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EFFECT OF FEDERAL CHARACTER ON APPOINTMENT INTO THE
CIVIL SERVICE SYSTEM: A STUDY OF FEDERAL MINISTRY OF
Federal character was adopted in Nigeria to ensure that no group or section suffers imbalance or marginalization of any kind. However, it implementation had been fraught with criticism by scholars and public servants who see it as an instrument of favouring some sections against others. It had been linked to the high level of administrative inefficiency experienced by the civil service system in spite of myriad of reforms over the years. The study examined effect of federal character principle on appointment in the civil service system, using Federal Ministry of Education. Descriptive survey design was adopted, while simple random sampling was used in selecting the 300 respondents from the ten departments of the ministry. Questionnaire was the research instrument and data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, while inferential statistics was carried out using T-test and ANOVA. As federal character increases by 1%, it will result to a multiplier effect of 63% in appointment into civil service system in Nigeria. There is a strong positive correlation between federal character and appointment into the civil service system, r = 0.756. Federal character negatively affects appointment into civil service in Nigeria, as merit is sacrificed on the altar of quota or representativeness.
Plural and sharply divided societies all over the world attempt to manage their diversities and divisive tendencies through one or combination of policy alternatives in the organization and management of their public services for performance; and Nigeria is not an exception (Abdullah, 2007). Often times, these policy alternatives turn out to be delicate arrangements; but when carefully conceived, crafted and practiced, it provides opportunity for centreseeking and centre-fleeing forces to interact peacefully and co-habit on agreed terms. One of such policy alternatives adopted for the management of public service in Nigeria for even representation is the federal character principle, which “was borne out of the need to ensure…even spread of government appointments…in all the regions, states and local government councils in the country” (Nzeshi, 2012: 97).
The federal character principle essentially refers to the recognition of the plural nature of the country in recruitment, distribution of administrative and political offices and power as well as the resources of the country. The essence federal character principle is to allow the composition and conduct of public institutions and affairs reflect the country’s diversity. It is premised on the ground that when national institutions and affairs are reflective, in composition and conduct, of the pluralism of the country then, a sense of belonging is likely to be evoked from the citizenry. It is also designed to mitigate, if not obviate, the bellicose political struggle that characterized previous Nigeria’s democratic systems (Obiyan and Akindele, 2001).
The phrase “Federal Character” was first used by the late General Murtala Ramat
Muhammed in his address to the opening session of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDCs) on Saturday the 18th of October 1975. Federal Character according to the CDCs report of 1977 refers to the distinctive desire of the peoples of Nigeria to promote national unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of ethnic origin, language or religion which may exist and which it is their desire to nourish, harness to the enrichment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Babura, 2013).
The civil service is the body of public officials employed in the civil capacity to undertake the formulation and implementation of government policies and programmes. This can be viewed in terms of structure like ministries, departments, etc or human occupants of the public offices like permanent secretaries, ministers and higher administrative staff. Section 2 of the Pension Act of 1951 defines civil service as the service in a civil capacity under the government of the federal or in a college, university or a pensionable employment under local authority.
Civil servants are mainly of two categories: lower clerical staff and higher administrative and technical staff. The higher administrative staffs that are directly responsible to the elected public officers, who are charged with the responsibility of steering the ship of state. The Nigerian civil service is patterned to the Westminster model, and composed of well trained, highly skilled body of professional officials who have taken government service as a career (Ekhator, 2002).
The Federal Ministry of Education is the body of government that is charged with the responsibility of managing education in the country. It occupies a strategic position in the development of the country given the nature of the services it provides. It is indeed a key ministry and if the ministry of education does not deliver on its mandate, then future of the country would be in jeopardy. In line with the professionalization of the civil service accomplished as part of the Obasanjo civil service renewal programme of 2000 – 2007, the ministry has 10 departments. The ministry’s functions include: formulation of a national policy on education; collecting and collating data for the purposes of educational planning and financing, maintaining uniform standards of education throughout the country, controlling the quality of education in the country through the supervisory role of its inspectorate service department, harmonising educational policies and procedures of all the states of the federation through the national council on education, effecting cooperation in educational matters on an international scale, developing curriculum and syllabuses at the national level in conjunction with other bodies (Mogism, 2013).
Section 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria states that
The composition of the government of the Federation or any agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the at government or in any of its agencies.
Nigeria is a federal society with 36 component states, with a population of over 160 million segmented into over 250 ethnic groups which makes an arrangement that could accommodate the different segments of the country in the public bureaucracy without any segment feeling marginalized such as federal character a necessity (Gberevbie, 2012). Tonwe and Oghator, 2009) write that before the adoption of federal character, Nigeria had introduced quota system into the public service in 1958 with the aim of ensuring equitable representation of various groups in the country.
It is generally acknowledged that the federal character principle was adopted to deal with the problem of imbalance, marginalization and discrimination. However, the question is whether the principle can be rightly used to address the problem of discrimination in the composition and conduct of public institutions and affairs given the fact that Nigerians have very high inclination to their ethnic identities. Does the implementation of the principle not encourage divisive ethnic sentiments? A major concern is the nature of application of the federal character principle which tends to pose challenges to the administrative effectiveness of the Civil service especially when merit is sacrificed on the altar of federal character, or federal character is used as the indices to accelerate the promotion of mediocre and incompetent civil servants into top government positions.
The study therefore examined the impact of federal character on appointments into the civil service system, using the Federal Ministry of Education, while the null hypothesis that was tested was: Federal character has no significant effect on appointment into the civil service system. The study is sub-divided into seven sections; introduction, literature review, theoretical framework, methodology, presentation and discussion of findings, conclusion and recommendations.
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