By BENJAMIN OMOIKE
Lagos State Government, on Tuesday, formally pulled the 21st Head of Service (HOS), Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, out of the civil service, with a ceremonial parade.
This came about four months after the former Lagos Number One civil servant penned down, exiting the State’s public service voluntarily after his meritorious service to the State.
Muri-Okunola has since assumed a new role in the Federal Government, now serving as Principal Private Secretary to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led members of the cabinet to grace the pull-out ceremony held at Adeyemi Bero Auditorium in the Secretariat, where the Body of Permanent Secretaries, led by the substantive HOS, Mr. Olabode Agoro, honoured their retired captain.
The event was also attended by chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
Muri-Okunola, in company of his wife, Alhaja Abisola, and mother, Alhaja Fehintola, inspected the Guards of Honour mounted by Security and Safety formations of the Lagos State Government, including Fire Safety Corps, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) Corps, Environmental Sanitation Corps, Neighbourhood Watch Corps and Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) Corps.
The Nigeria Police brigade provided the band services for the parade.
Sanwo-Olu spoke from his heart about the man who served under his leadership for a full four-year term.
Describing Muri-Okunola as “brother, worthy partner, and confidant”, the Governor said the former HOS helped his administration to stabilise at inception by offering valuable institutional knowledge to give the fledgling Government a sense of direction.
He said: “Indeed, Lagos State will be missing a real outstanding public officer and administrator par excellence, but we are happy that your exit from the State’s civil service is calling for service at higher level to support our father and leader, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“You deployed intellectual ability at your disposal to give Lagos a vibrant public service. You are taking forward your knowledge and skill in the service of Nigeria and the President. You did well in Lagos; we have no doubt you will succeed in your new task.”
Sanwo-Olu recalled Muri-Okunola’s days in the Lagos cabinet, noting that the former HOS contributions to debates and policy implementation positively impacted on the civil service and the State.
The Governor disclosed that Muri-Okunola brought the highest number of senior civil servants to be appointed Permanent Secretaries during his tenure as HOS.
Sanwo-Olu also reflected on the sense of fashion, neatness and cultural dexterity infused into the consciousness of public servants.
He said: “Hakeem Muri-Okunola stands out as a man of class and uniqueness. Every defining moment, I listened to Muri-Okunola’s wise counsel and I have never regretted any advice he gave. It is personally joyful that we are not paying tributes to you in past tense; we are talking about your legacy in your lifetime.
“It’s been an honour to have been your boss, brother and colleague. I say without any fear that I have respected the support you have given to me and my Deputy. You have been a worthy partner. Your name will remain written in gold in Lagos public service.”
Agoro said his predecessor dropped the pen after an outstanding public service career, saying Muri-Okunola earned deep appreciation from the State’s public service, given his dedication and contributions in executing and implementing various Government policies, programmes and projects.
The pull-out ceremony, he said, testified to the rewards of diligence, commitment, perseverance and honesty in the State’s public service. He urged officers still in service to be dedicated and diligent in assignments thrust upon them.
Agoro said: “We recognise Mr. Muri-Okunola’s commitment, diligence, honesty, efficiency, and exemplary performance over the years. His efforts have elevated Lagos State as a benchmark for effective public service delivery among all states in the country.
“We are confident that Mr. Muri-Okunola’s exceptional leadership qualities, recognised through his appointment as the Principal Private Secretary to the President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will ensure his success, as seen in his previous roles. His contributions to the public service makes us proud.”
Former Attorney General of Lagos, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, described the former HOS as “fiercely loyal public servant”, who served the State with every fibre in his body.
“Hakeem took the interest of all public servants as priority at every decision-making opportunity he had,” the former Commissioner for Justice said.
Responding, Muri-Okunola said his journey in Lagos public service was littered with ups and downs, but said it ended with many success stories.
He thanked former Governor Akinwumi Ambode for appointing him HOS, praising Sanwo-Olu for providing guidance and the platform that made him thrive as Number One civil servant.
At 46, Muri-Okunola assumed the position of Lagos State Head of Service, becoming the youngest officer to serve in the portfolio.
He said: “Majority of my time as Head of Service was spent under Gov. Sanwo-Olu, who didn’t just have me as HOS for the sake of having one, but had one whom he allowed to thrive. Mr. Governor gave me a free hand to give leadership and companionship to the entire public service. My tenure couldn’t have been successful without the cooperation of the Body of Permanent Secretaries.”
At exactly 12:08pm, Muri-Okunola signed out and was presented with the Certificate of Service.
He was inducted into the Association of Retired Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries (ALARHOSPS).
Some of the numerous achievements recorded during Muri-Okunola’s tenure as HOS included digitisation of Certificates of Occupancy (CofO) and introduction of Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) for scanning of land title documents.