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The civil service is an essential department in the executive arm of government through which the government implements its policies and programmes. It transmits government policies and programmes into services to the people. It is divided into departments called ministries. The political head of a ministry is called a Minister or Commissioner, while the administrative head is called Director General or Permanent Secretary.



  1. Permanence in Office: Civil servants are career government employees who are employed under a merit system in which federal characters is applied. They enjoy a permanent tenure of office. Government comes and goes but the civil service remains. This enables them to carry out their functions.
  2. Political Neutrality: This means that they are to remain loyal and dedicated to the ruling party or government of a country. They are not allowed to engage in partisan politics, although they may belong to a political party and vote in elections, their views are private and should not affect their loyalty to the government of the country.
  3. Impartiality: This means that the civil servants should discharge their duties with maximum considerations.
  4. Anonymity: This means that credit or failure of any administration on any issues does not go to the civil servants. They are also not allowed to speak to the press on issues except that their minister or directors authorize them.
  5. Merit: This means that recruitment into government offices is based on merit and not favoritism. This enhances efficiency.
  6. Expertise: They are expected to be experts in their fields and offices, which they occupy.
  7. Framework of law: This checks the use of arbitrary powers.
  8. Hierarchy: This refers to the organization of the system in different levels of importance, from the highest to the lowest



The civil service is classified into the following.

  1. Administrative Class: This is the highest class of the civil service. They consist mainly ofthe Director General, Deputy Director General,and PrincipalOfficers etc. They are mostly graduates and they co-ordinate the activities of their ministry by policy making and advising ministers and commissioners.
  2. Executive Class: They deal with the day-to-day conduct of administration following lay down policies. They also implement government policies. They consist of Assistant Executive -Officers, Semi-Executive Officers and Executive Officers.
  3. Professional Class: They are trained specially for their jobs. Examples include the lawyers, doctors, engineers etc.
  4. Clerical Class: They are involved in the routine jobs of the service. Their jobs include keeping of records, movement of files, preparation of vouchers, statistics etc. They are mostly young school leavers with SSCE, GCE, and NECO etc.
  5. Auxiliary Class: Recruitment into this class of workers may not require any formal education or high technical skills. However, such skills might be required to do their jobs. Such jobs include, drivers, cleaners, gardeners, messengers etc



  1. Formation of Policy: The administrative and professional class of the civil service formulates policies owing to their wealth of experience. They present these policies to the ministers for final decision and implementation.
  2. Implementation of Public Policies: The implementation of public oriented policies results in the execution of services to the public like good roads, electricity schools, hospitals etc.
  3. Preparation of Budget: It prepares the government yearly budget of statement of expected revenue and expenditure.
  4. They Make Byelaws: They perform sub-legislative functions. A senior civil servant has the power to draw up rules and regulations.
  5. Archival Function: Civil servant document government policies and information and keep them safe for future references in public decisions.



  1. Define civil service.
  2. Mention five characteristics of the civil service.



  1. Low Incentives: Poor conditions of service reduce the moral of the workers. This is further worsened by slow promotion process.
  2. An issue that needs urgent attention may not be met at the needed time.
  3. Negative attitude to work: Most civil servants feel that government work does not deserve the best. They do their work half-heartedly.
  4. Political Interference: Most government always interferes by not giving the civil service a free hand to run its affairs. Most politicians equally interfere with the planning and implementation of government policies.
  5. Tribalism/nepotism and favoritism: Most unqualified persons are employed based on ethnic affiliations.
  6. Political Instability: Frequent military interventions affect policy making and implementation as director generals, permanent secretaries, ministers and commissioners are changed.
  7. Bribery and Corruption: Most civil servants receive bribes and undue gratification for most works done.
  8. Lack of qualified personnel: The civil service is always hit by the exodus of workers who seek greener pasture in private companies which offer attractive working conditions.
  9. Unfriendliness of the staff: Most civil servants are arrogant and arrogate power to themselves. They are unfriendly to the public and most times are impatient to listen to complains from the public.



The civil service and the civil servants can be controlled through the following ways:

  1. Legislative Control: Ministers or commissioners can be asked to appear before the legislature and explain their activities.
  2. Public Service Commission Control: This body has the power to appoint, promote, transfer, discipline or dismiss civil servants.
  3. Control of Ministries: Ministries of finance and establishments have control over the ministries under the civil service. They control the expenditure, conditions of service, salaries and persons.
  4. Press control: The press also helps to control the activities of the civil service. They criticize erring officers and this keeps them on check.
  5. Judicial control: The court can try any body for criminal charges. The public officers also have this in mind.
  6. Hierarchical Control: The civil service is structure in a way that one cannot carry out the actions without letting his superior know.
  7. Pressure Groups: They help to mount pressure on public officer to the line of other ministries.
  8. Public Complaint Commission (Ombudsman): The function of this body is to receive and investigate complaint from the public about a public officer who has not performed according to laid down rules.
  9. The General Order: This is the regulation which outline the condition of service and responsibilities of the civil servants..




