Why Civil Service Is In Mess

By Yusuf Shehu Usman

I remember that one of the best attractions for well trained persons to join and serve in the civil service till retirement in those days, was the provision of accomodation for Civil servants and their families
The Housing scheme covered all categories of civil servants
The senior Civil servants were provided accomodations in the Government Reserved Areas (GRA) while the middle and the junior cadres were accommodated in average density areas of States and Local Governments
In addition, Civil servants in those days of yore, were entitled to free medica treatment in all Government hospitals and health facilities
A Civil Service enjoyed such attractive accommodation with comfort and was only charged a little percentage of his salary as rent deduction
As the civil servant progressed in rank, he was moved to an accommodation commensurate with his new rank
And before retirement, arrangements were made for the officer to access a housing loan structured by the government through commercial banks to enable him build his personal house before he retired
The loan was deducted from his monthly pension in such a percentage that would still leave something for him to run his family
The pension then, was paid promptly and as and when due
It was a sacrilege to delay or withold pension in those days
In this kind of atmosphere, the civil servants were committed to their jobs and there was no better deal anywhere outside of the public service
The effect was that the government was not only able to attract but also to retain the best hands, skills and brains in the public service
This in turn made the civil service productive and result oriented and the civil servants were happy, encouraged and motivated to serve their state and the federal government
However, as time went by, these laudable policies were abolished by successive Governments
The free medical care for civil servants was also stopped by new, ill advised and oppressive policy
The Government quarters were sold to friends, relations and business partners of those in Political leadership in Government
The civil servants then became tenants of private individuals and not the Governments they are serving
The rents are so high and thelr salaries could not pay the rent, let alone take care of other aspects of life including feeding the family and paying school fees for the children
The post -service housing mortgage was no longer guaranteed by the government and the civil servant was left on his own to make private arrangements with commercial banks for how he could get advances to build or buy a house to live in while in service and after retirement
This was the beginning of the point where the civil service became less attractive to the well trained and highly competent graduates of the universities and the polytechnics
These competent Nigerians turned their attention to the private sector which offered better conditions of service with the additional benefit of the prompt payment of one off pension on retirement or disengagement
The payment of pension and gratuity in the civil service also became problematic and loaded with all kinds of uncertainty and corruption
In those days, even the private sector relied very heavily on the competence of Professionals in the civil service to drive their businesses
It’s no wonder that today, the government has become the employer of last resort and mostly, those who take up appointment in the civil service do so because there is no alternative
It also explains the prevalence of corruption and graft in the modern day Civil Service
The Officers must look for ways to pay their rents, pay school fees for their children and look for how to own their personal houses after retirement
The best way for them to accomplish these must be through the offices they occupy, as their salaries can not service even their immediate needs
They are not sure of getting their pension regularly and gratuity is a mirage
In my view, if the Government wants to restore the dignity, productivity and professionalism of the civil service, it must do a backward reform to the past and restore those attractions that will pull the best brains to the public service and Institute favourable policies that will retain them in service

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