Civil Service Reform in Post-Independence Nigeria: Issues and Challenges

By Sekwat, Alex | Public Administration Quarterly, Fall/Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Civil Service Reform in Post-Independence Nigeria: Issues and Challenges


Sekwat, Alex, Public Administration Quarterly


ABSTRACT

This article examines Nigeria's experience with civil service reforms after it attained independence from Britain in 1960. It first highlights civil service reform programs attempted by various post-independence Nigerian governments. Within this context the study addresses key issues, challenges, and factors that impeded implementation of previous civil service reform programs. Next. The study explores future policy directions for enhancing the design and implementation of a sustainable civil service reform program. The study concludes by recapitulating the key policy reform measures essential for bringing about a sustainable civil service process and improving the future effectiveness and performance of the civil service.

INTRODUCTION

The civil service plays a vital role in formulation, implementation, evaluation, and review of government policies and programs. Civil service reform provides an enabling environment for civil servants to perform their duties in an unfettered manner, fair treatment of personnel, and establishment of a demographically representative apparatus. The main purpose of civil service reform is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the service and thereby increasing its capacity to promote economic and social development to meet the needs and aspirations of all citizens (Corkery, 1995). Moreover, a competent and motivated civil service is a prerequisite for maintenance of good governance, production and distribution of public goods and services, fiscal management and sustainability, and efficient and effective performance of government (Schiavo-Campo, Tommaso, and Mukherjee, 1997). Ideally, civil service reform should focus on creating a "government workforce with the size, skills, culture and accountability necessary for delivering quality public services and perform vital governmental functions" (Schiavo-Campo, 1996:10).

In Nigeria, as in most countries in Africa, the civil service deteriorated in capability, integrity, and morale in the past three decades (Campos et al., 1997:ix). Consequently, social demands placed upon state institutions have rapidly diminished, the public sector has become less effective and efficient, the state's capacity to fulfill its obligations to the public has weakened and gradually a crisis evolved in Nigerian public institutions (Yahaaya and Bur, 1994:38). In an attempt to halt further degradation in the civil service, virtually all post-independence governments took some measures to reform or improve the skills, integrity, incentives of civil servants and overall performance of the civil service.

This study provides a review of Nigeria's experience with civil service reform after it attained independence from Britain in 1960. The article first overviews the major civil service reform measures attempted by various postindependence Nigerian governments. Second, the study describes the major factors that impeded previous attempts to improve the performance of Nigeria's civil service. Next, the study proposes future directions for reform in the context of the experiences of a few countries in Africa that successfully implemented civil service reforms in the past decade. The study concludes by recapitulating key policy measures for improving the effectiveness and performance of the civil service and bringing about a sustainable civil service reform process.

LEGACY OF POST-INDEPENDENCE REFORMS

The history of the Nigerian civil service dates back to 1914 when the British colonial rulers established a unified government structure that encompassed the territory now known as Nigeria. During the colonial era, the Nigerian civil service was dominated by imperial European officials with power concentrated in the hands of a few of them (appointed colonial officers). The main function of the imperial civil service was maintenance of law and order. The colonial government adopted the process of "Nigerianization," a process that involved rapid replacement of foreign or imperial administrators in the civil service with nationally-oriented qualified Nigerians over a decade prior to Nigeria's attainment of independence.

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