Dr Mohammed Kyari Dikwa is the immediate past Permanent Secretary (Special Duties), Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. He spoke to a cross section of journalists on a wide range of issues. Thinkers Newspaper’s Abdullah Mohammed was there. Excerpts:
We will, first of all, start by asking you about your parents, who are they?
My name is Mohammed Kyari Dikwa. My father’s name is Alhaji Kyari Dikwa, and my mother’s name is Hajiya Amina Kyari Dikwa, both of them are now late. They were all indigenes of Dikwa local government of Borno state and were prominent Islamic teachers. My father was known as Mallam or in our language called Goni. My grandfather was called Goni Zulum, who was one of the most popular Sheikhs in and around Borno state that people looked up to as role models. Most of our family members were educated in both Quranic and Western education, and we had a very humble upbringing.
How many wives did your father marry?
My father had only one wife, that’s my mother.
How many children?
We were seven, but two had passed away. The five of us that are alive include Alhaji Mohammed Kyari, and the second is Babagana Kyari, the third is Hajiya Fatimah Kyari (in Kanuri we call her Falta, popularly known as Falmata), I, Mohammed Kyari Dikwa, am the fourth, and my younger sister called Hajiya Bintu or Yakura as she is being called.
What would you say are the things you have learnt from your mother and father? What virtues do you cherish about them?
One of the things I learnt from them is the virtue of patience. Patience is the number one quality of my parents because they were a very patient set of people; they tolerated every situation they found themselves. The second virtue I learnt from my parents is righteousness. In their dealings with us and others, they were upright, very straightforward. They took things very easy. So, this has guided me in terms of being patient, taking things easy in every situation I find myself in. In most cases, I always ensure that I do the right thing and deal with the right people. I consistently try to do the right thing, and that’s why my conscience is always clear. So, these are some of the virtues I learnt from my parents that I am always proud of.
Have you ever had problems with your parents? Sometimes when one is coming up you, one will have one problem or the other that will anger one S parents leading to some beatings. Have you experienced that?
To be sincere, I was one of their favoured sons. I was never chastised because I always liked to please my parents. I used to be close to them and rendered all the necessary services they wanted. I used to buy kola-nuts for them, and my actions and care always pleased them, and they were so happy with me until the time they passed away.
As you were growing up with them, what would you say was your difficult moment with your parents?
My difficult moment with my parents had to do with my Islamic and western education. It was a difficult moment because I spent quality time reading the Holy Qur’an and Islamic studies. Then suddenly, I was enrolled in western education, especially at a time when I was a bit older than some of my mates. So, it was an experience that was quite exciting and challenging because most parents in those days were very critical of western education, especially in our part of the country. Right from childhood, I always tried to be a self-made person. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, including my parents. Even though my parents had enough resources to take care of me, I never bothered to put the burden on them. I tried as much as possible to limit myself to what I had and remained patient. Setting goals for myself and pursuing them with patience and perseverance have actually been part of me since childhood.
What would you say is your fondest childhood memory?
When we were growing up in Dikwa, we used to find it very difficult to have tap water. We used to go to the pond to fetch water for our parents on a daily basis. Actually, I used to go to the pond and fetch water for them to the extent that I sustained an injury on my head, the scar of which I still retain to date. I had no choice than to be dutiful because I didn’t want to do anything that would have made my parents upset. I strived hard to ensure that I pleased them at all cost and remained obedient, and that was the reason why I had to go to that extent. Many of my contemporaries at that time were stubborn and used to be disobedient to their parents. Having that scar as a result of fetching water for my parents and the circumstances around are the fondest part of my childhood. Really, it is something that has put a permanent sign on my head. If I remove my cap, you will see that sign, so it is something that would forever remain fresh in my memory, and we thank God for being obedient to our parents while they were alive.
Who are your childhood friends in Dikwa?
I have quite a number of childhood friends but the most notable ones were Alhaji Ibrahim Hamza, a businessman in Maiduguri; Tijjani Ibrahim, a retired civil servant; Modu Korembe, my secondary school mate, and Jidda Mohammed, among others. As I said, they are too numerous to mention. There were so many of them that were close to me, and we actually grew up together, we still share ideas and memories with some of them, even though most of them were not able to scale through their educational programmes because, at that time, there were fewer opportunities. If you had a little education in society, you would be recognized. You could be given a job such as teaching in a primary school or even a government job. Companies or government agencies may just call you up to work for them. In my own case, I had to forego a lot in order to pursue my educational dream with patience and perseverance.
How was life like at the Central Primary School Dikwa?
The Central Primary School Dikwa was one of the reputable primary schools in the region at that time. Because of my commitment to my studies, I used to lead the school in a number of activities, and I was always on top of my class. In fact, they gave me a name in that school ‘Tada hangalkeji’a,’ meaning ‘the boy with the sharpest mind’ because I was leading the class from primary one to six academically. I was also a class monitor and once a school student leader as well, all in recognition of my dedication and commitment to my educational pursuit.
So, what about your experience at Government Comprehensive Secondary School?
I did my secondary education at Government Comprehensive Secondary School Gashua, in Yobe state. Gashua is quite distant from where I was born in Dikwa. It’s an entirely different zone with different tribes, culture and traditions to that of my own, and quite alright, we learnt a lot in Gashua. It wasn’t just about schooling, and we were exposed to a lot of things, such as the tribe, culture and norms of the society. It was really exciting to experience. For instance, in my village, Dikwa, we didn’t speak the Hausa language, and it was when I went to secondary school that I started speaking Hausa. We had to start doing so many things that we were not accustomed to in our village. It was, by and large, a conducive learning environment.
At the school, they called us ‘Tadama,’ meaning this boy. There, I met so many people who have gone to make great strides in different positions of leadership in the country. The current President of the Senate Dr Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan was my senior at GCSS, Gashua. So many of them, like the former Honourable Minister of State for Finance Dr Yerima Ngamma, Professor Shettima, who was the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nasarawa, the present Emir of Bade-Gashua among other prominent leaders of the country.
