Public Service in Nigeria


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The Nigerian public service “is a product of colonialism, established as an instrument of British colonialist from the late 19th century” (Esu, 2008). According to Tukunboh (1990) the system of state enterprises started in 1898 when the British colonial administration undertook the railway transport project from Iddo in the then capital city of Lagos to the hinterland. This was followed by coal mining, electricity and marine ports. All these enterprises were established primarily as administrative organs for facilitating trade and commercial activities of the colonial government.

In 1949, the Fitzegerald Commission into the Collery trouble articulated the idea of public corporation. This concept was borrowed from the British labour party rationalisation of British coal in 1947, electricity in 1949 (Tukunboh, 1990). Subsequently, in 1950s the following public corporations were established in Nigeria: Nigeria Coal Corporation; Electricity Corporation; Nigeria Cement Company, Nkalagu; Nigerian Railway Corporation, and Nigerian Port Authority. All these corporations were managed by Boards. Since then more corporations have been established based on national interest. Some state governments have also established public corporations to actualise their developmental interests.

The term public service can be conceptualized in two ways. First it refers to the body of officials that are involved in the administration of the agencies, services, programmes and policies of the public sector. That is, the public servants that manage the entirety of public services. In the second sense, the concept refers to the organizations, agencies, structures, departments and units which are charged with and involved in public or governmental tasks, activities and functions. These include the Civil Service, Commissions, Boards, Directorates, Parastatals, etc that are publicly owned, funded and directed (Ikelegbe, 1995).

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The public service as established by the Nigerian Constitution is provided for in Sections 169, 171, 206, 208 and 318 and in Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution. The constitutional provisions do not however recognise the term ‘the Nigerian Public Service’. They only recognise the Public Service of the Federation, at the federal level; and the state level, the Public Service of the States of the Federation, which includes the Local Government Council Services (1999 Constitution).

This later conceptualization can again be viewed in two ways. First, is the Civil Service which refers to officials and structures that are centrally located and directed and directly assist the executive branch in the administration of policies. These include career personnel of the Presidency, Ministries, Extra-Ministerial departments and the services of the National Assembly and the Judiciary (Ahmed, 2005). Second is the public service which consists of the institutions and personnel which provide goods and services to the public, be they educational, research, defence, law and order, healthcare, public utilities, enterprises etc.

There is a general opinion that most of the public enterprises have failed to deliver on the purposes for which they were established. Management ineffectiveness and inefficiency have been advanced by practitioners and researchers of public enterprises as the bane of Nigerian public service (Akinade, 1992). Agagu (2008) asserts that the public service which was seen as the custodian of rules and regulations and the engine of development had lost its prestige and confidence. The aftermath of this is the invention of series of reforms which have led to privatisation, downsizing and right-sizing of the public service and even minimising the role of the public sector in the national life. Public Service in Nigeria

Nigeria, is currently witnessing the inability of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria to meet the power requirements of the country, the inability of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and other parastatals in the oil and gas sector to provide quality and regular supplies of petroleum products, the failure of our national shipping lines and airlines to provide quality services and remain competitive globally, to mention but a few (Esu, 2009). These failures call to question whether or not these organizations have over the years done any real analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to reposition themselves for effective service delivery. Public Service in Nigeria

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