Suspension of tenure policy in federal civil service

Joseph Oladosu

The tenure policy in the civil service was to the effect that officers who have served as directors for eight years must retire compulsorily even if they have not met the statutory retirement terms and conditions of the contract of employment in respect of age and length of service. In an explanation on an AIT programme, a former Director-General, Public Service Reforms, Mr Goke Adegoroye, disclosed the rationale that informed the emergence of the policy. According to him, it was a response to a kind of infiltration by some powerful individuals to the civil service normal procedure for entry into the various cadres .The consequence of this infiltration was the obstruction of the career prospect of some civil servants. He submitted that the present administration was not adequately or strongly briefed through a power memo that ought to have emanated from the Office of the Head of Civil Service. He reiterated that the absence of a strong memo was due to the background of the current serving HoCS who he said is an accountant and relatively junior in relation to others who according to him are university graduates of 1970s.

 He also submitted that the OHCS is essentially a human resource concern and therefore requires only those so equipped i.e administrative officers, to fit properly into the OHCS.

The reasons for the emergence of the policy certainly indicate an institutional weakness. If the civil service were a strong institution as it should be, not even Mr President should be able to circumvent its procedures or regulations. The response in my view ought to have focused the institution and not people. As it were, an unintended consequence is that the career of those who entered the service normally was truncated by the policy while the infiltration probably persists. The application of the policy led to a series of legal tussles between affected directors and the relevant organisations outside the civil service because the policy was viewed as a breach of the contract of employment and thus obnoxious and unfair.  Appropriate and prompt response would have focused the purpose of the civil service in a proper balance with the purpose of the civil servant. As it happened, the policy neither served the purpose of the civil service nor that of the civil servant.  Instead, it brought insecurity of tenure and fear in the mind of both public and civil servants. Unfortunately, both the public service and the public servants suffer in the cross fire.

The talk about professionals and administrative class conflicts is old hat. This was diffused long ago by the reform efforts of the Public Service Reform Commission (1972-74) and the Civil Service Reforms (1988). The Allison Ayida panel (1997) did not stop the trend of professionals emerging as permanent secretaries. The ghost of seniority and the cult of the generalists have since been exorcised.

That the OHOCS is mainly for human resource functions suggests the absence of realisation of changes that challenge conventional practices and notions of colonial civil service and the accompanying machine age thinking. At a time when the impact of social and technological changes, and in particular, the deployment of ICT and e-governance technology aimed at making significant contributions to good governance make compelling demands on governments the world over such as the need for cohesive and coherent efforts of the public service, need to serve their societies more effectively and efficiently; an imperative for social inclusion and as such a shift to the citizen, the

 The OHCS ought to function as the management system of the civil service (and indeed the public service) with its focus on integrating the MDAs and leading the service in practical terms not as mere symbolism. The OHCS ought to be concerned about how to improve the performance of the civil service and indeed the public service including the relationship and responsibility of the public service to the society. It ought to lead the service to be able to respond to changes and situations more quickly and effectively than it is currently the case.

Joseph Oladosu Anjorin is a retired Director of Studies, Administrative Staff College of Nigeria

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