It was also a very exciting experience. I participated in most of the school programmes and activities. However, we abided by the school’s principles, values, rules and regulations at all times. Eventually, we were among those that were classified as outstanding students in terms of learning and character. I was one of them, and the school principal and teachers were proud of me, and I was happy.
Who were your favourite teachers at primary and secondary schools?
I had a passion for almost all my teachers. Sadly, some of them have passed away. One thing I must mention of particular note is the encouragement I got from Mallam Lawan Shettima, who was the Headmaster of Dikwa Central Primary School. Because of how the society was resistant to western education at that time, he used to come very early in the morning to school to buy bean cake and drinks and share to us to encourage us to stay in school.
He used to say ‘every day you come to school, come and collect bean cake.’ So, he motivated us to go to school at the time. I also experienced a similar gesture at GCSS, Gashua. The staff, particularly the Vice Principal, Mallam Abbas Abubakar Gwoza encouraged me a lot to study in that school. Because of the distance, I used to pay four Naira (N4) to travel from Maiduguri to Gashua, and it was between six and seven hours of transit. Normally, once we reached school, we usually didn’t go back home until it was a holiday.
Malam Abbas Abubakar Gwoza used to inspire us to stay back, saying that as leaders of tomorrow, we must study hard and put in our best in whatever we did because that is what we would reap ultimately. We heeded to his wise words, and God so kind, we concentrated and made sure we achieved academic success.
Give us an insight into your sojourn at Ramat Polytechnic in Maiduguri.
Ramat Polytechnic is another historical place I went to in search of further education. It started in 1982 when I was offered admission for a course in Town Planning. I spent almost a year studying Town Planning. It was a very discouraging programme because we used to spend the whole day in the library studying and researching, and at the end of the day, the maximum mark we got was forty per cent. I think nobody had ever gotten fifty per cent either in the examination or tests that were conducted at that time. In the examination, most of our highest scores were between 40% and 45%. It was impossible even to get 50%. So, when we finished the introductory stage and as we were going for the National Diploma, I changed my course from Town Planning to Accountancy. There was that window for change of course, and I was given direct entry into National Diploma in Accountancy. I put in the same effort as when I was a student of Town Planning, and I found out that the programme was easier for me than Town Planning. I started leading the class in terms of academic activities and what have you. In fact, I became the star of the class and continued in that grade up to our second year, and at the end of the day, I came out with distinction and one of the best graduating students of the polytechnic in 1984/85 sessions.
President Muhammadu Buhari was the then Head of State and was billed to attend our convocation and award ceremony, but something happened that he had to send his second-in-command, Major General Babatunde Idiagbon, because Ramat Polytechnic was one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. It was in the class of Yaba Polytechnic and Kaduna Polytechnic. However, these three institutions were the best in the country in the early ’80s.
So, Major General Tunde Idiagbon flew into Maiduguri and gave us Certificates of Merit during our convocation. At the convocation square, I was given direct employment by six different organizations: one was Ramat polytechnic, and the remaining five were Borno State Ministry of Finance, First Bank of Nigeria, World Bank under the Borno State Agricultural Development Programme, Union Bank and UBA. In those days, organizations would go to convocation squares of institutions and select the best-performing students. So, when they went to the convocation ceremony of Ramat Polytechnic, they gave me direct employment. I decided to take the offer by World Bank under the Borno State Agricultural Development Programme because they gave me Grade Level 7 as against GL 6 that was given to me by others. When you finish polytechnic at that time, employers will offer you Level 6, but the World Bank saw my potential, and because they needed me, they upgraded my offer to Level 7. So, I went for the World Bank job, and that was how I started work with the Borno State Agricultural Development Programme (BODAP).
At what point did you go to the University of Maiduguri for your degree programme?
When I was working with the World Bank, some people advised me to further my education. They said, ‘look, you are a young man; you are bright and intelligent, don’t waste your time without higher education.’ They insisted that I should go to university. So, I said okay, if that is the case, I should go. But at that time, there were lots of incentives as a worker with the World Bank. I used to have a monthly running cost of N1,000 (One Thousand Naira) cash. It was huge money at that time, and I used to travel to all the 27 local governments of Borno State with lots of packages including official car and fuel money, hotel accommodation and night allowance, among others, and then whatever amount that I did not spend, I returned back to the World Bank. Sometimes I returned N300 or N400 as the case may be. But the bottom line was that there were thorough checks and balances and accountability in the management of resources. We gave an account of every single kobo we had spent and returned what was left unspent.
In 1987, I came to the realization that even though the benefits attached to my office were huge, it was better I go back to school based on the advice of many people around me. That was how I enrolled at the University of Maiduguri on “in-service basis”. So instead of dropping the job completely, I applied to be carrying out some skeletal work. This gave me the opportunity of shuttling between my office for little work and the University of Maiduguri for my degree in Accountancy between 1987 and 1991.
How did you manage to combine work and studies?
Actually, my difficult moment that time was combining the work with the school. Almost every Accountancy student at that time would remember the Head of Department called Professor Oluokure who had been a prominent Accountancy lecturer. He was a very tough and no-nonsense lecturer who made studying Accountancy at the University of Maiduguri so uncomfortable for many students. In fact, some of the students that we started the programme with had to leave
University of Maiduguri and went to study at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Bayero University in Kano and other institutions, largely because of his uncompromising nature.
In fact, some of my mates that ran to Ahmadu Bello University, Bayero University Kano and the rest graduated with First Class and Second Class Upper degrees in Accountancy. Back at the University of Maiduguri, of the 46 of us that went through the course, only a few of us graduated. The rest were given one repeat or the other because of the difficulty of the course. It was not a course that one would expect to breeze through. No! It was rigorous, and we had tutorials every day, we had classes during weekends from morning to 8:00 pm. It was designed in such a way that it was difficult to indulge in other activities.
Who would you say made the most significant impacts on your life as an undergraduate at the University of Maiduguri?
Professor Oluokure. He really taught me, and I equally learnt a lot from him. Most people used to fear and run away from him, but I knew pretty well that he wasn’t a monster, so I decided to stay close to him. I believe that his difficult posture was to imbibe in students the culture of hard work and commitment to their studies.
