Niger govt goes tough on civil servants over support for opposition parties

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Niger State government has reportedly clamped down on civil servants over their open support for opposition parties even as mass exodus of members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) continued.

Worst hit by the onslaught are workers in councils where government officials have begun to compile names of those suspected to be romancing with opposition parties.

In Edati council, no fewer than 20 staff suspected to be romancing with the main opposition party, the People Democratic Party (PDP), have been queried and their salaries suspended for ‘abandoning’ their duty to attend political meetings.

A letter of query/suspension dated August 2, 2022 and signed by the staff officer of the council, Mallam Baba Shaba Gaba, for the director of administration, accused the affected staff of “engaging in partisan politics while in the service of Edati local government.”

One of the query/suspension letters an affected staff (name withheld) read: “Investigations revealed that you have absconded yourself from duty post on Thursday, 2nd of August, 2022 to attend a political meeting at PDP office in Edati.

“Consequent upon this development, you are to explain within 24 hours why disciplinary action should not be taken against you for engaging in partisan politics while in active service of Edati local government.”

The letter equally directed the suspension of all affected staff indefinitely while their August salaries have been withheld.

One of the affected workers described the allegations against her and 19 others as “a huge lies and nothing but to call a dog a bad name in other to hang it.”

She pointed out that though she has the right and freedom of association, be it political organization or any other association, she did not abscond from her duty post as alleged.

She maintained that she has the right to be at any particular place after office hours, adding that “the purpose of my presence at any place and at any particular hour other than office hour is nobody’s business, more so that I am not a card carrying member of any political party.”

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She warned that victimisation of civil servants would not help the APC in the state “because nobody will follow us to the polling unit on election day. So, it is just a waste of time.”

A judgment by the Supreme Court delivered by Justice Mohammed Uwais in January 2018 had ruled that a civil servant could be a member of a political party of their choice as provided for in the 1999 constitution.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 1,000 supporters of the ruling party have reportedly shifted their loyalty to the PDP in Munya Local Government Area, citing imposition of candidate as reason.

This is coming barely a month after 5,000 supporters in Tafa Local Government Area defected to the PDP in a well-attended ceremony in Sabon Wuse, headquarters. Mass defection has continued despite efforts by the gubernatorial candidate, Umar Bago, to reconcile all aggrieved members across the three senatorial districts.

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