Nigeria’s public service system is in obvious need of a comprehensive repositioning to make it more autonomously responsive to the needs of the governments and the general public.
The service orientation of government bureaucracies at all levels in Nigeria is abysmal.
Few public servants really want to do their paid work. Government offices may bubble with staff, but very little real work is done.
People are more interested in activities that enrich them beyond their normal salaries. Much of the work going on are related to aspects that political authority and the top people in those offices attach importance to.
It is very common for government offices to set up websites which do not function though personnel are paid to operate them. One malady that has eaten very deep into institutions of our governance is the “marching order” syndrome, a term that was borrowed from our military past.
For instance, a crime will be committed, and an Inspector General of Police who is charged with crime-busting sits on it until he receives a presidential “marching order”.
The same virus has surfaced in one of Nigeria’s most corruption-prone and poorly governed institutions, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. For years, young beneficiaries of the scholarships in the NDDC and its twin, the Presidential Post-Amnesty Programme who are studying in foreign countries, have been left stranded by civil servants who are supposed to facilitate these schemes.
The NDDC which is embroiled in massive corruption scandals, waited for President Muhammadu Buhari to give the “marching orders” before announcing that the scholarship beneficiaries would be paid this week.
These scholarship beneficiaries who are meant to correct the educational disadvantage of our oil-producing region have been protesting at Nigerian High Commission premises in many parts of the world and nobody cared to do the needful.
The work culture of waiting for the president or governor to give special instructions before anything is done does not allow public officers to automatically do their jobs because it is the right thing to do. The culture of “eye service” or “strong man” syndrome has made governance a joke in our country.
When officials cannot do their work in line with service regulations but rather would wait to be instructed, it means that corruption, nepotism, favouritism, marginalisation and victimisation will continue to hallmark our public service.
A situation where the NDDC scholars are neglected because of the sudden death of the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Etang, shows how dangerous the “strong man” culture has become.
We must change this orientation and settle for the effectiveness of institution-building.
Government is a continuum and must function effectively and autonomously irrespective of who is in charge.