By Wellington Ndukaku
It is no longer news that the Nigerian Civil Service (particularly in the past two decades or perhaps more) has been greatly and negatively impacted by a systemic and progressive downturn in the quality of its workforce, ethos and level of professionalism.
In all fairness, the service is credited with being responsible for developing and driving the most remarkable and innovative policies and programmes which have also been implemented by the best technocrats the nation has been blessed with.
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Notwithstanding, the federal civil service still requires more reforms, not necessarily only for the coordination of the economy but with regard to reforms targeted at recruiting the most competent brains.
The array of problems that informed the introduction of a series of reforms in the federal civil service upon the return to democratic governance in 1999 are not unconnected with the lack of competent leadership, ageing and out of date personnel, erosion of service ethics, poor succession planning and unprofessionalism among others.
However, with the emergence of the Buhari-led Administration there is a rising awareness among civil servants of the government’s reengineered policy thrust of creating a truly competent and professional workforce capable of implementing reform programmes in the federal civil service and able to measure up to contemporary and emerging global public service standards.
For this reason, the present administration must not jettison its current pursuit of professionalism, integrity, technical competence and confidence of civil servants who are custodians of public trust and services.
This is why it is indeed most unbelievable, laughable and an embarrassment to the Federal Republic of Nigeria (which of course must not be allowed to rub off on us) for anyone or group to cry foul and suggest that as a nation, we should revert to a shady and unverifiable system of handpicking individuals who have not been scrutinized beyond all reasonable doubts to ascend to the position of Permanent Secretary.
Or what could be the logical justification for calls to boycott the various levels of competency tests put in place by the administration so as to create a very transparent and objective process as it was erroneously suggested by an obviously desperate sponsored post on social media.
The prop-enders of this ill-thought-out and self-centered idea, certainly do not have the good and interest of the civil service and the generality of Nigerians in mind and have understandably exhausted all perceived avenues of infiltrating and compromising the process for the appointment of Federal Permanent Secretaries thereby resulting to attracting sentiments which President Muhammadu Buhari or the Head of Service of the Federation, Sade Yemi-Esan should not succumb to, in view of the applause they have received for the conduct of previously transparent and unbiased exercises which were key to producing the present crop of very talented Permanent Secretaries. Instead, every candidate must be made to compete with his or her other colleagues.
Gone are the days when sacred cows at any level whatsoever are shielded from due process.
While I would also have suggested that a polygraph test be introduced to the process, perhaps that would have enabled us to peer into the thoughts of candidates, studies have shown that the device is prone to deception and manipulation, a skill which is obviously the trade of some candidates who are no longer at ease.
However, it is highly recommended that the Federal Government sustain the current selection system and if possible, raise the level of scrutiny for candidates.
The Office of the Permanent Secretary is not a preretirement job or a reward for long service neither is it the preserve for a select advantaged few.
All stakeholders, including other eligible directors, must therefore, resist all attempts to circumvent a level playing field for all.
*Ndukaku, a commentator on national issues , writes from Abuja
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