Punishment For A Public Servant On Double Employment
In Nigeria, persons who hold offices in public service of the Federation, or State, within the meaning of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended (CFRN), are public servants. This includes all civil servants working in the core-ministries, extra-ministerial departments and agencies as well as political appointees who receive their emoluments from government.
Most times, senior public servants are quick to find faults in their subordinates who dare to render free, voluntary and charitable services to people and communities while still in public service. These senior public servants easily forget that they themselves are the major culprits of double employment.
This crop of senior public servants are doing their private business of buying and selling; management and running of wholesale and retail shops; rental services; event venue decoration; property agents; professional and career consultancy as well as using their own vehicles to hawk merchandise in a big way within and outside their offices. They are like the Biblical Pharisees.
In Luke 18.10-13 Jesus narrated a story to his disciples about the Pharisee and the publican. He said: “Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and pray this with himself, God I thank Thee that I am not as other men who are extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as the publican. I fast twice in a week. I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican standing afar off would not lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying: God be merciful unto me as a sinner.”
In the story, Christ portrays the Pharisee as self-righteous and self-justified, and the publican as one who depended on the righteousness of God for his justification. Most times, one is tempted to believe that some senior public officers of today’s public service are worse than the
Pharisees of the Bible days, especially when they consider, in error, that they (the senior public officers) have wielded so much powers even more than the Public Service Rules have given them.
They are like the Ezeulu of Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart whom Achebe wrote: “When Ezeulu considered the immensity of his power over the year and the crops and therefore over the people. he wondered If it was real. It was true he named the day for the feast of the pumpkin leaves and for the New Year feast but he did not choose the day. He was merely a watchman ...
In this same wise, the powers our senior public servants have over the issues of public service is just like that of a watchman, who merely watches to ensure that public service is operated in accordance with the Public Service Rule, which is the Rule of Law of the Public.
The Rule of public service is sacrosanct, and it is the righteousness that justifies and protects a subordinate officer against the hypocritical wishes of his boss just as the righteousness of God is the righteousness that justifies the publican.
Now what does the law actually say on the prohibition of a public servant in engagement of any other work in addition to the public service employment.
Under the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 as amended. every ndividual working in a public service is prohibited to work and earned emolument In more than one public office. Moreover, a public servant is equally prohibited from managing or running any private business, profession or trade, except farming.
Part I, article 2 of the s” schedule of the CFRN captures the prohibition clause inter alia: “Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing a public officer shall not: (a) received or be paid the emolument of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid the emolument of any other public office”
Subsection (b) of the Article 2 of the s” schedule provides a proviso. i e. an exception to the prohibition clause thus: “except where he is not employed on full time basis, engaged or participated in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade; but nothing in this sub-paragraph shall prevent a public officer from engaging In farming.”
By this grundnorm rule, a public servant, to Wit: civil servants and political appointees can only engage in one full time employment. In addition to the full time employment in public service, he can engage in part time employment if he has any. He cannot, while in the full time employment of the public service participate or engage in the management or running of any private business, not even in sales of retail provision store or palmy joint in front of his house. This is a private business. He cannot also engage in private practice of his cherished profession either a . a teacher nurse pharmacist, doctor, lawyer, engineer architect, accountant dentist estate manager, surveyor or radiologist among others. The only private practice a public servant is permitted to engage on, I emphasize is “farming.” Period.
In Akwa Ibom State, the public service rule has also prohibited public servants from involving in private practice. Rule 040422 of Akwa Ibom State Public Service Rules 2010 puts the prohibition of private practice this way: “In accordance with the provisions of the Regulated and Other Provisions Private Practice Act (ROPPP) (Cap 390) Part Ii, no officer shall engage in private practice.” This Act merely corroborated the position of the CFR 1999, particularly as it concerns engagement in private practice while in public service when it says: “Subject to this Act and notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in any other enactment or instrument, no public officer shall, as from the commencement of this Act, engage in or continues to engaging in private practice or in connection with any scheduled profession.
The professional services referred to in subjection (2) of ROPPP are: Architecture. Accountancy, Dental Hygiene, Dental Technology, Engineering, Estate Management. Law Medical Technology, Medicine and Dentistry, Midwifery and Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Quantity Surveying Radiography, Surveying, Teaching, Veterinary Medicine As in the Constitution, the Act on its own makes provisions for a proviso, exempting public officers who render voluntary humanitarian community service from that prohibition.
Subsection (3) of ROPPP reeled out the exemption; thus: “Notwithstanding any provision of this section, it shall be lawful for the professional concern, apart from during the exercise of his normal official duties, to render any of the services referred to in subsection (2) of this:
(a) to himself; (b) to any person in an emergency; (c) to any person (whether corporate or in incorporate) authorized either generally or specifically by the Government to receive the services of that professional for the time being or, where a period is specified, for the specified period; (d) Where such services are rendered free of charge to any of the following that is:
(i) any member of the family of that professional
(ii) any charitable organization, or any other person on purely humanitarian grounds, and
(iii) an professional association to which he belongs
In law, here is something called Jurisdictions and it is said that jurisdiction is the authority a court has to decide matters or take cognizance of matters presented In formal way for its decision, so it is not every person, committee or court that has Jurisdiction to hear the matter of double employment.
Now, the question is, which court or committee or person has the powers to hear and entertain matters arising from failure or neglect by a public servant to comply with the prohibition rule?
The act expressly recommends that it is only the Federal High Court in case of public service of the Federation or state High Court in the case of the Public Service of the State that has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Section 2(i) of the ROPPP talks about punishment, it provides that any public officer who engages or continues to engage in private practice otherwise than In compliance with the provision of the Act shall be guilty of an offences and shall be liable to punishment.
For first time offender, the punishment upon conviction is a fine of N2,000 or imprisonment for one year; for the second time offender the punishment is N5,000 or imprisonment for two yes; and for the third time offender, the punishment is three years of imprisonment without an option of fine; Moreover, where an officer has been convicted for the third time the Act recommends that the appropriate professional body should strike off his name from the roll or removed his name from the register of the association.
After prosecution and conviction, the Act provides that “No appeal shall lie from the decision of the court under the Act, but that Registrar of the court which has awarded the convict shall within 15 days, after delivery of such judgment forward a certified copy thereof to the President (or governor) for confirmation or disallowance.
The advice is, let no senior public servant who is himself offender of the law on prohibition of double employment intimidates the innocent subordinate. Our laws are not like the cobweb which catches the small flies, but when mighty rat which has committed much stealing in the house to break and pass. Let us obey the rule of law, and the rule of public service in Nigeria.