Nigeria’s civil service is structured around all the federal ministries with each of them headed by a Minister. Each ministry has a Permanent Secretary who is regarded as the head of the civil service department and as such the most senior civil servant in that particular ministry. The ministries are in charge of government-owned parastatals including radio stations, educational institutions and other agencies of government.
The Federal civil service and even those of the states have been variously criticised for being inefficient. Not a few people have accused civil servants of being indolent, lazy and complacent.
Those who have been at the receiving end of the resultant effects of the rot in the civil service often describe it as a body that is fraught with corruption; a group of extortionists working in a decayed structure.
Though many complaints have been heard about the civil service, Street Journal’s findings have revealed that the complaints actually have their roots in a number of factors including the method of employment into the civil service. Not many civil servants can boast that they got their jobs based on competence. Investigations have revealed that other criteria including “knowing someone at the top” or paying bribes to those in charge of personnel management have since become the preferred method while merit has been pushed aside. Bribes running into hundreds of thousands of Naira are paid to secure employment in Nigeria’s civil service. Even the law enforcement agencies are not spared. A man was apprehended recently for obtaining the sum of N 400,000 from three applicants with the promise to help them secure jobs in the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. The offer turned out to be fake and law enforcers were promptly called. The culprit eventually agreed to repay the money in instalments.
Findings also revealed that the long bureaucratic processes in most ministries have not helped matters. People look for ways of reducing the delay, a factor that has made bribery part of the civil service system. In Nigeria, it is believed that to facilitate prompt action being taken on one’s files, palms have to be greased.
It is also evident that the Nigerian civil service is devoid of initiatives. Workers are compelled to follow dogmatic principles. They only follow laid down rules and do what they are told to do. That explains the reason most civil servants have not grown in creating ideas that can bring about improvement in the area of service delivery.
One other ill that has become more evident in the civil service lately is gross misappropriation of funds. Not a few former senior civil servants are currently being tried for embezzling funds. John Yusuf, a former Director in the Police Pensions Office was convicted for converting billions of pension funds for his personal use. Mohammed Ahmed Katun, a former staff of the Pension Account Office in the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation is also presently facing trial for fraudulently obtaining N 62 million from the pension account.
The “get rich quick’ syndrome has taken root in the civil service and top officials in some cases collude with politicians to fleece the country.
A good number of civil servants have also developed a bad attitude to work. Though it is often said that “punctuality is the soul of business”, that is not the case in the civil service. Some do not even go to work sometimes. At times, the junior workers are ready and are willing to work but the seniors are never available to instruct and direct them. Idleness has become the order of the day in most government offices.
A Federal civil servant who spoke to Street Journal recently said “in my ministry, we are very efficient but our Director doesn’t resume until 11am”.
The situation is similar in another ministry where it was disclosed by one of the staff that “we are just sitting down doing nothing here. Our director resumes at 11am and leaves at 1:45pm for prayer but he never comes back after the prayers”
Describing his experience in the civil service, a young graduate who was employed recently said “this place is for somebody who doesn’t have ambition. We are using the 1990 concepts. I told them I can design new ones but they refused. We are just photocopying the same book since 1990”. But what does he intend to do? His conclusion was “I can’t wait to get m another job”
The words of Oye, yet another civil servant confirmed fears that there is virtually no difference in any of the ministries. “We don’t really do much. Our Director comes early and leaves late most times. He has enough time to ready his papers”, he said.
The Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Kaduna was described as one of the worst, when it comes to absenteeism by some of the members of staff. “Some of the ogas don’t come and there is no one to query them. You will not even see my Depot Manager”, one of them told Street Journal.
Checks at the National Population Commission revealed that some of the departments have functions that are periodic. A staff in one of such departments told Street Journal that “our job is periodic so for now we are idle. We have not even met our new HOD since he resumed 3 months ago.”