The Nigerian Civil Service

The Nigerian Civil Service consists of employees in Nigerian government agencies other than the military and police. 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.

Nigerian Coat of Arms

History

The word civil is derived from an old french word “civil” which means “relating to law” and directly from Latin word “civilis” which means “relating to citizen”. while the word service is derived from an old french word “servise” which means “aids”. 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.

Organization

The civil service is mainly organized around the federal ministries, headed by a minister appointed by the President of Nigeria, who must include at least one member of each of the 36 states in his cabinet. The President’s appointments are confirmed by the Senate of Nigeria. There are less than 36 ministries. In some cases a Federal minister is responsible for more than one ministry (e.g. Environment and Housing may be combined)and a minister may be assisted by one or more ministers of State. Each ministry also has a Permanent Secretary, who is a senior civil servant.

The ministries are responsible for various parastatals (government-owned corporations) such as universities (Education), National Broadcasting Commission, Information and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Other parastatals are the responsibility of the Office of the Presidency, such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Federal Civil Service Commission. The service has six additional units which provide services to all departments on the Civil Service:

  • Establishments & Record Office (E&RO)
  • Career Management Office (CMO)
  • Manpower Development Office (MDO)
  • Management Services Office (MSO)
  • Common Services Office (CSO)
  • Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR)

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