In fact, as a very inquisitive person, I really wanted to know why he was so difficult for us. And ultimately, I discovered that he meant well for us. He really meant to train us and then be proud of us after our studies.
It is also worth mentioning that I was not just an ordinary student at the University of Maiduguri. I was a member of the Students’ Union. In fact, I was the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Accountancy Students Association, which covered the whole of Nigeria. We used to travel from Maiduguri to Kano, Sokoto to Yola, Lagos to Ibadan, Onitsha to Aba for a convention or one union activity or the other. After which I would come back and study and then go to work. It was quite challenging for me. Things were not really easy, but certainly, at the end of the day, I was able to put in a lot of energy, commitment and concentration to my studies.
There is also another remarkable lecturer that we had at the University of Maiduguri called Professor Olu Okere. He now works at the World Bank as a Financial Adviser. He was outstanding as a lecturer. His method of teaching was unique. He used to ask us to bring to examination halls all the textbooks in the country. He would allow us to write exams with textbooks because he was very sure no student could find answers to his test or examination questions in those textbooks. The answers were not simply there because they were basically analyses of cases, and these required creative thinking. He would ask you a question that you will never find the answers to in any textbook. They were questions that a student must use his or her brain to answer, and most of his lectures used to take about six hours.
After the first three hours, you go for a break and come back for another three hours. If you were not intelligent enough or if you didn’t have the capacity and mental alertness, you couldn’t cope with his lectures. His method of teaching has actually broadened our thinking capacity and prepared us well, and helped us get the practical aspect of accountancy, especially in the world of work. We were actually refined to serve humanity in our chosen field of endeavour.
Given all these your unionism activities, your work schedule and the academic activities, how did you graduate eventually?
As I said, many of my colleagues could not stand the rigorous academic activities at the University of Maiduguri at that time. Some moved to other universities, and some left because they could not cope. The six of us graduated with Second Class Upper.
At what point did you join the Borno State Civil Service?
I started my working career with the World Bank after my National Diploma at Ramat Polytechnic. Like I said earlier, I went to the University of Maiduguri for my degree while working as a staff for the World Bank. But when I was about to finish my studies, the World Bank informed me that the Borno State Agricultural
Development Programme was coming to an end, and they could not extend my appointment. The Programme was to be changed to Southern Borno Agricultural Development Programme. They also said they could not fund my scholarship and advised that I resign or transfer my service to the state government. So I did the latter and transferred to the mainstream Borno State Civil Service as an Accountant, and thankfully, they allowed me to finish my degree programme at the University of Maiduguri.
Can you give us a recap of your experience as a civil servant in Borno state?
Right from my primary school to university, through the special grace of almighty God, I happened to be one of the best students, and when I joined the mainstream Borno State Civil Service, very few civil servants had a degree in Accountancy. More so, if you look at the trend of our graduation, out of 46 students, only six of us were able to graduate. So, having a degree in Accountancy was a hot cake at that time, not everybody could graduate from that course. Yes! People ran away from the course. They opted for Business Administration, Mass Communication, Political Science, etc., but accountancy course was very rare for most of them. So, given this scenario, I was like a golden fish as far as Borno State Civil Service was concerned. When I came in, there were a lot of frustrations in the state civil service because at that time the Accountant-General of the state had only a Diploma in Accountancy, and he felt I was a big threat to him. He did not assign me to good positions. He posted me to small agencies, obviously to frustrate me.
One day, I decided to explore opportunities at the federal level since the man just would not allow me to grow. I quickly looked for a job at the Lake Chad Research Institution, a federal government agency, and they offered me a job on the University Salary Scale (USC) 11. It was a very high position. Somehow, news of my new offer spread, and the former Federal Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and one time Honourable Minister, Alhaji Musa Daggash, who was the Chairman of Borno State Civil Service at that time, called me and said: ‘Look, young man, don’t rush. Don’t go anywhere. You have to look at yourself. How many of your kind have a degree in Accountancy in this state? Whatever you are facing today is just a temporary thing. Just rethink, and please come back.’
He asked me to drop the offer at the federal level and return to the state government service again. And suddenly after about a year or so, there was a change of government. The civilian governor was sacked by the incoming General Sani Abacha administration. As soon as the new Military Administrator of Borno State came in, he swept all the civil servants at the Government House that worked with the civilian administration of Governor Maina Ma’aji Lawan. They brought me from the civil service to the Government House as an Accountant under the Group Captain Ibrahim Dada-led administration. After Group Captain Ibrahim Dada, I served three other military administrators – Colonel Victor Ozodinobi, Colonel Augustine Anebo and Wing Commander Lawan Ningi Haruna.
My records of service in Borno state between 1992 and 1998 were exceptionally remarkable because of the fact that we were very few in the state and the experiences we had, gave us vantage over others. I was up and doing; I handled my schedules and tasks promptly and effectively which necessitated my smooth progression from an Accountant to Assistant Director, Deputy Director and Director of Finance and Account in the Government House, Maiduguri. I was also posted to Borno State Pilgrims Welfare Board as Director of Finance and Accounts, where I served for one session.
On May 29, 1999, Alhaji Mala Kachalla was sworn-in as Governor of Borno state. In the evening of that day, I received a call, and I asked, ‘Who is speaking?’ The person said, ‘It is Mala Kachalla.’ And I asked again, ‘Mala Kachalla?’ Then, he said yes, ‘the executive governor of Borno state.’ I was shocked because it was the day he was inaugurated. I was really shocked. He continued by asking, ‘Am I speaking with Ahaji Mohammed Kyari Dikwa?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ He asked again, ‘Do you know my house?’ I said, ‘No, Sir.’ He then said, ‘Do you know Kolkol, do you know the White House?’ I said, ‘No, Sir.’ He said, ‘Ok, there is a big white house along the airport road. That is the only big house in that neighbourhood. It’s big and white. That is why they call it the White House. Come and see me there tomorrow at 4:00 pm.’ I said, ‘Ok, Sir.’ In the evening, the following day, Sunday, May 30th, 1999, I rushed to the White House to see His Excellency as instructed, and he was waiting for me. He said, ‘ I have heard so much about you, your performance in government and so on. We have never met, but I heard so many good things about you. So, can you tell me more about yourself?’ I briefly told him about myself, the schools I attended, where I worked and all that. After listening to me, he said, ‘this is very good.’ Do you have a telephone number beside the one I called you on?’ I said, ‘Yes, Sir. I have two telephone numbers.’ I gave him the other telephone number. His Excellency called me later that evening and said, ‘Alhaji Mohammed Kyari Dikwa, I have made up my mind to appoint you as the Acting Accountant-General of Borno state with effect from tomorrow and your letter will be given to you by the operators of Makintami Business Centre because I am going to resume office tomorrow.’ I was very excited when he said that, and he asked, ‘Do you know one Dr Shettima Bukar, presently the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education?’ I said, ‘Yes, Sir. I know him very well. He is my neighbour, a very good man. He is an exceptional man, very intelligent.’ After praising the man, His Excellency said, ‘That’s very good. I want to make him Secretary to the State Government and Acting Head of Service pending the appointment of a substantive Head of Service.’
