Nigeria’s NMCP Loses Director at Critical Juncture

The Director of Nigeria’s National Malaria Control Program has been caught up in a new civil service directive requiring that Permanent Secretaries and Directors in Federal Ministries must step down if they have served at that level/position for at least 8 years. This happens regardless of whether the person has reached the official retirement age of 60 years or the maximum service length of 35 years.

According to the Vanguard, many believed that the old system “gave rise to so many abuses that the federal civil service became the engine room of corruption, ethnic domination, sectional cabalism and the nurturing of super-powerful public officers who were used by narrow, entrenched interest groups and external political forces to subvert the Service itself and the spirit of national unity as a whole.”

Ethnic interpretations do abound as the removal from office of Permanent Secretaries appears to affect mostly people from the Northern part of the country.

The Daily Trust explains that  the removal last week of nine permanent secretaries and about 80-100 directors will not address the concern by some workers of having enough high level civil service vacancies to guarantee everyone the promotion he or she desires. “There can never be enough vacancies for every civil servant to rise to director level.”

The move might be a way to deflect an underlying tension on pay. ‘Regular’ civil servants have been complaining that directors and senior officials receive much higher pay. “There are indications that the demand for a pay rise at this time can be explained by a new policy in the civil service,” according to 234Next.com.

So now, moving from politics to malaria, how does this overhaul of the civil service affect Nigeria’s malaria efforts.  Nigeria has just been granted malaria funds for its Round 8 proposal to the Global Fund. The NMCP was named in this grant as a new Principle Recipient.  Nigeria is also in the middle of a massive ITN distribution campaign to achieve universal coverage.  This could not be a worse time to bring in a new Director who may have little or no experience in malaria programming.

Dr. T.O. Sofola, the just retired NMCP Director, is one of the most dedicated civil servants I have met. She has amassed an amazing knowledge base – both practical and scientific – for managing malaria programs in a vast and logistically challenging environment. She will be sorely missed, but we assume that her staff and all the malaria partners will pull together to make sure that the plans and strategies she guided are a success.

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