Tuesday 24th October, 2017
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Nigeria's Civil Service must reform from within, or risk imposition of one from outside - Says Oyo-Ita

Nigeria's Civil Service must reform from within, or risk imposition of one from outside - Says Oyo-Ita

Head of the Civil Service of the Federation harps on the need to reverse the current perception of the Service as being inefficient, corrupt and insensitive, to the needs of the public, writes CHESA CHESA.

The Nigerian Civil Service has been many things to many people. While some are of the opinion that it has over the years assisted suc­cessive governments to imple­ment their respective policies and programmes, many others believe that it has turned out to be more of a clog than a cog in the wheel of governance.
 
Against this background, series of conferences and semi­nars have been held where problems and challenges fac­ing the Service were put on the front burner and solutions for them provided.
 
Nevertheless, it would seem that those solutions advanced during such conferences were left to rot away in the shelf.
 
The consensus, however, is that the Nigerian people must continue to discuss on how to bring sanity to the Service, more so following the country’s tran­sition from military to civilian democracy in 1999.
 
And going by his change mantra, It is not unexpected that the current administration of President Muhammadu Bu­hari, will come up with plans to get the wind of change blow through the Civil Service too.
 
It was probably against this backdrop that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, initi­ated a quarterly public lecture series aimed at reminding civil servants of the roles expected of them in this change era.
 
The first of these lectures was held at the Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja where Mrs. Oyo-Ita set the ball rolling with her lecture titled: “The role of Civil Service in a Change Environment: The change is Now.”
 
Addressing an audience mostly made up of senior civil servants, and top political ap­pointees, Mrs. Oyo-Ita said that the old ways of serving the Ni­gerian state and its citizens have collapsed, and new approaches evolving under President Bu­hari-led All Progressives Con­gress (APC) administration.
 
It was on this score that she advocated for fresh ideas to help the federal government tackle the challenges of socioeconom­ic and infrastructural develop­ment in the country.
 
“The Federal Public Service needs to change its narrative when interacting with Nigeri­ans who are demanding more accountability at all levels of government especially as re­gards the quality of public ser­vice delivery.
 
“Trust in government by the people is enhanced by closing the widening gap with the citi­zenry. It is a fact that improve­ments in public service and delivery capabilities have direct effect on the living standards of citizens and the competitiveness of the private sector.”
 
Oyo-Ita noted that although the civil service is structurally independent - a non-political machinery for implementing government policies and pro­grammes, it is an indispensable sub-division of the executive arm of government which pro­vides political leaders with the technical know-how to imple­ment policies they were elected on, and seamlessly ensure sta­bility and continuity between governments,” said the head of the civil service of the federa­tion.
 
According to her, the civil service determines to a great extent how rich or poor a coun­try becomes, and how well most vulnerable citizens fare.
 
She said: “there is evidence that countries with independent, meritocratic bureaucracies do a better job of vaccinating chil­dren, protecting the most vulner­able members of society, reducing child mortality, and curbing envi­ronmental degradation.
 
“Countries with a meritocratic civil service also tend to have low­er levels of corruption.”
 
While she acknowledged the less than satisfactory rating of the Nigerian Civil Service at present, she reminded her audience that President Buhari remarked that “it is not the poverty of ideas and capacity on the part of the civil service that is responsible for the assumed decline of the service, but the inability to clearly articu­late a vision.”
 
She, therefore, underscored a new vista for the civil service, saying that Nigeria has much to learn from current globally acclaimed bureaucracies such as Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom, USA, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and the State of Georgia which have common denominator as the embrace of innovation in public service.
 
“There is no better time than now… to change the Service for the better by leveraging on the support and political will of the present government.
 
“This is an opportunity to restore hope and dignity to the Service by reversing the current perceived reputation for inef­ficiency, low productivity, cor­ruption and insensitivity to the needs of the public.
 
“The change we need is in­novation in service delivery by improving on what is working and doing away with what is not working. Change is therefore in­evitable and if the Service does not reform itself from within, it risks the imposition of one from outside,” Oyo-Ita declared.
 
She announced that the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation is charting a new course for the service un­der her leadership in order to improve on the current state of the service.
 
The new course according to her would include and not lim­ited to unveiling the ethos of an efficient, productive, incorrupt­ible and citizen-centred culture in the service in order to im­prove on the current state of the service.
 
She said that in order to devel­op entrepreneurial culture and commercial orientation in the civil service, the service must be a facilitating partner to the econ­omy and diversification drive of government, adding that the goal is aimed at transforming the civil service from being perceived as cost centers to revenue earners.
 
The civil service boss regretted that many ideas from the civil service and MDA’s remain on the shelf and are not commercial­ized, saying however that hence­forth, the civil service and MDA’s would be ideas generation power houses, thus complementing the private sector in creating business opportunities for government and citizens.
 
She said the current economic reality in the country might not allow for the review of salaries of civil servants to the extent desired, but, however said other welfare packages such as housing/ac­commodation are in the works.
 
“It is important to have a civil service that has housing support-base built on stakeholder col­laboration, pooling of resources, access to facilities and availability of low, single digit mortgage loan.
 
“This we have developed under the Federal Integrated Staff Hous­ing (FISH) programme. Under this programme, there shall be general upgrade in housing stan­dards and affordability for civil servants, thus improving staff loyalty, integrity and productiv­ity”, she explained.
 
Nonetheless, she disclosed that a review of the conditions of service of civil servants would be addressed “once the economy improves with sufficient recovery to enable government fund such commitments.”
 
According to her, a tripartite committee made up of the three key players in pension adminis­tration – OHCSF, PenCom and PTAD - has been set up “to ag­gressively pursue the multitudi­nous complaints from pension­ers who invested their youthful vigour for service to their father­land.
 
She was, however, quite mind­ful to solicit the support of the public, private and civil society sectors for a successful imple­mentation of her goals.
 
She declared: “Change has come. Change is here to stay. The Civil Service is changing. The change is now.”

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