By 7:00 am, announcements were made in the media that Governor Mala Kachalla had appointed Accountant-General and the Secretary to the State Government. So, we quickly went and collected our appointment letters from the business centre. But before we resumed, I called to inform His Excellency that I had collected my appointment letter and requested to see him that evening if possible. He gave me the opportunity to see him that evening. When I went to see him, I said, ‘Sir, I am so happy you gave me this opportunity, and you know that I am in the civil service and the civil service has a lot of bureaucracy. As Accountant-General, I cannot report to you directly as governor. I have to report to my commissioner, and the commissioner will report to you. Sometimes, I have to report to the Permanent Secretary. I want you to help me with three things: First, I want you to give me direct access to you. Even if not physical, direct access, I should render accounts to you on a daily basis.
‘Secondly, I want your permission to freeze all government accounts in all banks to enable us to carry out a comprehensive audit in order to ascertain what the state government has in those banks because the immediate past administrator announced that he had left N71 million in the state coffers. So, we need to know if the N71 million is there or not.
‘Thirdly, as I said, the civil service has a lot of bureaucracy. I am going to break the protocol by having direct access to you, and that will create more problems for me. People will come to you with a lot of gossips and things like that in order to paint me black. Please, give me a fair hearing anytime you hear something about me concerning my work.’ His Excellency was pleased with my presentation, and he said, ‘I have given you my approval for these three things you raised. As far as I am concerned, you can go ahead.’ He then said, ‘Let me tell you something. I became a governor to serve our people and not to make money. Before I became the governor, I ran successful businesses. I had Kolkol airlines, I had an oil business called Fezzan Oil, and I also have a construction company. I was the one who built the Lake Chad Basin and NNPC building at Area II, Abuja, among others. I decided to sacrifice all these ventures to become governor not because I want to make money, but because I want to serve my people. If I wanted money, those businesses are enough for me to acquire wealth. I want to tell you something, please, in the name of God, do not take money from government coffers. Anytime you want money, I have enough money to give you. But never take one kobo from the government account fraudulently because I am here to serve the people.’ I thanked His Excellency for the words of advice, and said, ‘Sir, I have heard all the things you said, and I will not disappoint you, I will not take a dime from government coffers that is not legitimately mine.’
And on Tuesday, I issued circular freezing all accounts that were being operated by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and we discovered that we had N141 million in the various accounts and not the N71 million disclosed earlier by the military administrator. I brought the details to His Excellency. I told him the next line of action was revalidation of all cheques that were issued in respect of expenditures and contracts. For instance, if you had made a contract and you were given a cheque that you were not able to cash, you will then bring back the cheque and tell us why you were given that cheque, and we will revalidate. If you had no reason, don’t come near because this is a government that was out to serve the people. Through the revalidation process, we were able to save a lot of money for the government.
I also started giving His Excellency details of receipts and payments of all the transactions at the state treasury from that very day up till the last day we left government on May 29, 2003. Sometimes I gave him a report on our financial transactions even when he was in China, America, and so son. That time, we would go to the Post Office and queue to use the fax machine to send details of our transactions to His Excellency.
We achieved a lot during my tenure as Accountant-General of Borno state, which many had thought were unrealistic. We started by professionalizing all the Accounts departments of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government in the state. Before we came on board, some people that had studied geography, health science, biology, etc., were being made Directors of Finance and Supply.
We issued a circular that unless you had an accounting or financial background, you could not be a Director of Finance and Accounts. We also established a professional body and then liaised with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and Association of
National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) to ensure that anybody that wanted to be a Director of Finance and Account was certified.
We trained them and even encouraged some of them to go to university and then come back to their work upon graduating. We guaranteed them their positions. Of course, there was resistance here and there, especially by those occupying those positions. They did all they could to stop me from implementing the policy, but with perseverance, we were able to achieve that.
The second notable thing that I had done for Borno State Civil Service that has remained a reference point was the introduction of what we called the e-payment system. The e-payment that is currently carried out by the Federal Government was as a result of what we had implemented in Borno State. In fact, as of 2001, we were already implementing the e-payment policy in Borno State. The Federal Government’s e-payment policy was introduced in 2009, and I was a principal actor of its implementation. When we introduced the e-payment in Borno state, we phased out cheque books. We used to pay people through the banks using mandates. We itemized everything on a sheet with account numbers of the beneficiaries, cross-checked and signed the mandate and sent it to our bankers for payment. The cheques system of payment we phased out in Borno state in 2001 was a very tedious process. Every cheque must be signed twice, stamped and cross-checked. So many protocols here and there, and it may take about one week to process only one cheque aside the numerous payment vouchers and so on. But the e-payment I introduced was efficient, cost-effective and time-saving. You have one sheet containing 200 to 300 names, five or six sheets would contain virtually every person, and once you send it, the following day, banks would have processed and commenced payment. They used to spend between two and three weeks to pay salaries of workers, but with the e-payment system, salaries were paid within the twinkle of an eye. The third remarkable thing I did was publishing the state government’s audited account and computerization of the Accounts Departments of the Borno State Civil Service. Before I came in as the Accountant-General of the state, government accounts were not audited for several years. In fact, they didn’t even compile the account details, let alone auditing. What I did was to establish a task force. The responsibility of the task force was to compile all the necessary information and records, analyse them and prepare the final statements of account and present it to the auditors to publish in newspapers. We did the compilation of data for seven years and published the same. That was a remarkable achievement.
