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The Public Service and the Transformation Agenda: Redefining the rules of engagement (3)

A FEW constitutional amendments would also be useful. There should be provision for independent candidates. Some outstanding independent candidates will get elected and help to improve the calibre of members in the legislatures. Consideration should be given to increasing the membership of the State Assemblies to make it more difficult for state governors to direct and manipulate the State Assemblies.

They should not be full time but have two sessions of 2 -3 months each a year. Their salaries and allowances should also be drastically reduced to free resources for capital investments. The Federal and Regional Legislatures before Independence and during the First Republic -1960 – 66 were part time.

The 774 Local Governments recognized under the 1999 constitution are too many. Many of them are too small to be able to deliver their constitutional services unlike the situation before Independence and the First Republic where you had Local Governments like the Lagos City Council, the Kano Native Authority, and the Benin Native Authority etc. which were large enough and had the resources to maintain professional and technical departments, able to deliver good services in health, educational, and public works sectors. In our present circumstances of very atomized LGAs consideration should be given to enabling several LGAs to be grouped in viable catchment areas to establish competent Technical Boards funded equitably per capita by the co-operating LGAs to deliver services in sectors such as Educational Inspectorates, Teachers Commissions, Public Health ,Services, Rural Roads etc. There is no time to go into other desirable re-organization details to ensure service delivery.

It is very necessary and urgent for the Government to continue the reforms towards the re-establishment of a greatly improved, re-organized, re-oriented, re-motivated, continuously trained and re-trained professional, non-partisan, empowered, well ¬remunerated, non-corrupt, investor-friendly Civil Service which is merit and productivity driven. This is to enable the Government deliver.

Can Nigerian leaders and citizens rise to these challenges and do what is necessary to save the country? Let us recall some achievements in the past: The achievements in the vast improvement in the provision of education for children, the establishment of plantations and farm settlement schemes and initiating industrial development under Regional Self-Government in the late 1950s and the First Republic up to 1966.

Despite the dire predictions of the doom of genocide and lynching which would follow the defeat of Biafran Secession, Nigeria surprised the world with the success of its programme of Rehabilitation, Reconciliation and Reconstruction under the 1970 – 74 2nd National Plan.

The impressive average annual growth rate of 6%+ from 1962 – 1966; and after the Civil War, the average annual growth rate from 1970 – 75 of 11.75%.

Supposing even after removing Gen. Gowon, his successors had continued with the disciplined implementation of the 1975 – 1980 3rd National Plan, and if under subsequent National Plans, 10%+ average annual growth rate was maintained for the next two decades, Nigeria would have escaped from poverty and under-development and would today be an African Lion or Tiger amongst Asian Tigers.

Besides economic growth and improving welfare for all citizens there are other initiatives a patriotic leadership can take to foster national integration. Supposing following up on the early successes of the National Youth Service, the Nigerian leadership was able to introduce a Language Policy to foster national integration?

This people like me would have urged on the patriotic nation-building listening leadership which we had then but for the termination of the Gowon Administration by the coup of July 1975. Such a policy would require each child to learn to read and write the local language where he is born.

By the age of 10, the child begins to receive his instructions in English. The new policy would be that by the age of 12 or 13 when he or she enters a secondary school, he/she has to make a choice. If he is in the North, he must choose one Southern Language which he will be taught to speak, read and write. The chances are that the child will choose either Ibo or Yoruba. In the South, the child will likely choose Hausa as a Northern Language which he will be taught to speak, read and write. All secondary schools will have the necessary language departments.

The upshot of this policy will be that within 15 to 20 years all educated Nigerians (like the Swiss) will, apart from their local language and English, be able to communicate in one or more Nigerian languages. With the ongoing inter-action and cultural exchanges and the pressures of globalization, you can imagine the situation among our children and grand children twenty years hence. Such a policy should be implemented after careful detailed consultations and preparation.

Reform and Repositioning of the Civil Service

A great deal of effort and resources have been devoted Since 1999 towards reforming and repositioning the Civil Service and the Public Service generally to enhance service delivery. External organizations such as the World Bank and The British Government DFID are supporting some of the programmes. Many workshops and training programmes have been conducted and are continuing.

The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) was established in 2004 as a central coordinating office for reforms of the Civil Service. SERVICOM (Service Compact With All Nigerians) was also established to monitor ethics and efficient service delivery. More recently, the Government has adopted a National Strategy for Public Service Reform which we are informed will lead to the creation of a “world class Public Service, delivering government, policies and programmes with professionalism, excellence and passion”. The NPSR has three phases 2011-2013, 2013 – 2016 and the final phase 2016 – 2020. What is important is that the efforts will be intensified to achieve:

Effective and fair Governance of the Civil Service;
Organizational efficiency and effectiveness;
Professional and result-oriented civil servants;
Ethical and accountable workforce with a positively changed work culture;
Improved competence and capacity; and
Knowledge based workforce.

It is critically necessary at this stage of Nigeria’s development to return to a merit¬-driven Public Service. The Federal Character principle should not be used to prevent it. It is better at the point of recruitment to stretch the net as wide as possible to ensure as much widespread representation of areas and communities as possible.

But every candidate recruited must meet the minimum pre-set qualifications. After recruitment, there must be training at various stages and good career planning to be undertaken by the greatly improved Human Resources Management Departments being developed. Once in the service promotion and advancement should be strictly on the basis of merit and productivity.

The practice of transferring junior less experienced and not so competent officials from outside organizations and other services to become bosses of their former seniors after contrived promotions in such external organizations must not be allowed.

Reward system

It is also important to implement a Remuneration and Rewards system for the public service that will attract the best talents. That was the situation in pre Independence days. As far back as 1955, the British Government adopted the principle of “comparability with private enterprise rates”.

The USA adopted the same principle in their Federal Salary Reform Acts of 1962 and 1964. This principle could be applied in formulating the more realistic national remunerations which I recommended earlier.

We were informed in a recent seminar of many significant milestones already attained in the ongoing Civil Service Reforms. Unfortunately, the image of the Civil Service and the Public Service amongst the citizens is not good. This may not be the fault of the Public Service. It does not operate in isolation.

At the end of the reform process, the civil servant must earn and acquire a new image – that of a friendly, helpful, prompt, competent servant of the people who is pro-investment and is a willing midwife to the birth of new productive enterprises and to wealth creation. He must discard the image of the arrogant intimidator or of the corrupt extortioner. It is then that he can help to deliver the desired Transformation Agenda.
Need For A Call To Order

To the outsider, the pace of the conduct of national affairs appears lethargic. There is a prevailing mood of insecurity and uneasiness amongst the general public, I believe that there is need now for a dramatic “Call To Order” by Mr. President that the leaders of all sectors of government and society must try to undergo the necessary drastic change of attitude and embrace all the aspects of good governance which entails:

The Rule of Law;
Efficient and prompt administration of justice;
Predictability, objectivity and consistency in government measures;
Respect for the sanctity of contracts;
Abandonment of the pursuit of self-enrichment as the motive for seeking political leadership and office;
Zero tolerance for corruption and the prompt application of adequate sanctions against offenders including seizure of all properties corruptly acquired;
Efficient and timely service delivery by all government agencies;

Return to planning and submission to the discipline of planning, respecting pre-determined priorities in the utilization of national resources;
Return to the principle of collective responsibility of government; and The Government should also embark on effective and sustained publicity of the Transformation Agenda – what it means for all of us and why we should all support it and participate in delivery where we can. Nigerians are governable. The people need to be mobilized so that the Transformation Agenda can be achieved.


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