Peace Oluwadara, AJALA

Policy Issues: Institutions, Institutional Change and Human Development.

The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, has reportedly lamented the skills gap in the federal civil service. At the launch of the redesigned training modules on Structured Mandatory Assessment-Based Training Programmes, she made it clear that although training programmes were organised to reposition the sector in the past, the programmes were poorly structured. According to her, the absence of structured and targeted training programmes for civil servants has been a major challenge for the federal civil service. Training activities across the MDAs have hitherto been carried out without considering the actual competencies lacking in the service, thus widening the knowledge and skills gap in the service. Oyo-Ita also mentioned the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy Implementation Plan by the current administration. According to her, the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy Implementation Plan was launched thereby indicating a commitment to organisational transformation, “with a vision to build a modern public service organisation that provides world class service for sustainable national development.” Oyo-Ita said the focus of the plan is to ascertain knowledge and skill gaps in the civil service and design relevant training contents to fill them.

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“A major contention of Marxist writers is that deliberate deskilling of the labor force occurred during the early twentieth century. That is, employers adopted capital-intensive technologies that eliminated highly skilled workers and replaced them with semiskilled or unskilled workers. The logic of this charge is that the bargaining power of skilled workers enabled them to disrupt the production process strategically, which was enormously costly. Employers found that it reduced total cost over time to introduce technologies that used less-skilled workers who did not have the bargaining power to disrupt production. In this case, a new production technology was introduced to reduce transaction costs.”[2]

  • Douglass C. North’s Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance

Were the above, the Nigerian situation, it may have been a delight to know that some measure of thought was being put in place to reduce transaction costs and ultimately reduce the cost of living. Dismally however, same cannot be said to be the case in the Nigerian Civil Service as there is little or no technological input in day-to-day execution of duties in the Federal Civil Service Commission. According to Douglass North, the kind of skills and knowledge fostered by the structure of an economy has a far-reaching impact on the direction of change and gradually alters the country’s institutional framework. Harari could not successfully tell the history of humankind without the word ‘skill’ featuring twenty-nine (29) times[3], pointing to the instrumentality of skill development to the survival of the sapien-specie.

As the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation already pointed out, series of training programmes are going on across the commission, yet civil servants still lack the requisite knowledge and skills required for effective execution of their jobs. It is therefore important that the supposed redesigning be modelled to achieve optimum performance. Was sufficient research carried out as to why previous training schemes failed to achieve the desired results? What exactly were the faults in the previous schemes? How have these faults been averted from re-surfacing in the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy Implementation Plan? Is the Public Service Institute of Nigeria aware of the endogenous problems that inform the average civil servant’s lethargy and lackadaisical attitude to work?

It is highly opined that the redesign should be targeted at re-orienting the minds of every person in the entire commission. Values need be reinforced and desired attitude to work be ingrained as much as is possible, from the highest-ranking officer to the least. More importantly however, there must be monitoring and evaluation structures in place from state to state and from parastatal to parastatal, down to the grassroots level. Staff must be made to undergo quarterly appraisals which will ultimately determine promotion eligibility. There is pressing need for a new normative structure within the Nigerian Civil Service Commission. If the government cannot put its own house in order, what right does it have to seek regulation of the private sector and its markets? This is definitely not an opposition of government interventions; rather, a comparison to drive the point further home. Relevant stakeholders involved in the implementation of the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy Implementation Plan must therefore see to it that the plan does not end up a toothless bulldog, spoken so highly of but achieving no more than its predecessors.

Cristina Bicchieri defined norms as “the language a society speaks, the embodiment of its values and collective desires, the common practices that hold human groups together.” Perhaps it is time for a redefinition of the norms that hold the Federal Civil Service Commission together, lest they be continually misconstrued, ultimately impairing collective welfare.

[1] This article was taken from The Punch Newspaper. Available at: https://punchng.com/hos-bemoans-skills-gap-in-federal-civil-service/. Date Accessed: 30/07/2019.

[2] Douglass C. North; Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance

[3] Yuval Noah Harari; Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Available at: https://www.google.com/search?q=harari+sapiens+pdf&rlz=1C1CHBD_enNG818NG819&oq=harari%27s+sapiens&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.7909j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8. Date Accessed: 30/07/2019.