IT is said that in every action, there is always an opposite reaction. This may be why the recent circular by the Head of Service of the Federation that Permanent Secretaries would serve for a renewable term of 4years and Directors would compulsorily retire after serving 8years, has elicited a lot of debate. The regional dimension of the debate was more often than the substance or desirability of the new Policy. Whatever it is, the new policy has open the long held believe that the Civil Service at all level of Government is in dire need of reform in all facets. From Tudoe Davis Commission of 1945 to Dotun Philips Panel of 1985, several efforts have been made to reform the Civil Service system but because of politics, sentiments and mediocrity, the recommendations of several committees were never implemented to the latter.
Civil Service, as it is today, is a pyramid that is massively crowded at the bottom layer and less crowded at the top stratum. But is the Civil Service meant to be a skewed pyramid? Nonetheless, despite this scenario, lack of speedy progression at the top band, which is less crowded, has become a source of serious concern by immediate subordinates. In point of fact, the blame is not from the structure of the service, even if it is, the larger part of the blame could be found in the abuse of the rules and regulations guiding the operation of the system. In addition to this, the politicians have been left to grossly bastardise the system. Over the years, the passion to work and the zeal to serve the nation in the public service has been abandoned for greed thus organised looting of the public funds becomes the order of the day to the detriment of service delivery to the general public.
A blame that is noticeable is the point that as the population of the country grow, with expanding demand and corresponding government activities at all levels of government, there seems to be less consciousness on the part of the government to expand the Civil Service to provide room for vacancies which would ultimately accommodate growing population while at the same time reducing stagnation. The consequence of this neglect, create the chances for stagnation in a system that is deeply rooted in promotion at intermittent intervals. In addition, it is worth noticing that the present absorption level into the Civil Service of the Federation as well as the States and also the Local Governments has far outweighed the number of retirements from the Civil Service. Indeed, many factors are responsible for this development.
In this case, tenureship system is being introduced to stem stagnation in the Civil Service organism. But, how viable would the new policy be to staunching stagnation and overall efficiency? Moreso, the new policy was received with a lot of scepticism with regional colouration taking a centre stage.
In point fact, the emergence of sentiments in the debate, government policies and programmes are likely to be affected gravely. Whatever is the advantage of the tenureship policy at the top of the Civil Service, it is very unlikely that it would address the issue of stagnation at the narrow top layer of the Civil Service Pyramid while the bottom has a morass of recruit due also for promotion. Therefore, unless there is a corresponding expansion of the top echelon of the Civil Service to address the crowd of mass recruit and duly waiting to be promoted at the same time, the tenure approach would only be a tip on the ice berg. In the circumstance, a leap could be borrowed from the complex American Army structure where there are more Four Star Generals, unlike Nigeria, with Command Post – this means that the Civil Service must look in-ward to open-up more frontiers.
The candid truth is that tenureship at the Directorate Cadre is just a narrow approach to address the problem of stagnation when it is a symbol that is found in every cadre of the Civil Service. What is urgently needed is a double-barrel approach. The Government rather than introducing a lopsided tenureship system, what is extremely necessary, is the reduction in the number of years of service from 35years to 25years while at the same time putting the retirement age at 55years instead of 60years. In the same vein, Civil Service career should end at the level of Director instead of Permanent Secretary since it has been politicised long ago. By this arrangement, the President shall then appoint Permanent Secretaries from the league of retired Directors who should not be more than 60years of age in the first instance of appointment and that would manage the question of experience. In addition, Board Members of Commissions and Agencies of governments arelikely to come from the category of retired Directors which would further breach the gap of experience in the service.
One advantage of this approach is that at the age of 55years, any retiree may be useful to himself by having the strength to plan for the remaining years of life and not to mortgage whole productive years in a basket called the Civil Service. Another advantage is the fact that, since there are more Directors than Permanent Secretaries, there would be mass retirements and heap of opportunity for mass movement and stack recruitment within the service. It is necessary to note that most of the Civil Servants join the system at an average age of 25years thus would be retiring at the age of 50years. Therefore, serving for 25years is an appreciable limit of great contribution and service to fatherland – Nigeria. It is of interest to note that the generation just before and after independence to early 1980s have served the nation wonderfully at much younger age. What this approach thus demand is change in the Civil Service Rules whereby the years determiningpromotion would be re-aligned to accommodate the effect of reduction in the number of years of service or retirement age.
The point that must not be missed is the fact the Civil Service in Nigeria has virtually collapsed. Politics and politicisation has systematically bastardised the very essence of the Civil Service. Consequently, morale is weak, remuneration is very poor, efficiency is no more, competence has been ditched and merit abandoned. Nonetheless, hope is not lost, Nigerians still believe in Nigeria despite the numerous challenges. The Civil Service is not optional unless there is no government. The glory of Civil Service can only be reclaimed by the quality of education being impacted and not in the number of years one is to serve or position to attain. May God help Nigeria!
Hussaini Sani Kagara
No. I43, Masoyi Road, Kagara