Monday, 14 July 2008

Civil Service Reforms and its problems

The Nigerian Civil Service has undergone several reforms since its creation by the British colonial power in 1861. It is, however, the 1988 Civil Service Reforms that introduced profound distortions in the Civil Service. The objectives of the 1988 Reforms are to:

(a) enhance professionalism, decentralization and delegation of functions;
(b) institute checks and balances;
(c) promote general modernization;
(d) enhance the combination of responsibility with authority;
(e) align the Civil Service with the spirit of executive presidentialism; and
(f) enhance efficiency, effectiveness and speed of operations (see Phillips, 1990; 1989; & 1988).

The highlights of the 1988 Reforms are:
(a) the merging of ministerial responsibilities and administrative controls and their investment in the Minister as Chief Executive and Accounting Officers;
(b) replacement of the designation of Permanent Secretary with “Director-General”, whose tenure will terminate with the Government that appointed him/her and who will serve as Deputy Minister;
(c) greater ministerial responsibility in the appointment, promotion,
training and discipline of staff;
(d) vertical and horizontal restructuring of ministries to “ensure overall management efficiency and effectiveness …”
(e) permanency of appointment, as every officer, is to make his/her career entirely in one Ministry;
(f) abolition of the Office of the Head of Civil Service; and
(g) abolition of the pool system, (see Ibid.; FRN, 1988A and 1988B, Igbuzor, 1998 and PAC, 1999).

In reality, however, the 1988 Civil Service Reforms led to the:

(a) conscious and deliberate politicization of the civil service;
(b) misuse and abuse of power by Ministers and Directors-Generals who saw their Ministries as a separate entity and run them as personal properties;
(c) increase in the cost of running the civil service due to:

(i) the imposition of uniform structures on ministries;
(ii) the proliferation of parastatals; and
(iii) increase in human personnel without a corresponding
increase in the productivity;

(d) absence of a coherent and systematic training policy throughout the Civil Service;
(e) glaring shortage of skilled manpower, especially in the technical and professional cadres in virtually all the ministries;
(f) prevalence and virtual institutionalization of corruption; and
(g) disregard for the rules, regulations and procedures resulting in arbitrary decisions and general loss of direction; and
(h) complete emasculation of the Federal Civil Service Commission regulatory role in the appointment, promotion and discipline of Federal Civil Servants. (For a critique of the 1988 Reforms, see FRN, 1995; 1997 and PAC, 1999).

Thus, the 1988 Civil Service Reforms despite its lofty ideals of efficiency, professionalism, accountability, and checks and balances, did not achieve its desired objectives. In fact, “the harm done during the reforms was so much and so deep that it would take time, patience and determination to restore the lost glory of the Service” (Ayida, in Ajulo, 1998: 115).

The Ayida Review Panel on the Civil Service Reforms was inaugurated on 10th November 1994 to, amongst others, re-examine the 1988 Reforms. The Report of the Panel was highly and constructively critical of the 1988 Reforms. It reversed most of the reforms of 1988, namely, that the:

(i) civil service should revert to the system that is guided by the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the Civil Service Rules, the Financial Regulations and Circulars;
(ii) the Ministers should continue to be the Head of the Ministry and should be responsible for its general direction but he/she should not be the Accounting Officer. Instead, the Permanent Secretary should be the Accounting Officer of the Ministry;
(iii) the title of Permanent Secretary should be restored. She/he should be a career officer and should not be asked to retire with the regime that appointed him/her;
(iv) the post of Office of the Head of Civil Service should be re-established as a separate office under the President and a career civil servant should be appointed to head the office;
(v) the pool system be restored for those professional and sub-professional cadres that commonly exist in ministries/extra ministerial departments;
(vi) ministries/extra-ministerial departments should be structured according to their objectives, functions and sizes and not according to a uniform pattern as prescribed by the 1988 Reforms. Each could have between two(2) to six(6) departments;
(vii) personnel management functions in the Civil Service should be left to the Federal Civil Service Commission with delegated powers to ministries;
(viii) financial accountability in the Civil Service should be enhanced through strict observance of financial rules and regulations;
(ix) recruitment into the Federal Civil Service at the entry point should be based on a combination of merit and Federal Character, but further progression should be based on merit;
(x) Decree 17 of 1984 which empowers government to retire civil servants arbitrarily should be abrogated;
(xi) the retirement age in the Civil Service should be sixty (60) years irrespective of the length of service;
(xii) Government should harmonize the pension rates of those who retired before 1991 and those who retire after 1991; and
(xiii) salaries, allowances and welfare packages of civil servants should be substantially reviewed upwards and should be adjusted annually to ameliorate the effects of inflation, and discourage corruption. (FRN, 1995).

