M rs Josephine Olusheyi Williams is the 17th Head of the Lagos State Public Service. She rose through various hierarchies before Governor Babatunde Fashola appointed her as the HOS recently. Her dedication to duty and courage in handling challenges saw her emergence as female Head of Service in a state with the largest workforce. Williams, spoke with Olasunkanmi Akoni  on her vision and mission to improve the state service among other issues. Excerpts:

Olusheyi Williams
Olusheyi Williams

AS a female Head of Service in a state like Lagos, how do you intend to cope ?
Being a female Head of Service is really not a big deal. I am not the first and I know I am not really going to be the last. Being the Head of Service is the actual thing whether male or female but when it comes to management decision making, you are already same gender.
I have been in the public service all my life. I started with the federal government; I worked in the Federal Inland revenue, customs and excise. I worked in the Federal Housing Authority. I later joined the state service I have been moved to various places held positions in the state service. I was later appointed Accountant-General and later seconded to Lagos State University, LASU, as a Bursar of the institution before I was moved back. In 2006 I became accountant general/ Permanent Secretary of the State Treasury Office. So I have moved round. By the time you become the Permanent Secretary, one should have been able to manage human resources. One would have become a manager, it doesn’t matter what your discipline is, you are suppose to manage the ministry and make things happen.

Why did you leave the federal service for the state service?

Well, I will be frank with you, at that time, there is something they call Federal Character in the federal service where they will just bring somebody from somewhere, that person might not gotten the qualification. Such person may not qualify before you. He or she may not have what it takes to do the job. Such a person who is younger than you and probably just graduated and lack the qualification required for the job suddenly becomes your boss. He or she won’t know the job. You will be the one to do the job and you will work tirelessly. I just thought if that is what I would have to contend with, I can’t do that all my life. So, I just moved to serve in the state that will recognise you for what you are. I was with federal service for five years.

At the time you were leaving Federal Service for the state service, did it ever occur to you that you could become a Head of Service in Lagos?


Never, I just moved because I was fed up with the system at the federal service. I didn’t even know that I will become Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary. I just moved and wanted to serve in the state that will recognise you for what you are that is exactly I got to the service of Lagos State.
What is your vision for the Lagos State Civil Service and the unique thing do in your tenure?
I look forward to a public service that is service oriented and can be the best, the civil service that can compete favourably beyond the shores of Africa.

How do you intend to achieve   that?
Well, We are talking about human resources, so, we are talking of good training, improved welfare of civil servants the purposeful service delivery to the people. When we are talking of human resources, we are saying service delivery, I am sure you know that service delivery in Lagos state has changed in the last few years. Our service in Lagos State has improved and it still keeps improving. I remain committed to its improvement so that we see our clients, that is, the public as people who should be treated with respect and then we will make the habit of the civil servant to make efficient service delivery natural to them, so that will serve the people enthusiastically. This is because it is one thing to force them to be polite with the public and it is another thing for them to do it willingly. So, I want a public service that will know the right thing to do in term of efficient service delivery.

Giving the politics that sometimes surround the appointment of Head of Service in the state, were you at any point in time doubted that you could be appointed as the next head of service in this state?

Did I doubt?, there is no question of doubting the appointment of Head of Service in a state, it is a prerogative responsibility of the state Governor. The law says the governor can appoint the Head of Service from any of the serving Permanent Secretaries. So, nobody can abrogate the provision and say ‘it is my turn or he or she should be the one’. So it is just a prerogative function of the governor, there is no reason why anybody will fight over it. If you think you are ripe for it, just pray and it would come your way.

Occupying a strategic position like this come with some challenges, managing estimated 119,347 civil servants in the state, any threat?
Really, there is nothing to fear or dread about. That is the truth. You have said the population huge there is no doubt about it but don’t forget that there is succession in service. If I leave here today, there are 10 or 15 that can occupy the seat. There is a succession and pattern already that we work with in the service and all you need to do is follow the already established pattern.

What is that unique thing you want to introduce in the service that you will like to be remembered for?

Frankly speaking, if you talk about being unique, you will probably not do anything if want to do what no HOS has ever done in the state. My predecessors have done a lot to improve on the welfare of the civil servants in the state. There is nobody that will invent anything. There is nothing to invent, you can only enhance what is on ground and what is on ground is welfare. It doesn’t matter what one has done before, there will always be a chance for improvement and that is what I intend to do. To ensure that the welfare of staff is enhanced so that they will be more ready to work without anybody pushing them. You know when you are happy with the job you are doing, you will not even know that you have worked till midnight. You will keep working before you know it, time’s gone.

Ghost workers syndrome is a common phenomenon in the Nigerian civil service, how do you tackle this?


We don’t have workers in Lagos; you know we are on the oracle system. The Oracle system is a very robust system. In fact, if you are retiring in 16th of October for instance, your name is already off the pay roll by the end of September. Even the 16 days you spent in the month of October will have to be manually computed before you are paid for it. So, there are no errors. On the first of January this office generates a list to each agency to state those who are retiring in their agencies or ministries each year. So, for instance I know how many people are retiring in my ministry other person from other agency knows how many are retiring too. Apart from that the beginning of the month that a person retires, the name of the person goes off the pay roll and go straight to the pension it is automatic. So, whether you like or not, you will no longer be paid. So, it is very difficult to have ghost workers in the Lagos civil service.
Perhaps, some situation where death cases of civil servants are not recorded and someone gets the salaries of such dead workers unknown to government, what measure in place to checkmate this?


I think it happens

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