The new policy in the Federal Civil Service that prescribes renewable four-year tenure for permanent secretaries and a maximum of eight years for directors has generally been hailed as a good policy that might inject new blood into the system and help to invigorate the Service.
A few who are personally affected by the new policy and who felt that it was aimed at easing them out of service are working hard to ensure its failure. Apart from flying the kite of ethnicity one of their strongest arguments is that the policy ignores the rules under which they came into service, that they can only retire upon attaining the mandatory age of 60 or 35 years in service, whichever comes first.
I did not know that this rule is sacrosanct until now. Neither did the over 30,000 civil servants, mostly in the lower rung between Grade Level 01-06, knew this when they were unceremoniously removed from service in 2006 under various guises that are not in line with the terms by which they were employed. They were sacked in the name of right-sizing, down-sizing and many were given the dubious reason termed “in the public interest.”
I remember very well that among the permanent secretaries and directors crying foul now were those that directed that retrenchment exercise and compiled list or accented to the list of those that were sacked. I did not remember that any of them raised a voice to defend these poor and helpless workers.
So they now suddenly remembered that there are terms of employment that should be adhered to. What hypocrisy! This present situation has really shown the self-centered nature of our ruling elite. While in office, everything must revolve around them, every privilege, both legal and illegal must be given to them. The nation must defer to their views at all times and rules are only cited whenever it conveniently serves their purpose.
For how long are we to allow this sort of self-centered civil servants to continue to lead the nation astray. All over the world, the civil service is seen as the engine-room for the implementation of government policies and programmes. Apart from this, the civil servant is supposed to be a trained technocrat who checkmates the excesses of politicians.
In Nigerian, however, this is not the case. What we have had to endure is a class of civil servants, particularly at the top echelon; whose mandate have been corrupted and twisted into collaboration with the political class to milk the nation dry. There are very recent classic examples of this type of situation. Remember the December 2007 Ministry of Health cash sharing scandal and the very recent expose at the power sector that involved legislators in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Nigeria is where it is today because of these sort of people who should have long been thrown off the corridors of power but will rather continue to do anything to cling to power. Invariably, we will continue to have bad roads and lack of pipe borne water in most communities. We will continue to have incessant power supply and a moribund health care system, a dying agricultural sector and a comatose industrial sector. Many find it difficult to believe that Nigeria could still be at its present level in spite of the abundant natural and human resources we are blessed with. Evidently, ours is a case of endemic mismanagement of resources. Definitely, we need to change some of our managers and inject new people that could start off in with a new culture of accountability.
What could a man still be doing on a seat he had the privilege to be on as Permanent Secretary or Director for over 10 years with nothing much to show for it other than the fact that he was able to fatten his purse while the nation became leaner? A thorough investigation of the life-style and wealth of this set of people will surely give answers to some of the questions being asked concerning the problems with our dear country.
That the civil service needs a thorough shake-up is not news anymore. What has always bothered one is the resistance always put up by groups of people who believe that any attempt to change the system for the better should be resisted if it does not serve their narrow interests. Moreover the civil service in Nigeria ought to move away from being like a social service set-up where people go to work, do nothing and collect pay or where undue privileges are distributed to the detriment of genuine national development.
There is the urgent need to reorder things. What we really need is a manageable and functional civil service where every officer has a realistic schedule of duty, targets are set and performances are measured in line with national goals and aspirations. The state of the nation calls for urgent and realistic measures to address all developmental issues without recourse to sentiments.
As far as the 7 – point agenda of the present administration is concerned, many are of the view that not much have been accomplished. When we now look at the possibility of achieving the goal of vision 20:2020, it looks rather far-fetched.
By the World Bank GDP listing, Nigeria is currently on the 38th position. If we are to move to number 20 by year 2020, it means that we have to overtake those countries that are currently listed to be on numbers 20-37. Take a look at these countries and tell me, as we are now, if it looks like a realizable goal. The countries are: Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Austria, Iran, Greece, Denmark, Argentina, Venezuela, Ireland, South Africa, Finland, Thailand, Portugal, Columbia and Czech Republic.
You will agree with me that with the kind of civil service that exists in Nigeria today, we are not ready to move forward. I will not be surprised, if by the next listing, we slide backwards. Maybe someone should do a study of the economic affairs in relation to the operations of the civil service in these countries and see why they are above us.
Those who are opposing the current effort to carry out reforms in the civil service should stop doing so in the interest of Nigeria. While genuine individual rights should be protected and respected, the overall interest of the nation should be paramount. Our corporate aspiration should supersede the career aspiration of certain elements whose service records have not been able to take us out of the abyss.