The current democratic Government, despite the various Civil Service Reforms introduced and implemented by different Military Governments, inherited a Civil Service that is:
a) highly regimented and militarized;
(b) sycophantic in the sense that most civil servants feel that it is “safer to conform than to initiate, safer to comply than to suggest changes and safer to follow the beaten path than to try to blaze new trails” (Etuk, 1992: 9);
(c) slow in responding to technological changes and modern organizational methods;
(d) characterized by poor work arrangement, highly hierarchical operational structure, un-streamlined organizational structures;
(e) lacking in financial and material resources to perform its functions and fulfil its obligations;
(f) corrupt in virtually all its affairs because of:

(i) disregard to financial accountability, probity and transparency;
(i) insecurity of tenure and means of livelihood during and after service;
(ii) inadequate remuneration of civil servants vis-à-vis their counterpart in other sectors in the face of ever-increasing inflation;
(iii) absence of basic working materials, tools and equipment; and
(iv) glorification of materialism by the wider society.

(g) grossly indiscipline, whose staff are frustrated, poorly paid, have low morale, exhibit laxity, poor and negative work ethics, and general inertia;
(h) declining in efficiency, effectiveness and productivity; and
(i) disregard and disrespect by some members of the political class (both military and civilian), the business community and other public servants.

These problems are not unique to the Civil Service. They also exist in the other Public Service. For instance, the following services provided by other Services have been poorly and inefficiently delivered:

(a) electricity power;
(b) telecommunication;
(c) law enforcement and security;
(d) enforcement of regulations and control;
(e) tax and revenue collection;
(f) infrastructural maintenance, rehabilitation and development; and
(g) inadequate and poor provision of social and welfare services like education, health, portable water and sanitation.

The problems confronting the Nigerian Civil Service and other services are not beyond solution like any other human-made problems. Neither does it mean that civil nor public servants are incapable of performing their functions and fulfilling their obligations. They did these efficiently and effectively, particularly from the 1960s to the early 1980s. In fact, it has been rightly asserted that:
“But for the fact that the military intervened in government in 1966, the Nigerian Civil Service would have matured and it would have become one of the strongest Civil Service in the world and consequently, the Nigerian nation itself would have developed into a strong hard-working and very proud country” (Mohammed and Dalhat, 1994: 2)

Thus, the problems confronting the entire Public Service in Nigeria shows that the damages and destruction done under decades of military rule will take time to be reformed. And that the reform processes will be a protracted one.

Since the restoration of civil democratic rule on May 29, 1999, the Government has adopted some measures to restore the dignity and glory of the Civil Service and place it in a proper position to effectively perform its critical role in societal development. These measures include:

(a) de-militarization of the Civil Service by:

(i) ensuring that the system is guided by the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the Public Service Rules, the Financial Regulations and Circulars; and
(ii) revisions of Rules, Regulations and Procedures in the Civil Service in a way that underscore Government “concern for discipline and proper conduct and practices by public officers in accordance with … Rules … designed to enhance fairness, accountability and good governance” (Obasanjo, in FRN, 2000A: (i));

(b) re-introduction of the pooling system. The new polling system is a qualitative development over those of pre–1988 Reforms in that it:

(i) ensure that officers, whether generalists or specialists, are posted to where they will maintain and develop their professional skills, thereby promoting professionalism;
(ii) enhance a harmonized development and management of common professional cadres;
(iii) promote healthy changes in the manning of ministries, thereby injecting new ideas and fresh blood into the system;

(iv) help to transfer skills and experience within the service;
(v) broaden the world outlook and vision of civil servants and develop esprit-de-corps throughout the Service;
(vi) promote national unity and integration by ensuring that staff of ministries reflect the ethnic, geographical, religious and other divides of Nigeria; and
(vii) to correct the distortions in the placement of staff arising from the 1988 Reforms;

(c) correction of the various distortions introduced by the 1988 Reforms.
In this respect, the Government is implementing most of the recommendations of the Ayida Review Panel on the Civil Service Reforms: Main Report, but with qualitative improvements to reflect the new political dispensation and emerging global changes;
(d) the restoration of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation which, is helping to:

(i) provide leadership, direction and favourable image for
the Civil Service;
(ii) maintain the Civil Service political neutrality and cohesiveness;
(iii) promote high morale and esprit-de-corps amongst civil servants;
(iv) coordinate training policies and programmes;
(v) improve staff welfare and development;
(vi) manage common establishment matters;
(vii) foster professionalism; and
(viii) promote cordial and mutual relationship between the political officers and civil servants.

