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The Battle of Averages in Nigerian Civil Service

Civil service contributes immensely to the development any nation. The Nigerian civil service is the most important sector of the nations economic systems, both at the federal and the state level economic system. Indeed, the transformation of any society or system depends mainly on the effectiveness and efficiency of its civil service, particularly in developing countries.

The civil service in Nigeria was originally established as part of the machinery of the British colonial administration. The kind of civil service bequeathed to Nigeria by her colonial master was alien and narrow in scope, and so not development oriented. At Nigeria independence in 1960, the federal civil service had a staff strength of only 30,000, this increased steadily to the level of 200,000 in the late 1990s due to political patronage. Many unqualified personnel joined the Civil Service which resulted to over sized workforce that absorbed, about 87% of the total government revenue.

Meanwhile, the civil service has been undergoing gradual and systematic reforms and restructuring. However, the civil service is still considered stagnant and inefficient, and the attempts made in the past by panels have had little effect. Consequently, the issue of why, over time, the same problems come up again and again suggests that the root causes of the problems have not been adequately investigated, analyzed and addressed. These are invariably a mix of the systemic and the Nigeria factors demanding deep-rooted reengineering and culture change. Besides, due to poor policy and research function and culture of seminal interrogation of deep issues in the public service, in turn a reflection of a chronic culture of anti-intellectualism that treats rigorous solutions as theoretical, most reform programmes merely implement developed countries’ reform models as advised by the World Bank, IMF of this world, and private consulting firms.

The country is facing a sharp economic downturn and severe loss of business confidence. The apprehension over the distasteful economic ailment is not just an echo of a slowdown in GDP growth, but also the poor quality of growth. These are joined by harsh operating environment, galloping inflation, high food cost, low disposable income, insecurity, unemployment, the heavy cost of subsidizing the premium motor spirit (fuel) and the lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic all posing serious hurdles to Nigeria’s economic stability. The Federal Government continues to build up liabilities against future generations of Nigerians by borrowing huge sums in foreign currency to support shortfalls in its budgets. Now this would not have mattered that much if the borrowings led to a boost in domestic productivity. Government could then continue to argue that the increased output from its spend would pay for itself. Instead, a large part of our burgeoning debt portmanteau goes to meeting recurrent spending. The crisis of the nation is so grave that everywhere in the nation is besieged by idling crowds of frightening sizes with frustrations, tensions and anxieties of uncertain future all over the face of the people.

Brain Drain: The Nigerian Experience

Following dwindling federal allocations arising from a drop in oil revenue and sustenance of petroleum subsidy by the Federal Government, many state governments, are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their obligations to workers and other residents. In January this year, the Kano State Government, one of the first states to commence implementation of the new minimum wage last year, halted it and reverted to the former wage of N18, 000 for its workers, insisting: “What we are getting now as a government has reduced and we can’t afford to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage.” In contrast, Nigerian civil servants are demanding a general salary review in the civil service; upward review of retirement age in the entire public service to 65 years or 40 years of service, as well as other labour related demands to uplift the welfare of the workers. In line to a motion on the floor of the House of Representatives in February 2021, by Rep. Sani Bala, representing Kano-APC, he stated that Nigeria, like many other countries, ought to have begun a post COVID–19 era by implementing measures geared towards revamping the economy and improving other socio–economic activities.

The spread of manpower and professionals in the private sector and its achievement in Nigeria has shown vividly how the country’s blessed with human resources. Being an alumnus with a First Class or Second Class Upper honours from a creditable University in Nigeria is an indisputable way of obtaining a good and well paid job in Nigeria. Yet, it has dawned on a lot of graduates with such grades that they are still unable to get the job. International firm’s running in Nigeria are sourcing most of their graduate workforce from overseas countries than Nigeria.