I also ensured that the entire government financial system was computerized. It was effectively the end of using paper and pen for accounting work. We did that in 2001. After I helped spearhead these major transformations, the Governor and members of the State Executive Council were highly impressed. They said ‘why don’t we make him the Permanent Secretary since the person occupying the position had retired.’ That was how I was appointed the state Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary, the first in the history of the country. Lagos state government, Oyo state government and some few other states of the federation emulated the trend, and even at the federal level now, the Accountant-General of the Federation is also like a Permanent Secretary. He/she attends service-wide meetings made up of Permanent Secretaries and is being chaired by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
What informed your decision to transfer your service from Borno State Civil Service to Federal Civil Service?
As of 2003, I was already the Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary in Borno state. That was the highest position attainable at the State Civil Service. I was still young in the service at the time I was made Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary. At best, I could stay in that position until retirement. In May 2003, a new administration took over from us in Borno state, and they needed to inject new blood. So, the best option for me was to transfer to the Federal Civil Service. However, the problem with the Federal Civil Service at that time was the issue of limited vacancies because there were only about five Directors of Finance and Account. As at the time we were coming to the Federal Civil Service, there was only one vacancy for Director of Finance and Account, only one vacancy for Deputy Director, and three of us were recommended to the Federal Civil Service – myself, Dr Shuaibu from Kogi state and Mr Otunla from Oyo state, who rose to become the Accountant-General of the Federation. Mr Otunla was given the position of a Director of Finance and Account, Dr Shuaibu was given the position of a Deputy Director, and I was given the position of an Assistant Director. But the problem was my position as an Assistant Director was far below my ranking as the Accountant-General and Permanent Secretary at the state level. It was a very difficult placement for me. So, I had a choice to make – either return to the state government and retire as a
Permanent Secretary or accept the new position of an Assistant Director despite the fact that my colleagues were placed above me. One very funny thing about my placement at the federal level was that as at 2003, I was the chairman of the Forum of Accountants -General in Nigeria (FAGN), a body made up of the Accountants-General of the 36 states of the federation, and some members of the forum were placed above me when we joined the Federal Civil Service. As chairman of the Forum of Accountants-General in Nigeria, I organised a maiden Accountants-General Conference in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital in May 2001. We brought in stakeholders and financial experts including Malam Adamu Ciroma, who was the then Honourable Minister of Finance as well as Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, the then HOCSF. We brainstormed for five days on how to standardize the operation of government accounts in the country. The reason was that state governments had adopted one pattern of an accounting system or the other, and there was no uniformity as far as accounting standards were concerned. It was resolved at the conference that there was the urgent need for the standardization of accounting standards in Nigeria, and that was how the accounting standards came into being, with the implementation at the federal level, which culminated into the final adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
I eventually came to the Federal Civil Service as an Assistant Director. I was promoted to the rank of Deputy Director in 2007, and in 2011, I was promoted to the rank of a Director. I was appointed Federal Permanent Secretary on the 1st of December, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari, a position I held until my retirement on the 3rd of January 2020.
The motivation for joining federal civil was to advance your career?
Yes! One was to advance my career and further contribute my quota to the development of the nation. Another reason was I had reached the peak of my career at the state level. Thirdly, I was young and had a number of years to serve. These three reasons necessitated my transfer to the Federal Civil Service.
What would you say were your fondest moments as a civil servant?
One of my fondest moments as a civil servant was my steady rise in the Federal Civil Service from an Assistant Director to Deputy Director and then to a substantive Director. The Almighty God is the Master Planner of all things. When we transferred our service, there was a sudden tenure policy for civil servants by former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory. This policy affected two of my colleagues that I came to the Federal Civil Service together with. They had to leave the service in 2010, but suddenly and thanks be to Almighty God, Mr Otunla was appointed Accountant-General of the Federation, and that saved him from the tenure axe. The fact that I started as Assistant Director in 2003 saved me from being prematurely retired in 2010. That transition remained one of the fondest moments of my career at the Federal Civil Service.
How has the experience been as a federal civil servant?
It was an interesting experience. I have achieved a lot because most of my service years were spent at the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. I came in as an Assistant Director, but I was carrying out the functions of a substantive Director throughout until my appointment as Permanent Secretary. I started in a Department called Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI). When I assumed duty, the Ministry of Finance Incorporated was in comatose because most of its functions were being carried out by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE). So, when I came on board, we looked at what the BPE was supposed to do and what we were supposed to do in MOFI, and I realized that our work had only begun. We rolled up our sleeves and swung into action immediately, and that was how we were able to revive the Department to the extent that I came out with so many investment policies that are now yielding fruitful results. The only investment arm of the federal government was the Ministry of Finance Incorporated but the law that gave it legal backing was formulated in 1958, and there had not been any review since then. We did everything humanly possible to review it, and indeed, we didn’t succeed in that regard.
I also had the opportunity of serving as the Technical Chairman of the Board of Bank of Agriculture, Chairman of the Board of Bank of Industry and so many other government agencies. I represented the federal government at various national and international programmes, and that helped me learn so many things in terms of administration because, in most of these boards’ representation, I was either appointed as Chairman of Audit Committee or Chairman of Finance and General-Purpose Committee. We put in place various reform initiatives that made it possible for the transformation of some of these agencies.
What informed your decision to be looking for one certificate or the other from one institution to another?
That is my nature. I have never relented in my efforts to acquire knowledge. I am retired now, and immediately after my retirement, I got enrolled into Umm Al Qura University in Makkah, Saudi Arabia to study Arabic course, and I am currently studying there. The thing is that I usually get sick when I stay idle. If you are familiar with the way I worked as a civil servant, you will know that I worked 24/7. I worked round the clock like a machine. I never allowed a file to stay on my desk untreated for a day. I have never done it. As much as possible, I delegated the responsibilities to my subordinates.