These are qualitative improvement over the pre – May 1999 era;

(e) the institution of centralized coherent and systematic training throughout the Civil Service to de-militarize the mentality of civil servants, polish their administrative skills and develop their professionalism. The new innovation in the training programmes under the new dispensation are that:

(i) the training and retraining of civil servants, including Permanent Secretaries,
have been regularized;
(ii) it is now compulsory for all categories of staff to attend some training programmes;
(iii) career progression in the Civil Service is now tied to the attendance of prescribed training courses;
(iv) there is extensive use of on-the-job and in-house methods of training by ministries to capture, reflect and address their specific requirements;
(v) season retired civil servants are now engaged, on contract basis, to train and retrain civil servants on time-tested skills and methods of Civil Service, as well as share their experiences with serving civil servants; and
(vi) training need assessments are undertaken before training programmes are embarked and after the training, evaluation of the impact of such training are conducted through different methods, including promotion examinations.

These was not the tradition under military dispensation; and

(f) comprehensive restructuring of the entire system, (This is on-going).

The strategies the Government has adopted to manage the reforms are:
i. “Separation of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation from that of the Secretary to Government of the Federation is provided in the 1999 Constitution.
ii. Restructuring of the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation into five distinct components in a mutually– connected relationship.
iii. Civil Servant – driven implementation of reforms.
iv. Return to the restrict applications of extent rules and regulations concerning recruitment and due process in the conduct of Government business generally.
v. Streamlining and coordination of intra and inter-ministerial functions to achieve a common objective.
vi. Liaison with other Public Services across the world (and also multilateral organizations like the Commonwealth, United Nations Development Programmes, World Bank, etc – A. S. M. Babura).
vii. Revisiting the structure and functions of Strategic Public Service Departments such as National Planning Commission and other
Professional Departments” (Aji, 2003: 2).

The new innovations, which the Commission will hopefully bring to bear on the Civil Service Reforms, are:


(a) that professional examination bodies and professional organisations should be involved in the recruitment exercises. This will bring about standardization, uniformity and transparency;
(b) that transfer and secondment into the Federal Civil Service should be limited to critical areas of needs in order not to jeopardize the promotion prospects of serving officers; and
(c) that a database inventory to determine the capacity and requirements of the Civil Service and utilization of such resources through a suitably designed pooling mechanism be established. This will help check the suppression of vacancies where they exist.


(a) that promotion in the Civil Service should be based on the attendance and successful completion of short-time training programmes by civil servants on their professions, management and leadership;
(b) that promotion in the Civil Service at certain Grade Level be tied to membership of professional organisations;
(c) that officers on secondment to international organisations abroad should, on their return, be permitted to sit for promotion examination and if successful, should be granted appropriate notional promotion to enable them be at par with their colleagues;
(d) that notional dates of conversion/upgrading of officers should be the dates of acquiring the relevant additional qualifications;
(e) that officers who pass promotion examination but could not be promoted due to vacancy constraints should not be subjected to repeat such examinations when vacancies become available. Such officers should be promoted in order of merit of their performance in the examination whenever vacancies are available; and
(f) that officers who passes the required promotion examination should have their salaries upgraded to the next level and the salary be made personal to them.


(a) that the extension of suspension and interdiction of an officer beyond three months in the first instance must be approved by the Commission failing which the Commission reserves the right to recall such officers;
(b) that Ministries/Extra-Ministerial Departments should respond to all disciplinary cases pending before them for review within four weeks and those for retirement from Service in public interest should be concluded within two weeks;
(c) that Ministries/Extra-Ministerial Departments, in handling delegated disciplinary cases, should forward to the Commission minutes of deliberations to ensure standardization and uniformity and that all such actions are taken in accordance with the extant rules;
(d) that all cases involving criminal offences and which attract legal proceedings like theft, embezzlement and fraud be allowed to go through the normal judicial process in accordance with Public Service Rules on charges of misconduct in the matter; and
(e) that decisions of the Commission on all appeal cases be conveyed directly to the appellants through their Ministries/Extra-Ministerial Departments (See Adewoye, 2003: 5 - 7 and Vision 2010: 148 – 149)

The on-going Civil Service Reforms and restructuring processes are not without problems. The major problems, however, is the very poor remuneration package of civil servants. Civil servants are the most disadvantaged and depressed wage earners in Nigeria. The salaries and allowances of civil servants are very poor in relation to the rising cost of living and the amount required for reasonable subsistence. In mid-2000, senior level officials were earning less than Two Hundred United States Dollar (US$200). Also, the gap in salaries between the public and private sector is 300 – 500%. Even within the public sector, the salary of the civil servants is worse. For instance:
“the least paid staff of the Central Bank (of Nigeria) earns higher than a Grade Level 13 officer in the Civil Service. Also, the pay package of a Director in the Civil Service is only about 20% of that of his/her equivalent in the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC)” (FBN, 1995: 151).

For the Federal Civil Service Commission, the major problem is how to confront the increasing and persistent pressure for employment into the Federal Civil Service. In year 2000 alone, over 100,000 well qualified graduates applied for employment into the Federal Civil Service. This has serious implications on the logistics of the Commission, and the selection of candidates for appointment into the Service.

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