‘Reflections on Nigerian public service: An outsider’s perspective’ – Part 4

As I was saying before the electricity jumbo bill and other related bills came to compound our expenditure woes:
Yemi-Esan, Head of service
Yemi-Esan, Head of service

As I was saying before the electricity jumbo bill and other related bills came to compound our expenditure woes:

‘…It is just unfortunate for us here that we in the media hardly cover the public service in Abuja. Only very few journalists now navigate the labyrinthine state of public affairs in Abuja and even in the 36 states of the federation.

Besides, the public service arm of the national and state assemblies are hardly covered by our digital journalists these days. Remarkably, that is where the unusual happen. That is also where the documents of the system are generated. No one covers or probes the presidential bureaucracy comprising the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, (SGF) at the federal level, Secretary to the State Government (SSG) at the state level, Head of the Civil Service and Office of the Federal and State Civil Service anymore. That is the pillar of executive bureaucracy where public policies are made and kept.
If these pillars are weak, there will be a crisis of coherence in the public sector. As I have been writing regularly since 1999 when the Adebayo Adedeji ad-hoc reform committee whose report set the tone for the choice of James Abu Obe as first Head of the Civil Service of the Federation under President Obasanjo (1999-2007), that is what happened to the Buhari Government, which has had a bandwagon effect all over the federation in the first seven years (2015-2022). I have been writing about the Buhari and collapse of public service under him since 2016. What am I saying about the power that a strong civil or public service gives to any government? Let’s explore a conceptual clarification:

A civil servant, also known as public servant, is a person employed in the public sector by a government department or agency for public sector undertakings. Civil servants work for central and state governments and answer to the government, not a political party.

Though there are variations from one country to another, the public sector normally includes such services as the military, police, public transit, infrastructure care, public education, health care, and of course, the government itself…

The public sector, as you would expect, provides public services to its citizenry. It delivers services that benefit all of society rather than just those who pay taxes to support the service. An example of this would be street lighting – someone who does not pay taxes can still reap the benefits of this service. And so for those who would like to run the post-Buhari era, there should be enough understanding that Nigeria’s public service seems to have collapsed. (This was my perception in as of 2021).

This is without prejudice to brilliant and excellent public servants who have been caught in the web of anomie despite their background and experience. There should be that understanding that in the next dispensation, the first port of call of reform should be the mainstream public service.

I mean that if the public service had remained public service, an officer (police) such as Abba Kyari would not have risen in the police service to the level he is – as a scoundrel.

Should we understand this to mean that there has been no internal control mechanism in the police service to screen officers who are to be promoted, especially in sensitive operations departments? How did the police service condone Abba Kyari’s romance with notorious characters for a long time?

From the Ministry of Interior through the Ministry of police affairs to the police service commission, whatever happened to monitoring and control of the same officer who could even get involved in alleged criminality even while on suspension?
Whatever also happened to the bureaucracy in the inter-agency control mechanism in the office of the National Security Adviser! What was the purpose of the Police Panel to probe the FBI’s report? Didn’t they know that only the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation has the power to deal with the exigency of the FBI report and extradition process?

How come nobody in the presidential bureaucracy pointed out to the Chief Executive of the Federation that only the Attorney General of the Federation should have begun prosecution long ago without caring a hoot about the police probe?

Whatever happened to what used to be the essence of the Political and Economic Affairs Office (headed by a Permanent Secretary) in the Office of the SGF! What happened to the Office of the Legal Counsel in the Office of the President?

What of the Foreign Affairs Ministry? A report landed in Nigeria from the United States justice department, alleging criminality on the part of a senior police officer, in fact Nigeria’s most decorated officer in internal security apparatus, what did the Foreign Affairs Ministry do about some damage control in collaboration with the Justice Ministry in Nigeria?

Why did the suspension of Abba Kyari last so long to the extent that the officer had the time to get involved in alleged drug-related crime while in detention? What happened to the inter-agency interactions between the DSS and NIA, which should have helped in advising Nigeria’s leadership in the circumstances?

What has happened to Citizen Abba Kyari isn’t about the Nigeria Police Force? It is a reproach to all the citizens of this already failing country. This would have affected the perception index on corruption in this country at the time. It is about the future of Nigeria’s business. It is about the economy in the context of foreign direct investment (FDI). How many foreign direct investors would be ready to invest in a jurisdiction where even law enforcement agencies cannot monitor and control their officers?
Who would like to invest in a country where the law doesn’t rule? Who would like to stop over even in a large market where public serve rules and regulations mean nothing to public servants? The deliverable from this comment to those who would like to run the post-Buhari time is this: the bureaucracy of all the arms of government appears to have collapsed.

