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Monday, 2 May 2016

Nigerian Civil Servants And Their Ability To Perform Effectively

The civil service involves working at the federal, state or local governments in a multiplicity of ways. Under normal circumstances and given time, civil service could have turned out to be an excellent place of work, but unfortunately this is not the usual incidence due to one reason or the other. It may be because of low incentives and salaries from the government or the lack of facilities in public offices. However, working for the government should be prestigious because of its permanence, consistency, fairness and security. These attributes are present in the civil service in some other parts of the world, that is, places where respect for law and order prevails. 

The civil service in Nigeria is said to have enjoyed those four attributes mentioned above, before her independence in 1960. Several reasons could be attributed to this, such as colonial heritage, good intentions of the civil servants, dedication, courage and faith in their ability to perform effectively and efficiently well. They carried out day to day public office works based on the colonial master's civil service rules. These rules ensured that there were smooth running of administrations and created an enabling working environment.

Immediately after the colonial master's handing over of governance to the indigenes during October 1st, 1960 independence, the attributes of the public service began to decline. The issues that led to this downward movement include the unnecessary rivalry, attempt to replace the expatriates with indigenous civil servants thus leading to a premature elevation to higher post, the creation of states leading to the sudden increase in the number of civil servants with corresponding increase in rapid promotion. Promotions were given to public servants without checking to know if they have the skills to handle a particular position, as well as, if the have qualifications that matches a given position in civil service. This contributed to ineffective performance in the Nigerian public service. 

This period of shadow happiness in the public service was short lived because neither the federal, state nor the local governments were fully prepared to accommodate the astronomical changes which suddenly entered into the public service shortly after the independence, particularly in filling the gap left by the expatriates and meeting the challenges of the newly created states. 

The civil service in Nigeria dragged its feet by trying to cope with several trends until the period of Murtala Mohammed administration which introduced a drastic policy of retrenchment. This is a process used by the government in a country to reduce the number of civil servants in order to curtail the rampant increase in public offices. The period of retrenchment in the public service under Murtala Mohammed marked the beginning of the era of very sharp decline (security wise) in the public service. It could be noted that those who were retrenched for one kind of offence or the other engaged themselves in other activities such as business. 

A lot of public servants who were retrenched became business owners and are now the major financiers in nearly all business sectors in Nigeria. It will take a long time for their business to cease to exist or be dropped from consideration as major business outfit in the country. The era of mass retrenchment produced a period of care free attitude in the public service and a sharp decline in the discretionary powers of the civil servants. 

During the first regime of Muhammadu Buhari (1983 - 1985), he made and undertook a crucial decision to demote some of the permanent secretaries who were given the appointment without portfolios, to their initial level and relinquish their titles. Apart from the painful result of this kind of action, it encouraged laziness, idleness, early retirement and lack of faith in the public service. Immediately, the morale to work effectively in order to succeed in being promoted to a higher rank died out completely. 

Summarily, Buhari's second administration is here. In other words, for a better administrative system in Nigerian public service, he must ensure that the attributes such as security, permanency, consistency and fairness are maintained in the system so that the civil servants can perform effectively. 

Happy Workers Day! 
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