I was a workaholic even when I was at the state level. That has been my nature. In fact, if I don’t treat files on my desk before going to bed, I would have a headache that night, and when I didn’t have answers or responses to files on my table, I delegated responsibilities to others who could proffer answers or solutions to the issues being raised in those files. They may come back with suggestions and recommendations that would help resolve the issues contained in the files.
I never get tired of learning. I seek knowledge because I always feel the urge to want to know more in my professional field and other fields of endeavour. I always want to know new things in order to be abreast with national and global trends and events.
Tell us about your experiences in Sudan, Harvard University, Cambridge University and Oxford University.
I have had the rare opportunity and privilege to be trained at Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford Universities. These are international recognized institutions, and when others attend even one of those institutions and come back home, they would be pompous. But I have gone through them all and remained humble because that’s the essence of higher education.
I went to Harvard for a course on Public Sector Financial Management. For you to go to Harvard for any course, you would need to be assessed by the management of Harvard on your background and knowledge you possess. Also, they would want to know if and when you come out of the institution that you are going to contribute something to the world and not only to yourself. In our own case, we found ourselves in Harvard because God in His infinite wisdom had placed us at a vantage position at the Treasury, and we had done something the whole world is proud of. These include the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), among other laudable initiatives.
At Harvard, we were chosen from across the globe. Some of my course mates were the Minister of Finance of Ethiopia, Minister of Finance of Spain, Chief Executive of Apple and other big corporations and organizations that were put together to brainstorm on what would be the next level as far as financial reforms are concerned. We made individual and collective contributions to the topic. Each and everyone had to contribute his or her experience. We were given a case analysis to see whether our contributions could be a reality or not, and at the end of the day, we developed a framework for the university to assess and see if it could be used globally for the benefit of public sector finance. The same thing happened at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, which are some of the oldest universities in the world. I had the rare privilege of being trained in these outstanding institutions.
I also went to the University of Bakhtalruda in Sudan. Some of our renowned Islamic scholars like Sheikh Abubakar Gummi and many other Nigerians have studied there. At the university, we were exposed to the best teaching and learning materials you can find anywhere in the world.
I also attended a prestigious institution called INSEAD Business School for the World in France. The school has three campuses only. They are located in Singapore, France and Washington. The main campus is located in France, and that’s where I went to, and we studied Advanced Corporate Finance.
I went to Oxford University for a programme on High-Performance Leadership Programme at the Said Business School. It’s primarily designed to broaden the intellectual capacity of a leader to effectively and progressively handle the multi-dimensional leadership tasks and challenges in today’s world. There’s a particular aspect of the course called Coaching Programme. It’s a practical demonstration of leadership skills and the ability to handle complex issues and challenges by participants. For instance, a participant would assume the role of a president, and he or she would be presented with huge challenges to solve as president. If this problem were to happen in a country you serve as the president, how will you solve it? And the people are watching how you are going to solve the problem. Whatever your decisions are on how to solve the problem, they will tell you if you do it this way, these are the consequences, if you were to do it another way, these are the consequences. They will give you a holistic approach on how to go about it. We used to do similar a thing at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). At NIPSS, there is a course called Crisis Game that is applied to every Senior Executive Course (SEC). It is a set of government put in place with the president, the legislators, the judiciary and all institutions like the armed forces, police, civil service and all that. And you have a cell seeing everybody – a practical demonstration. Depending on the role a participant is acting, he or she would be asked to demonstrate how he or she would handle crises when they occur.
For instance, if there is an increase in the price of petroleum products by the government and there is a demonstration by members of the public or labour union that is not in favour of the increase. How would you manage the situation as a leader? Would you order security agencies to open tear gas to disperse them? Would you open a forum for dialogue, or how would you handle such challenges? These are the kind of things you were subjected to in order to see how you would respond as a leader in a crisis situation. Everybody that goes to NIPSS must have done what we call the Crisis Game, and the essence is to portray government practically to see how you would solve problems if given a particular leadership role.
I think the major problem we have in this country is the way and manner leaders are chosen. If you come into the leadership without basic knowledge about leadership and how to manage crisis situations, you may not add value because you are not refined and have no any experience to manage human and material resources effectively. At the end of the day, you are going to mess everything up. These are some of the problems associated with leadership in Nigeria.
Give us an insight on how you get involved in the conceptualization and execution of programmes such as GIFMIS, IPPIS, TSA and Whistle Blowing Policy?
Like I earlier told you, before I joined the Federal Civil Service, I served as the Accountant-General of Borno state and Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Finance. I had a background and sound knowledge about financial reforms. When I came to the Federal Civil Service, most of these reforms were not put in place, and nobody was even thinking about them. When the then Accountant-General of the Federation left, and Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo took over the mantle of leadership, we came up with ideas on how to make those financial reforms institutionalized at the federal level.
Dankwambo and I were state Accountants -General of Gombe and Borno states, respectively. In fact, we are close friends and co-authored a book titled “Private and Public Sector Concerns for the Accountant.” We came up with a lot of ideas on the reforms and asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assess the ideas and see if they were in line with global best practice because we didn’t want a situation where the ideas we came up with could not be accepted globally. Interestingly, the World Bank and IMF showed great interest in our ideas of public sector financial reforms. Meanwhile, many other countries had already implemented some of these reforms. We started with the computerization, the GIFMIS and then the IPPIS. On the issue of IPPIS, we were concerned that there were a lot of ghost workers on the payroll, a lot of duplications and double payments, outright inflation of salary figures and so on. We computerized payments using the biometric data capture, and so on. There was a lot of resistance because of the fear of the unknown. Civil servants using the payroll system to defraud the government also put up a strong resistance, but we refused to put off the reforms. We engaged in serious sensitization and enlightenment campaign, and at the end of the day, we were able to scale through. I did not expect that the process would take government more than 15 years to implement despite the different types of machinery we put in place to ensure speedy implementation.
But you were able to do it in less than 15 years?
