She hails from Adiabo community of Odukpani Local Council of Cross Rivers State, was born in April 1964, educated at the Queens College Yaba, graduated at the University of Lagos in 1984 with B.Sc Accounting and holds a Master’s degree from the Nasarawa State University. She was Director, Finance and Accounts at the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN.
Before her appointment as the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in April 2014, Oyo-Ita was Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs. Only last month, she was named by President Muhammadu Buhari as the new Head of Service of the Federation. Enter Mrs Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita.
According to the enabling announcement, the 51-year-old Head of Service is to be in an acting capacity, though the office does not require Senate approval but a direct presidential appointment.
Although there was no reason in the public domain to explain why she is at work on acting appointment, Oyo-Ita has demonstrably thrown herself into the job and obviously disallowing any such distracting thought arising from the foregoing to deter her. However, watchers note that the new Head of Service, a good observer at that, must have learnt the ropes so well to know how to meander her way through the twists and turns of the red tape bureaucracy that is the hallmark of the Nigerian civil service.
Ask any civil servant who should know, he will tell you that with speculations about alleged disloyalty and related conduct of Oyo-Ita’s predecessor, Danladi Kifasi, she is wiser for it all by ensuring that whatever banana peels there were that fell others before her do not stand in her way.
The first step Oyo-Ita took in that direction as soon as she assumed office was to declare that her administration would provide adequate training and retraining of staff to restore efficiency in the service. That was at the inaugural event in her then new office last month.
A deputy director in her new office was to articulate her vision in a statement later that day quoting Oyo-Ita as saying that training of civil servants would be enhanced with the provision of adequate working tools, and would pave the way for management’s performance measurement rewards and penalties adding that her administration hoped to ensure the restoration of the integrity and dignity of the service through efficient, productive, incorruptible and citizen-centred staffing.
The Head of Service also noted the need for the service to be innovative and proactive by devising strategies and action plans that will assist the government in addressing the current challenges facing the nation while calling on all officers in the service to protect its image to build public confidence and trust in the system, stressing that a negation of such would make the service left out of the scheme of things.
For effect, Oyo-Ita said: “The civil servants should be proud to make the following declarations: ‘I am efficient, I am productive, I am incorruptible and I am citizen-centred.” Good thoughts!
But even as she goes about repositioning the civil service, dubious persons have since gone to work to undermine, compromise and/or stall her efforts via any means possible.
For instance, days after she assumed duty, the Head of Service had cause to alert the world on a Facebook account opened in her name for objectives which are obviously not patriotic; and like she disclosed, it must have been for the purpose of defrauding Nigerians seeking employment.
She added that the phoney Facebook account carried advertisements for vacancies in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation. In warning unsuspecting members of the public to discountenance the Facebook account opened in her name, Oyo-Ita dissociated herself from the Account while describing the intention of those behind it as dubious.
I have gone this length to throw up the foregoing simply to underscore the fact that though she is of the globally-acclaimed weaker sex, the Head of Service knows her onions. Of course as a career civil servant who had worked in many other federal ministries, parastatals and with top government personalities in committees and groups among others, nothing less is expected of her. Against that background therefore, I share the optimism of many within and outside the service that with Oyo-Ita at the top, a renewed, reinvigorated and refired Nigerian civil service united under the CHANGE mantra of the Buhari administration for a better, progressive nation is in the offing.
Thus far, Oyo-Ita goes about her calling with the equanimity of the administrator that she is conscious of the fact that the civil service is critical to the successful delivery of democracy dividends to the people. Her faith in herself and the administration will underscore her place in history at the end of the day.

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