Nigerian Civil Service

Chapter One


The Nigerian civil service is an indispensable component of the federal government. As a sine-quinoa for a modern independent state, it must be efficient for the provision of continued technological and social development for the enhancement of the government in the society. Adobe’s commission rightly pointed out that ‘effectiveness of the government is to a large extent determined by the efficiency and competence of the civil service.

From the conventional administrative perspective, the civil service is an instrument for both policy advice and implementation of the will of the state as determined by a legitimate political institution for which the service most is subordinated and subservient.

Max Weber warned the subjection of the civil service to political control is necessary to prevent the institution from becoming a master rather than the servant of the society as well as ensuring discharge of its functions, The modus operandi of the civil service is such that would insulate it from blame when government policies misfire while allowing it a share of credit for successful public policies.

 1.1 Historical Development Of Nigeria Civil Service

The Nigerian Civil Service has its origins in organizations established by the British in colonial times. Nigeria gained full independence in October 1960 under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary government and a substantial measure of self-government for the country’s three regions. Since then, various panels have studied and made recommendations for reforming of the Civil Service, including the Margan Commission of 1963, the Adebo Commission of 1971 and the Udoji Commission of 1972-74. A major change occurred with the adoption in 1979 of a constitution modeled on that of the United States. The Dotun Philips Panel of 1985 attempted to reform to the Civil Service. The 1988 Civil Service Reorganization Decree promulgated by General Ibrahim Babangida had a major impact on the structure and efficiency of the Civil Service. The later report of the Ayida Panel made recommendations to reverse some of the past innovations and to return to the more efficient Civil Service of earlier years. The Civil Service has been undergoing gradual and systematic reforms and restructuring since May 29, 1999 after decades of military rule. However, the civil service is still considered stagnant and inefficient, and the attempts made in the past by panels have had little effect.

In August 2009 the Head of the Civil Service, Stephen Osagiede Oronsaye, proposed reforms where permanent secretaries and directors would spend a maximum of eight years in office. The reform, approved by President Umaru Yar’Adua, would result in massive retirement of Permanent Secretaries and Directors, many of whom are from the North. Stephen Oronsaye has said that his goal is for the Nigerian civil service to be among the best organized and managed in the world. Oronsaye retired in November 2010 at the statutory age of 60 and was succeeded by Oladapo Afolabi.

1.2 Meaning And Nature Of The Nigeria Civil Service

The Nigerian Civil Service consists of employees in Nigerian government agencies other than the military. Most employees are career civil servants in the Nigerian ministries, progressing based on qualifications and seniority. Recently the head of the service has been introducing measures to make the ministries more efficient and responsive to the public.

From a conventional wisdom, the societies expect and conceived the civil service as machinery for development. This is because it is in charge of identifying economic development as a goal attributes to their bureaucracies as a capacity for initiating and managing their state resources. The opportunities to apply effective creation talents and capabilities foster an increased state and bureaucratic control over individual human beings.

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We must note that the civil service is not only an end but a means of governmental control in the state. It had to rely on the regime either democratic or military as the government of the day. My point of interest is how and for what purpose the civil service would direct its creative talent in such a political system of the day. The thesis emphasizes on separation of this interest of the Nigeria state from a collect and or sectional interest of the members of civil service, hence Nigeria high civil service and has exploited its partnership with either military or democratic government to protect the country’s integrity. Commonality of the characteristics and interest argument subscribed to people and institutions identical ethics trend to pull together mutual advantage. The civil serv ice and the government tend to pull together because of their identical organizational, behavioral and ideological characterized as bureaucratic institutions. Number of attributes as functional specialization role specificity, a hierarchical organization characterized by centralism, upward and down ward communication flows and superior subordinate relations, order, discipline, internal cohesion and espride corps, secular rationality, commitment to goal achievement and to national service.

From the perception of social Darwinism, ’ ’Only the technically competence will lead’ for major Nzeogwu’s Kaduna understanding of the civil service in development, after all, we have now got experts to do the job for us’’

The public image of the civil service is its contribution for the maintenance of unity and stability of the country. It service is commended for providing the semblance of government order and the continuity when everything about governmental direction seemed lost. In provision of the organizational and technical resources for reconstruction programmed in furthering the inspiriting and directing socio-economic development of the country. Their structural and ideological weakness has vitiated to contribute positively to the attainment of national unity and stability.

It is the  belief  of the people that, the greater attraction of the bureaucratic leadership is for  greater capacity, relative to  other groups, to induce and manage economic growth in fulfillment of the aspiration of their people. The Nigerian civil service is made up of abundant supply of technical skills, a capacity for large scale management, a disposition to accept and try new ideas, a time sense that makes men more interest in the present and future than in the past, a better sense of punctuality, a great concern for planning, organizing and efficiency in a tendency to see the world as a calculable, a faith in science and technology and belief in distributive justice as the ultimate goal of the state that accelerates economic development.

The ultimate goal of bureaucratic leadership is social justice for all Nigerian. It has been motivating factor in economic participation, production distribution, exchange and consumption, the civil service is not and can never foster equally distribution of power resources, economic resources among group and institution since people or men are not created equal. With this visible inclination, the civil service innovativeness, use of initiative and efforts as core in boasting productivity and effectiveness. Public policies implementation ensures to diffuse the means of power and influences as the indigenous people enjoys the commanding heights of our national economy.