Yes! Most of these things had to be fast-tracked. The resistance was so much, and that was what delayed most of the implementation. But we pushed the programmes through. These include the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) that encourages transparency and accountability in public expenditure in line with global best practices. We also came up with the Treasury Single Account (TSA). I drafted the first circular on the TSA which was signed by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation. We categorized the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) into eight groups: those that were fully-funded by the government and draw their funding from the budget of the Federal Government, MDAs that were partially-funded (they generate their revenue but also have a government funding component), and those that were not funded completely. There were also revolving funds corporations, and some companies, which are treated under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
The idea of the Treasury Single Account is that government funds should be channelled and linked with sub-accounts. These subaccounts are then maintained by MDAs to enable them to know what they are paying in and withdrawing from the sub-accounts at any given time. Because of the volume of transactions carried out at the same time, you will find it difficult to tell what exactly the MDAs are doing. If you look at section 80 sub-section 1 of the Constitution, Consolidated Revenue Account is the account that is constitutionally recognized which gives the government a clear overview of what it has at any given time. So, one of the reasons for having the Treasury Single Account was to have a consolidated view of government resources at any time, online, real-time. Another reason is to reduce the charges by commercial banks. Before the introduction of the Treasury Single Account, commercial banks used to charge N5 for every N1,000 withdrawn by government or an individual.
Introduction of the TSA also brought about efficiency in service delivery. For example, prior to the implementation of the TSA, if you wanted to release the money, you would have to go through a hectic process via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the commercial banks. But now, everything is being done electronically within the twinkle of an eye; real-time and online.
Another fundamental reason for the implementation of TSA was to improve the liquidity position of the government. For instance, before the implementation of TSA, the government used to borrow money to fund some projects because monies were released to MDAs not based on need, rather rationally and were being kept in commercial banks at the detriment of the government. Sometimes, government officials connived with the bank officials to keep public funds to accumulate interests, which they shared at the detriment of projects, policies and programmes of government.
With the TSA in place, we only released funds based on the needs of MDAs. Funds are not released just like that anymore. That’s why we introduced another initiative called Cash Management Policy. The policy was introduced to assess the needs of MDAs on a monthly basis primarily. Every month, we met in the Office of the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to assess the needs of MDAs, and we made releases of whatever we had in the treasury based on those assessments. The yearly budgetary estimates would give the MDAs the legal backing of spending, but the cash releases were based on the needs of the government institutions. We had to prioritize spending to ensure that the government makes positive impacts on its key priority areas with the limited resources at its disposal. We channelled funds to the priority projects so that at the end of the day, there will be something to show for the huge expenditure. That was what we did using the mechanisms of the Cash Management Policy.
There are other laudable policies and initiatives like the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Auditing (PICA), the Whistle Blowing Policy and Efficiency Unit, among others. These initiatives were introduced to strengthen government institutions further and instil accountability, transparency and prudent management of government resources. For example, when we came up with the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Auditing, we were able to save the government about N700 billion. The reason was that, if we had allowed MDAs to use their allocations just like that, they would have wasted a huge amount of public funds. What we usually did was that if an agency, say, wanted N1 million for a project, we strived to find out if the agency really needed that N1 million. After we went there and checked, and sometimes we would discover that the agency needed only about N500,000 and not the N1 million requested for. Even if the approved budget were N1 million, we would give only the N500,000 that was actually needed to do the work based on our assessment and findings, meaning we would save the remaining N500,000 for the government that possibly would have been abused. Through these checks and balances, we were able to save N700 billion that would have been wasted. We also achieved a lot on the Whistle Blowing Policy. The policy was initially introduced to strengthen the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and it has eventually succeeded in reducing the level of corruption in the country, people are now afraid because nobody knows who may report infractions in MDAs. Under the policy, there is a reward system, and people are taking advantage of that to report corruption and corrupt practices in MDAs. They are always eager to report cases so that they can derive the benefits attached to it.
What would you say are your contributions to national development as Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning?
I was the pioneer Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. I was also the pioneer Director (Special Duties) in the ministry. And what we have done was to strengthen the operations of public financial management reforms and initiatives like GIFMIS, IPPIS, Whistle Blowing Policy, PICA, Efficiency Unit, Cash Management, Policy Voluntary Assets and Incomes Declaration, etc.
Out of the numerous departments in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, I only supervised three departments and one agency. The remaining ones were supervised by my colleague, the Permanent Secretary in charge of Finance. I am very proud to have supervised the three departments and one agency. I was able to ensure that the agency was given about 30% of its budget within that period. Also, one of the priorities of President Muhammadu Buhari was to see that government brought home displaced Nigerians, especially those in neighbouring countries. So, what I did was to call the officials of states in the northeast to come up with a mass housing programme that will make it possible for those displaced persons to be returned to their towns and villages. Through this programme, each state was going to undertake a massive housing programme in conjunction with the Family Homes Fund. In addition to that, there are additional houses being constructed currently. I will forever remain grateful because Mr President, through the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, gave me the opportunity to help solve a major crisis that had affected over 80,000 people that were displaced in Cameroon alone. The second outstanding issue was to make sure that the funds meant for the North-East Development Commission were released promptly to enable take-off. I knew and still know the implications of what is happening there, and I was mindful of Mr President’s desire to reduce the level of poverty and bring peace back to the northeast. We had to work hard to find and release funds quickly for them to start work immediately. The most prominent achievement I had as Permanent Secretary Special Duties was the prompt payment of salaries, overhead cost, capital cost and debt servicing up to December 31, 2019. On the Whistle Blowing Policy, I set up a Committee comprising security agencies which include; DSS, NPF, ICPC, EFCC, etc. to come with a bill to strengthen the operation of the policy. When I was leaving, I handed over everything to the Honourable Minister, and I believe she will forward it to the Federal Executive Council for approval. This is because we need the policy backed by law so that people would have confidence in the system and be protected should they assist the government in uncovering any wrongdoing.
As a Permanent Secretary, how did you relate with your ministers?
I had an excellent working relationship with the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. I really have tremendous respect for her because I knew the Honourable Minister for about two decades now. When I came into the Federal Civil Service in 2003, I was nominated to serve on the board of NITEL, and she was there running the Accounts department. When she became the Chief Finance Officer of MTEL, I was also a board member and chairman of the Finance and General Purpose Committee of MTEL. We later moved to NEITI where I was a board member, and she was our Executive Secretary. When she became Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, I was in the Federal Ministry of Finance as Director (Special Duties) for three years, and when she came in as the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, I was Permanent Secretary (Special Duties). She is very articulate, honest, hardworking and straightforward in her general dealings with issues. I have really learnt a lot from her.