The government of Ibrahim Babangida embarked on the reform of the civil service commission in 1988 in line with the Dotun Philip’s review panel established in 1985. The major elements of the reform were:-

  1. The ministers and not the permanent secretary is responsible for the policy and programmes of the ministry. He is accountable for his ministry’s actions.
  2. The permanent secretary becomes Director General and his appointment is political. His tenure ends with the government that appointed him.
  3. The civil service is professionally oriented with each civil servant spending his career in the ministry.
  4. Each ministry is responsible for the appointment, discipline and promotion of civil servants under it, under the federal services guidelines.
  5. The civil service is now empowered with various responsibilities.
  6. The central bank and the ministry of budget and national planning will be under the office of the presidency.
  7. The officer of the head of service ceases to exist.
  8. Each ministry has the power to set up its personnel management board.


  1. List three factors that hinder the effectiveness of the civil service.
  2. List five ways by which the civil service can be controlled



The civil service commission is an independent body set up by the government with the responsibility of remitting workers into the service based on merit. The body also is in charge of the discipline, promotion and dismissal of workers. Either the president or governor appoints the chairman and members.



The 1989 constitution of Nigeria provides for the establishment of the federal civil service commission. Section 51 states that its composition should consist of a president or chairman and maximum of 9 members.



  1. Employment: The commission is empower to remit highly qualified personnel into the civil service either by competitive examination or oral interview.
  2. Promotion: The body is responsible for promotion of workers from one salary scale to another when they are due to it.
  3. Transfer: The transfer of civil servants from one ministry to another within the civil service is done by the commission.
  4. Discipline: The commission is empower to take actions against any civil servant who goes against the rules of the general order.
  5. Retirement: The civil servants who have reached the stipulated retirement age are retired by the commission.
  6. Dismissal: the commission dismisses civil servants who are found to be corrupt.
  7. Condition of Service: The commission states the terms and condition of service, allowances and salaries of civil servants.
  8. Advice: The commission offers advice to the government in the appointment of senior officers in departments and ministries.
  9. Efficiency: Efficiency and integrity are the watch word of the civil service and the commission works towards it realization.



This is government institution established to investigate and examine cases of injustice, corruption and unfair treatment by public officers against citizens. The Ombudsman, which is known as public complaint commission, was first introduced in Sweden in 1809. It was introduced in Nigeria in October, 1975 by the military administration of General Murtala Mohammed.



  1. To ensure that public officers discharge their duties in line with the laid down rules of the commission.
  2. The body protects the rights and liberties of the citizens.
  3. The body investigates cases of maladministration by any public officer.
  4. The Ombudsman has the power to suggest some changes in the laws of the land.
  5. It investigates cases of undesirable conditions and practices in public places like hospitals and prisons.
  6. It is empowered to investigate any acts of corruption and nepotism.
  7. It presents public officers and authorities that have violated the law and neglected their duties.
  8. Cases of lost of documents and papers are investigated by the commission.
  9. The commission offers help to citizens whose rights have been infringed upon to seek redress.



  1. The ombudsman does not have the power to enforce its investigations. It can only investigate and recommend.
  2. It cannot investigate top government officials like Director-General, State Governor etc. It can only be involve in matters affecting junior workers.
  3. It lacks the power to reverse court decisions.
  4. The need to preserve state security and vital national interests hinders the commission access information and documents.
  5. Lack of confidentiality of ombudsman constitutes a limitation.



  1. Explain 5 functions of the civil service commission.
  2. What are the limitations to the powers of the ombudsman?



  1. Discuss five problems of the civil service.
  2. State five functions of the Ombudsman.
  3. List four major elements of civil service reforms.
  4. Define Legitimacy.
  5. Discuss 5 factors affecting legitimacy.



  1. Who among the following is a civil servant? (a) Bank manager (b) Medical Doctor (c) Commissioner of Police.
  2. Neutrality of civil servants means that they (a) do what they like (b) cannot accept government appointment (c) should not take part in politics.
  3. In a civil service commission, the boss is usually the (a) Minister (b) Chairman (c) Permanent Secretary.
  4. Red-tapism in the civil service simply means (a) too much emphasis on protocol (b) delegated power (c) using red tape to measure objects
  5. Those who work under the civil service are called (a) public servants (b) civil servants (c) political leaders.



  1. Mention 5 features of the civil service
  2. State five functions of the civil service commission


See also






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