By Mukwuzi Joseph
The Presidency Tuesday administered the oath of secrecy on 42 out of the staff of the State House with a warning that any staff found leaking classified information to the public will be sanctioned.
The Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, who spoke when the affected staff were administered oaths of secrecy by Justice Hamzat Muazu of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, at the State House, Abuja, warned that the presidency would not tolerate any act of truancy and breach of oath of secrecy by the staff, stressing that leaking classified information without authorization is a grievous offence.
He said: “This exercise is the beginning of doing what is right in various offices. 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.
“What we have done today is to administer the oath of secrecy on staff of the State House who handle 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.”
Umar added that prior to the administration of the oath, a sensitization training was held for the workers.
“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,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary added: “You could see from the solemn way the exercise was conducted by 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 to have 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.”
Umar, who disclosed that the exercise will be continuous, expressed delight that so far, the State House has not recorded any breach of information.
He said: ‘‘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, there will be consequences after investigations and that also includes after they have retired from the Civil Service.”
Earlier before the administration of the oath, the Director of Special Services Department, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Tukur Yahaya, took the staff through sensitization, explaining the essence of the Official Secrets Act, 1962.
‘‘The essence of this exercise is to ensure the safety and security of government information, documents and facilities,’’ he said.