I have worked directly with about seven Honourable Ministers of Finance, starting with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Shamsuddeen Usman, Dr Mansur Mukhtar, Mr Olusegun Aganga, Mrs Nenadi Esther Usman, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s second coming, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and Mrs Zainab Ahmed. I had a very good working relationship with all of them. No barrier or protocol. I had direct access to them. They felt they needed somebody who has the institutional background and that they needed me to be working with them directly.
For every office that I occupied in the last 18 years, I tried as much as possible to document my experiences and what the public servant should know. In that regard, I have produced over 17 publications which civil servants now use as reference materials for the purpose of examinations and research.
How would you asses your relationship with your colleagues and junior ones in the service?
I had a cordial working relationship with my senior and junior staff, including the leaders and members of trade unions and associations. I always looked at my work as a service to humanity, and I respected and held in high regard each and every staff for whom he or she is, and you know respect is reciprocal, if you give, you enjoy in return. For me, every worker was a partner in progress. I used to spend the whole day working, sometimes up to 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm with the staff around me. I made sure they get their allowances and entitlements promptly. I also encouraged them to go for training, seminars and conferences to broaden their intellectual capacity. My office was open to everybody. I also introduced the use of complaints and suggestion box for staff to tell me what they thought about our work and what could be improved upon. These helped me a lot in running the affairs of my office smoothly and efficiently.
Give us an insight on how you managed to be a lecturer and examiner for the Federal Civil Service Commission despite your tight schedule as Permanent Secretary?
There are two things that lecturers are used to. One is the public service aspect of the job, and the other is academic activities. The civil service aspect is the work that civil servants are used to because they go for promotion examinations and are asked questions on their schedule of duties, and so on. Regrettably, most of the recently recruited workers have not been given ample opportunity for training and proper induction process. No orientation, so they have little knowledge of the service or even their schedule of duties. I documented my experiences and other useful information about the government’s rules and regulations in a book for these workers to use to pass their promotion exams and interviews. Additionally, I organized tutorial classes for candidates to discuss Public Service Rules, Financial Regulations, Public Procurement Act, as well as other reforms happening in the public sector. I made it part of my schedule that every Saturday and Sunday, at least once in a month, I go to the Treasury House to teach staff. We grouped them according to their levels, for example, level 6 to 13; 14 to 17 as the case may be. Most of the questions asked during the civil service promotion examinations are from my books because they are experience-based and primarily written with practical cases that actually transpired in the civil service.
At the University of Abuja, I serve as a part-time lecturer at the Department of Accountancy. I give lectures on Accountancy as a professional course to produce trained and knowledgeable accountants for the benefits of the country and its people.
You are a member of the two professional bodies of accountants – ICAN and ANAN- which is rare. How did you achieve that, and what informed your decision to combine the two certifications?
There is a seeming battle of supremacy between members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and their Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) counterparts. Most ICAN members see ANAN members as inferior accountants because of the impression that they have not gone through rigorous training.
I wanted to make a point that both are achievable and equally important, and the intention was to bring the two bodies together so that the rivalry issue will be solved. There are advantages of being a member of ANAN and also a lot of advantages of being a member of ICAN. You cannot be a member ANAN unless you have a degree or HND in accountancy or associated degrees. You have to go to the School of Accountancy in Jos, Plateau state, but sometimes they give direct or honorary membership to people which angers ICAN because when you are talking about a profession, you need people to undergo a process for them to become certified members. You do not allow people to come from the top simply because they are in a position of authority. That is why ICAN does not issue direct membership. As far as ICAN is concerned, you must follow the process no matter who you are. And the process of becoming an ICAN member is very rigorous. You do not need to know anybody, just your performance and hard work would make you be a member of ICAN, meaning you need to study and then sit for the exams. You do not know where the exams are marked and people that mark scripts are changed every year. Whatever your scores will be published. It is not a question of whether you know somebody or not, and really the courses were very vast.
ANAN, which I did in 2000, wasn’t so strict because they just started and they were looking for members. That time, the exams were not that rigorous, but I know ANAN has gotten tough now
I also realized sentiments and biases were created as far as the Federal Civil Service is concerned. Some people will say look at this man/woman, he/she is a member of ICAN or look at this man/woman, he/she is a member of ANAN. Based on this needless rivalry, I decided to be certified by the two bodies so that nobody can tell me you belong to this or that. I am for all, and that way, I will remain relevant wherever the pendulum swings.
Do you have an interest in politics in the future?
I really do not have any interest in politics, but that does not mean if the government asks me to serve, I will not accept. I will serve, but I am really running away from a situation where I will have to put myself forward for an elective position. I am really not interested in that because I want to, in a peaceful manner, serve the people.
Impacting knowledge and sharing my 35 years of experience as a civil servant are my areas of interest. If I am given the opportunity to bring in people to learn from my experience, that will make me even happier because for me, after 35 years of meritorious service, and although I am now retired, I am certainly not tired of serving humanity. I am looking forward to any opportunity that can be given to me to give back to society. And with the help of God, I continue to do so now in my private capacity.
This country and its people have been nice to me. I have had opportunities to serve at different levels. And one thing, I am most happy about is that for the first time in the history of this country, to the best of my knowledge, a retiring Permanent Secretary was awarded a certificate of meritorious service.
The President approved my exit from the service with lots of prayers and best wishes. The letter was conveyed to me by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation on behalf of the President. Again, the President, through the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, handed over to me a certificate of meritorious service. I am very proud of this, and I wish other colleagues will also be given similar treatment and privilege and opportunity when their time eventually comes.
No, but to err is human and to forgive is divine. I, therefore, wish to use this medium to seek for forgiveness for my shortcomings while in the Service of our dear country, and to I sincerely appreciate and thank all and sundry, especially my family, friends and colleagues for their immeasurable support, prayers and cooperation I enjoyed while in the service of my fatherland. Thanks to you all.