faulty and it has been so for many years”

The point being made by this late astute Public Administrator is that we need more men with impeachable sense of duty in our civil service like HMO to drive Nigeria out of its current state of inertia.

If our Civil Service is made up of first class brains, we can only expect first class performance. It is therefore time for an overhaul of the recruitment process into Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government at the State and Federal levels. If not for anything, let meritocracy be the new order.

Mr. Muri-Okuola has shown that even the minutest of things matter, let others follow, and gradually, we will get to our Promised Land.








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Fuel Subsidy Removal: FG, Labour Meeting Ends in Deadlock




Talks between the Federal Government and organised labour over the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock on Wednesday as they failed to reach a consensus following the hike in petrol pump prices to over N700 from N195 per litre by oil marketers.

The hours-long meeting which was held at the Presidential Villa was to, among other things, prevent a labour crisis following the recent increase in the petrol pump price occasioned by the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited said it had adjusted the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit to reflect the market realities. The agency, however, failed to state the new prices of petrol.

However, several retails outlets sold the product between 600 and N800 in Lagos, Abuja , Ogun and some other states.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, pointed out that the hike in the cost of PMS would trigger galloping inflation in the country, stressing that some outlets in the South-East were currently dispensing the product at N1,200/l.

Ukadike stated, “Once NNPCL retail stations have adjusted their pumps to reflect the new price, there is nothing you can do about it; that is the new price. As I speak with you, all of them are now selling at the new prices. The situation is so bad, that somewhere in Ebonyi State our members informed us that it is now N1,200/litre.

“We thought the President would remove the subsidy through a seamless means because the source of this petrol is the NNPCL. They are the ones subsidising petroleum products, they are the people who use their revenue to subsidise this product.’’

The IPMAN spokesperson expressed worry over the rate of increase in inflation and hardship that would come as a result of the latest hike in petrol price.

“This hike in petrol price will definitely lead to galloping inflation and will worsen the hardship already being faced by the Nigerian masses. It is not something to cheer about. It came as a surprise and in the coming days, we will see the very harsh ripple effects,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ukadike has called on the Federal Government and the NNPCL to give other marketers the opportunity to start importing petrol in order to create competition in the sector.

“The NNPCL is importing and has not given people the opportunity to join them in importing so as to see whether private sector operators can import the product cheaper or not. So there is no competition. In a deregulated regime, there must be competition, everyone with capacity should be allowed to import,” the IPMAN official stated.

When asked whether other marketers could resume imports since the government had finally deregulated petrol prices, Ukadike replied, “Marketers can import, but let me tell you some of the factors militating against this. The first is that there won’t be availability of dollars.

“You will source your dollar from the parallel market and if you are not careful in doing this, and you go into the importation of petroleum products, you might not ‘come out of it alive’ at the end of the day.

“So what we are saying is that those advantages that NNPCL has, should be shared with other major importers of petroleum products. If it is through crude buy-back, they should let us know so that independent players such as IPMAN members can come together and be able to use it in the buy-back model.’’

He added, “For independent marketers, the most important thing is that there should be availability of petroleum products, and the government should open up the space for importers and investors to come in.”

NNPCL, the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for several years running, confirmed the hike in petrol price in a statement and a new pricing template released to marketers nationwide.

But the move has sparked a groundswell of anger across the nation with the Nigeria Labour Congress demanding an immediate reversal of the decision.

The union also said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday on the fuel price increase which had triggered hoarding and scarcity across the country with attendant rise in transport fares, goods and services.

The fuel price hike by the oil firm is coming 72 hours after President Bola Tinubu declared in his inaugural address on Monday that the subsidy regime had ended.

To pacify the growing anger over the situation, the FG hastily summoned some labour leaders to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday evening.

The meeting had in attendance the NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, former NLC President and immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kyari, and others, however, ended in a deadlock as the labour and government teams failed to reach a consensus.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Joe Ajaero, said “As far as labour is concerned, we didn’t have a consensus in this meeting.”

He faulted the NNPCL over an official release published hours earlier reviewing the petrol pump price in its filling stations nationwide.

He said the move puts the labour unions in a difficult position on the negational table.

“That’s the principle of negotiation. You don’t put the partner, ask them to negotiate under gunpoint. The prayer of the NLC is that we go back to the status quo, negotiate, think of alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action is going to have on the people. If it is an action that must take off.

“The subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June. And before then, conscious people, labour management, and the government should be able to think of what will happen at the end of June. You don’t start it before the time,” Ajaero said.

The Punch

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Breaking: Founder, DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi is Dead




By Eric Elezuo

The Founder of DAAR Communications, owners of the foremost radio and television stations in Nigeria, Raypower and African Independent Television (AIT), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, is dead.

Reliable sources said the High Chief died while exercising on a treadmill on Monday afternoon.

The source said Dopkesi suffered a stroke some weeks ago.

Details soon…

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I Stand on Rule of Law, with Our Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, PDP, Says Dele Momodu




By Eric Elezuo

Frontline journalist and Director of Strategic Communications of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Council in the just concluded Presidential election, Chief Dele Momodu, had said that he remains a loyal member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and will always stand on the side of rule of law, and with the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Momodu made the revelations in a statement he signed himself, noting that the last election, which brought Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to power, was savagely manipulated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

He praised the steps Atiku, and the presidential candidate of the Labour candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, have taken in seeking legal redress.

The statement in details:


My position on the state of our country NIGERIA is simple and straightforward. I’m a loyal member of PDP who owes absolute allegiance to Nigeria and its Rule of Law. My political party PDP and others passionately hold the view that the last Presidential election was savagely manipulated by the ruling party APC and the cases are already in courts. Nothing will make me abandon my party on the altar of convenience and profit. Win or lose, I will continue to stand on this principle without any malice or prejudice against those who think otherwise. Democracy is a game of choice and I’m resolutely standing by our candidate, the former Vice President ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR (GCON) who has taken the honorable and peaceful step of going to court to seek redress. This is the only way we can deepen our hard earned Democracy. Sacrifice is not always convenient but painful.

I salute and respect The Wazirin Adamawa and others like my dear friend and Brother, former Governor Peter Obi, the Labor Party Presidential candidate, for promoting the best tenets of Democracy in Nigeria and I’m willing to encourage them rather than discourage their onerous quests…


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