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The image of the Nigerian civil service is not one of an out right villain nor indolence and inactive. As belief to be full of intensive and extensive activities determined and directed toward the satisfaction of sectional and general interests.

The civil service erroneous belief of what is good for the civil service top management is equally good for Nigeria must be debriefed as to foster scientific presentation and analysis of Nigerian yeaning and aspirations.

1.3 Functions Of The Civil Service

The civil service in 1990 consisted of the federal civil service, the twenty-one autonomous state civil services, the unified local government service, and several federal and state government agencies, including parastatals and corporations. The federal and state civil services were organized around government departments, or ministries, and extra ministerial departments headed by ministers (federal) and commissioners (state), who were appointed by the president and governors, respectively. These political heads were responsible for policy matters. The administrative heads of the ministry were the directors general, formerly called permanent secretaries. The “chief” director general was the secretary to the government and until the Second Republic also doubled as head of the civil service. As chief adviser to the government, the secretary conducted liaison between the government and the civil service.

The major function of the director general, as of all senior civil servants, was to advise the minister or the commissioner directly. In doing so, the director general was expected to be neutral. In the initial periods of military rule, these administrative heads wielded enormous powers. For some time, the military rulers refused to appoint civilian political heads. Even after political heads were appointed, it was years before the era of “super permanent secretaries” to end. That happened in 1975 when, after Gowon’s fall, the civil service was purged to increase its efficiency. Many of the super permanent secretaries lost their jobs, and the subordinate status of permanent secretaries to their political bosses was reiterated. Another consequence of the purge, reinforced subsequently, was the destruction of the civil service tradition of security of tenure. The destruction was achieved by the retirement or dismissal of many who had not attained retirement age.

Until the 1988 reforms, the civil service was organized strictly according to British traditions: it was apolitical, civil servants were expected to serve every government in a nonpartisan way, and the norms of impersonality and hierarchical authority were well entrenched. As the needs of the society became more complex and the public sector expanded rapidly, there was a corresponding need to reform the civil service. The Adebo Commission (1970) and the Udoji Commission (1972) reviewed the structure and orientations of the civil service to make it more efficient. Although these commissions recommended ways of rationalizing the civil service, the greatest problems of the service remained inefficiency and red tape. Again in 1985, a study group headed by Dotun Phillips looked into the problems. It was believed that the 1988 reforms, the most current measures aimed at dealing with the problems of the service as of 1990, were based on this report.

Compared with the 1960s and 1970s, the civil service by 1990 had changed dramatically. It had been politicized to the extent that most top officials openly supported the government of the day. The introduction of the quota system of recruitment and promotion, adherence to the federal-character principle, and the constant interference of the government in the day-to-day operation of the civil service–especially through frequent changes in top officials and massive purges–meant that political factors rather than merit alone played a major role in the civil service.

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The 1988 reforms formally recognized the politicization of the upper echelons of the civil service and brought about major changes in other areas. The main stated objective of the reforms was “to ensure a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service.” As a result, ministers or commissioners vested with full executive powers were fully accountable for their ministries or commissions. The director general had become a political appointee whose length of tenure was dependent on that of the government of the day; in practice, this meant that directors general need not be career civil servants; thereby reducing the latter’s career prospects. Each ministry had been professionalized so that every official, whether specialist or generalist, made his career entirely in one ministry, whereas previously an official could move among ministries. A new department–the Presidency–comprising top government officials was created at the federal level to coordinate the formulation of policies and monitor their execution, thus making it a clearinghouse between the president and all federal ministries and departments.

The reforms created a new style of civil service, but the structure might change under later governments with different priorities. In the past, the attempt by every government to effect changes in the civil service produced many discontinuities. Ministries have been constantly restructured, new ones created, and existing ones abolished. Nevertheless, the 1988 reforms might solve some of the problems of the civil service, because most civil servants tended to remain in their jobs despite reorganizations. Also, the move of the capital from Lagos to Abuja the early 1990s will provide new opportunities to apply the federal-character principle in replacing Lagosian civil servants unwilling to move.


2.1 A comparative analysis of the Nigeria Civil service with the USA civil service

2.2 Problems of Nigerian Civil Service

1. Corruption

This has eaten down to the root of the civil service in Nigeria, where recruitment is not done by merit but by knowing someone or by paying bribe to H.P.M or whoever it may concern.

2. Bureaucracy

Due to the vast array of rules, which leads to prolonged process of dealing with issues in civil service, has lead to giving and taking of bribe.

3. Incentives

These are what motivate civil servants to work without eye service, to give their best in their duties, but rules have made it difficult to be so in other hand it has made workers have a reluctant attitude towards their duties.

4. Lack of initiatives

Over emphases on adherence to rules, civil servants doing only what they are told to do, will not grow in creating ideas that will bring about better changes.

5. Miss-handling of public property/government property

Due to the ideology of ‘no man property’ civil servants miss-handle government properties and they will not be queried.

6. Miss-appropriation of fund

Due to the ideology of ‘quick cash’ or ‘make it quick’ civil servants with the help of politicians who are money making freaks, will miss-use public funds and use one or two stories to cover up their mess.

2.3 Achievements of the Nigerian Civil service


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