That is why the National Assembly of the country can wake up and announce that they now appoint their own Permanent Secretaries because they are not part of the federal public service – and there is no response from the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.

It is the decline of the public service in 2019, which allowed the powers that be to remove the Chief Justice of this country through an Administrative Tribunal without compliance with the provisions of the Constitution as it affects removal of the Chief Justice of the Federation. Whatever happened to the powers of the National Judicial Council at the time!

It is the absence of a functional public service that allowed the executive to keep an officer and candidate the Senate refused to confirm for the office of Chairman of EFCC in 2017 to remain in office till 2021. In fact the police officer Ibrahim Magu assumed the office in November 2015 and his name wasn’t sent to the Senate for confirmation until 2017…only in Nigeria…)
A senior public officer in the presidential bureaucracy would have caused the president to remove the rejected officer quietly when there was a civil service. So, those who in office and power today should note that the current public service of is not delivering any services to the citizens the way it used to when there was a country, sorry civil service. That is why the police service, for instance has failed the country in their management of the Abba Kyaris in their service.

I am not alone on this score, let us also borrow from the brilliance and contribution one of the brightest and the best public policy teachers Africa has ever made and the scholar, a product of the University of Ibadan and Oxford University UK ,worked in the global sector, the United Nations and the World Bank Institute for about two decades.. I am talking about Professor Ladipo Adamolekun now about 83… Let’s see how he too has shared in the concerns I too have raised here

How Nigeria can work – Adamolekun, 2022)
According to him, “a devolved federation; good democratic practice; and administrative competence,” are key to reviving the country…” (August 2022)…

This is an excerpt from an August 9, 2022 report on his book presentation at 80:
‘A leading scholar on political and administrative management in Africa, Ladipo Adamolekun, has lamented the state of the Nigerian nation and called for an urgent review of the current situation of the country.

In his recently launched book, ‘Nigeria and I: Getting Politics Right To Make Nigeria Work,’ the scholar highlighted the operation of unitary federalism inherited from the military at the return to civilian rule in 1999 as a major reason Nigeria is not working.

The book, launched on 20th July (2022) to commemorate his 80th birthday, is one in a series of publications by the author, which raised issues on how to address the problems of the country.

The Professor of Public Administration identified three critical ingredients for getting politics right and making the country work.
According to him, “a devolved federation; good democratic practice; and administrative competence,” are key to reviving the country. (what is at issue here is claim on ‘administrative competence’)

He also recommended a development-oriented political leadership to serve as the needed drive in securing a renaissance for the country.

“To enhance our chances of keeping Nigeria one, consolidating democracy, tackling insecurity effectively, and achieving accelerated socioeconomic progress, Nigeria needs to urgently adopt and function as a devolved federal system,” he said.

“This political system will have the following defining characteristics: six federating units; assignment of functions between the central government and the federating units based on the principle of subsidiarity similar, to a considerable extent, to the assignment of functions in the country’s 1963 Constitution; and allocation of resources that is consistent with both the imperative of fiscal federalism and the proposed increased functions for subnational governments.”

On his second recommendation, Professor Adamolekun said Nigeria’s current poor scores concerning key measures of good democratic practice needed to be reversed.

“Specifically, improvements are required concerning electoral legitimacy (ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections), functioning of the party system, scope of political participation, respect for the rule of law, protection of human rights, and freedom of speech and association,” he said.
” The goal should be to ensure the legitimacy of governments and a functioning law-based state that would help promote accountable governance.”

On the third point, he noted that the country’s lack of administrative competence, which is largely responsible for poor service delivery to the citizens since 1999 was recently acknowledged by incumbent President Buhari in his Independence Day speech on 1st October 2021.

Specifically, on October 1, 2021, Buhari noted:
For far too long, we have neglected the centrality of the civil service as the engine of governance and this has manifested in ineffective service delivery. There is widespread discontent and disillusion about the efficiency and probity of our civil service. It is for this reason that we are refocusing the Nigerian Civil Service to provide world-class service to run our country…’

To be continued…

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