A Special Adviser is a political appointee who assists a government minister. They add a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers while reinforcing the political impartiality of the permanent Civil Service by distinguishing their source of political advice and support.
While a senior Special Assistant is appointed to provide special assistance to the administration staff in their everyday activities, perform and execute special assistance duties as assigned in various projects, provide special assistance to the top management of an organization in implementing policy decisions, handle and manage various special assignments as directed by the top management.
In the Nigerian government, the role of Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants has been hotly contested as regards to the functions of a commissioner.
The commissioner’s duties summarise the duties of the Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants and with the help of aides, any commissioner can perfectly carry out government duties in his jurisdiction without any need of outside help, why then do they employ the services of Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants.
Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants in Nigeria are paid by the central government and are styled as so-called ’temporary civil servants’ appointed under Article 3 of the Civil Service Order in Council 1995.
They contrast with ’permanent’ civil servants in the respect that they are political appointees whose loyalties are claimed by the governing party and often particular ministers with whom they have a close relationship. For this reason, Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants may resign when a general election is called to campaign on behalf of their party.
Considering the hardship and destitution the country is going through, one comes to wonder why Governors employ so many Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants.
Most Governors like Governor Obiano of Anambra state, Governor Obaseki of Benin state, Governor Ganduje of Kano state have a record number of Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants employed under their commissions, spanning over 2000! And these appointees are being maintained with state fund allocations that can be used for better purposes.
Must the Nigerian government always carry an exaggerated profile, padded with the superfluous appointment of redundant people bearing bogus titles? While Nigeria is not the only country guilty of this ancient practice, our case is particularly pathetic.
In a country whose political office holders are some of the highest-paid in the world, it is incomprehensible to have such numbers of redundant appointees. And really, these guys are very well paid. In every state, each governor has a multitude of Special Advisers, feeding like leeches on the limited resources of the state. It is shameful.
A recent report by a reputable news source shows that Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants in Nigeria earn an estimated sum of ₦17 billion naira in salary arrears per annum. Special Advisers and Senior Special assistants collect more than ₦3.8million as housing allowance and ₦5.8million as furniture allowance, each of them is entitled to a vehicle loan of ₦7.7million. It doesn’t end there.
They get motor vehicle maintenance and fuelling allowance and tour duty allowance. They are also entitled to an estacode of $800 per night when they travel, which they often do! Meanwhile, their security personnel, medicals, and even Special Assistants are provided for. Special Advisers even have Special Assistants!
How did we end up turning the serious business of governance into such an expensive joke? It is beyond ridiculous.
We know most of these Special Advisers are glorified messengers who run around at the sight of their bosses. They pretend to be very busy while offering no value whatsoever to the quality of governance. Anytime Oga is traveling, they hustle and jostle to be on the trip.
No groundbreaking idea or solution to any of our chronic problems in Nigeria has ever emanated from any Special Adviser. In the history of our nation, which Special Adviser has created a reputation for being an idea person or a solution provider? Which president, past or present has ever eulogised any Special Adviser for creating any tangible value in the corridors of power?
Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants are meant to be done away with and their salary remunerations used for better things in the state.
The only Special Adviser a Government official needs are his close friends. Other than that, Government officials should simply give the task of distilling useful ideas from all the resources available, to the secretaries and media teams in their commission. The Upper and Lower chambers are also there to debate issues and exchange ideas to help their government.
We must rebrand our democracy and do away with this image of extravagant, ignorant, and irresponsible conduct. Our over-bloated government and overpaid officials are a burden to the people and a clog in the wheel of development. They are in fact a disservice to democracy and the value it is supposed to deliver to the people. Our Government must embrace technology and promptly move these costly Special Advisers to the recycle bin!
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK