The Presidency on Tuesday administered an oath of secrecy on 37 staff members, threatening to sanction any of them that divulged classified information to the public.
Civil servants, by their training, are expected not to divulge official information without authorisation.
But to now compel them to swear to an oath is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria.
Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar handed down the sanction warning after Justice Hamzat Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, performed the ceremony at the State House Auditorium in Abuja.
Umar warned that the presidency would not tolerate any breach of oath of secrecy by the staff, adding that doing without authorization was a grievous offence.
“This exercise is the beginning of doing what is right in various offices,” Umar said. “The rules must be enforced and any breach carries a consequence. From now on, you are under the radar, we are going to watch and follow you.”
Explaining further, the permanent secretary said: “What we have done today is to administer the oath of secrecy on staff of the State House, who handled classified documents.
“When we say classified documents, they are secret and other documents that ought not to be handled without due diligence. So, I think it’s so important because we are alarmed by the fact that nowadays, due to deployment of staff and through retirement, we discovered that a number of our officers need to be placed under the radar.
“They will be aware that the jobs that they are holding, and the kind of documents or information they are holding from day to day, Monday to Friday and beyond, those documents are so important and must be safeguarded.
“And the breach of such documents would take away from the delivery of service and that was the reason why we decided that we should do the needful by administering the oath of secrecy and highlighting the import of letting them know what information they are managing, and then the consequences of the breach of such information.
“I think when you let people know, and then along the way, you find them wanting, the consequences are very clear.
“And so before we even went forward to do the administration of the oath, what we did was to do a sensitization training for them, so that the Official Secret Act will be spelt out to them very clearly.
“And the Special Services Office of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was here today to take them through all the rudiments of that information that they require, and the type of knowledge that they would need to keep close to them in discharging their day-to-day responsibilities.”
Describing the exercise as a huge success, Umar further added, “You could see from the solemn way the exercise was conducted by the Honourable Justice Hamza Muazu of the FCT High Court, the staff are now much more aware and much more alert, going forward, about their responsibilities.
“And then to the likely outcome of what any breach might bring about, we have not had any breach. We don’t anticipate having any breach. But then it’s our duty to let them understand that if there is any, that also includes after they have left government service, that will be investigated. And then the appropriate punishment will be given.”
Asked if the exercise be a continuous one, he said, “Like I said, from time to time, people who handle this schedule retired, some of them get deployed or posted out.
“And so when new people come in, you need to also renew this exercise so that all of us are always on the same page.