Civil service refers to employees selected and promoted on the basis of a merit and seniority system, which may include examinations. There are systemic opportunities for powers and processes abuses because rather than strong institutions, the constitution favours strong individuals. The Nigerian public service is widely considered to be filled with political appointees employed through favouritism and nepotism and this has made them less accountable. However, consistently elevating mediocrity, and using a mix of politics, religion and ethnicity to beat people into line in the public service has affected the performance of this sector which has in its possession vast resources for various endeavours. Discipline and disciplinary procedures are neglected to the extent that serious violations are committed with impunity. A 24-year-old Nigerian, Clement Akinnouye, said I’ve applied for over 100 jobs since I graduated at the federal civil service, civil defence, Nigerian customs service, NNPC [the national oil company], federal road safety, even Nigerian prisons,” said Akinnouye, who has lived on his own since he was 12 and put himself through university in Kaduna. “To get work here is very, very hard for normal people, unless you know someone.”

Ogunsola Semiu, a public analyst, said, “the government has not employed enough in many sectors, yet recurrent expenditures is a burden on them already. A lot of sectors that the government should employ more; education, health, security, are in great lack, yet many sectors are employing people with no obvious use. It cuts across federal and state. “If resources is scarce, shouldn’t we at least make full use of the little? It’s almost impossible to sack government employees; it’s irrational and wicked anyway, but there should be redistribution of employees to areas where there are work to be done; Some sectors actually have relevance, but they’re not just functional in this country. We find a way to make them functional, or reassign them to other sectors short of hands. We shouldn’t even talk about those sectors that are supposed to be making profit for the government, some of them aren’t even making enough to pay their own salaries. But that’s not surprising, as many people ordinarily believe that no government can run a successful business.”

In the past whereby the Civil Service was seen as a welfare institution to recruit all manner of people to mitigate the unemployment crisis as being responsible for the failure of government reforms. The pioneer Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Goke Adegoroye said, the system began to allow outflow (retiring) and new civil servants to come in. Aside from that, the tenure system allows the young ones to grow and when the young ones are growing, it motivates them and they can put in their best. But when they are stagnated, they become frustrated especially when they know they are stagnated because one minister comes in and brings someone as special assistant and in a few years becomes a director and worse is when such a person does not know as much as them who have been in the service.”

Other factors affecting the Nigerian Civil Service includes lack of competent leadership, ageing and out of date personnel, erosion of service ethics, poor succession planning, sabotaging service innovation in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), incidences of stagnation as a result of lack of vacancies and need to create vacancies by the MDAs; appointment of non-career persons into the civil service, payment of gratuity to civil servants, salary harmonisation in the public service, abolition of the dichotomy between HND and BSc holders and unprofessionalism and
institutional corruption.

However, the emergence of a new government with its populist and progressive policy thrust, the rising awareness among civil servants, the global obligation of the Nigerian government to public service reforms, the proven efficacy of the ballot as an instrument for effecting change of government, coupled with the readily available support of donor agencies, which together, have the prospects of creating the right political atmosphere for the implementation of requisite reforms in the Nigerian federal civil service with utmost efficiency and likelihood of success. Earlier this month, the federal government suspended the salaries of 331 civil servants on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform following their failure to carry out the online records update that is being implemented in the MDAs and participate in the physical verification exercise. IPPS is a computerized Human Resource Management Information System. Implementation of IPPS was part of the Public Service Reform programmes aimed at strengthening accountability and improved service delivery through automation of Human Resource functions and provision of reliable and timely information for decision making.

Corresponding to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, “bemoaned incidences of sharp practices, noting that a large number of fake appointment letters were being discovered in some Ministries, which, if not properly addressed, would lead to the denial of employment to a great number of prospective and eligible law-abiding job seekers in the country.” Recently, the Nigeria’s Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed commented that, “the government now found out that what agencies are doing is that if a director retires, based on director salaries, they employ six people to take up the director’s salary,” adding that, “Many of these agencies do not follow approved processes.” The Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, noted that “If we can transform the civil service, then we can replicate that and bring those committed professionals back to the civil service and they will be in the position to really assist those in politics who may not really have the expertise to deliver what they have really promised the people.”

 

 

 

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