Oyo-Ita and the Future of Nigerian Civil Service


Ifeanyi Omokwe

For better part of the last decade, the Nigerian civil service sector was largely entrapped in a swamp of corruption, incompetence, nepotism, and all the similar negatives adjectives one could think of.

Expectedly and quite rightly, this has made many Nigerians jittery. But Nigeria is not the only victim of the jitters. It is an economic epidemic, so to say, that has befallen the sector especially in Africa.

But today, there is greater confidence in the Nigerian Civil Service going by the recent reforms by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, and her team.

Since her appointment as the HoCSF in January 2016, Oyo-Ita has not hidden her vision for the civil service, which is to develop and institutionalize an Efficient, Productive, Incorruptible and Citizen-Centred (EPIC) culture.

Going by this development, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation under the leadership of Mrs. Oyo-Ita came up with a three-year strategy and implementation plan to chart a new course for the service and reposition it as an effective machinery of government for improved service delivery.

The 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan, which was launched in February 2017, is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s “Change Mantra” and the Economic recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

The strategy according to the OHCSF is anchored on four goals, which is in tandem with Pillar Four (4) of the National Strategy for Public Service Reforms (NSPSR).

This great strategy kicked off on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, with a three-day retreat for members of the Project Management Teams in Calabar, Cross River State.

It is worthwhile to note that this is the Nigeria’s first ever home-grown Federal Civil Service reform.

Reforms in the past have been initiated and as well facilitated by the World Bank, Department for International Development and other foreign bodies, but the 2017-2020 FCSSIP, crafted by Oyo-Ita’s team was actualised by civil servants, and is being implemented by civil servants.

After her eloquent and graphic presentation in Calabar recently, the Head of Service expressed optimism that the new strategy which has a 100 percent chance of success is crucial to the success of the ERGP.

“This is a civil service reform that is home-grown, it is not brought to us by the World Bank or some foreign loaner, it is think-tank output which has resulted in a strategy document that we believe can push the service to a world class level that we have all being praying for,” Oyo-Ita said.

According to her, “we crafted this plan along with the civil service agenda for improvement in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and the National Strategy for Policy and Service Reforms, so this implementation plan is working in line with the Economic vision of the country.

“We identified one critical cause of failure of past reforms, we examined the need to have a governance structure, we need to implement these reforms on a day-to-day basis, we also need to micro-manage the actualisation of these reforms.

“It is this project management teams that have been set-up based on the 8 key priority area, and each priority area is being governed by one project management team, brought from across the service.

“It is a program that have been developed by civil servants and it is going to be implemented by civil servants.”

As to be expected Oyo-Ita gave facts and figures to buttress her assertion that in no distant time, all will be well with the Nigerian civil service. But as she herself said at some point, it is not about the money and it is not about the numbers, but it is essentially about making real difference in the lives of civil servants.

On this score, she was particularly proud of what the implementation of the new strategy will bring, noting that it is a win-win for both the civil service and the country.

She explained the goals in actualising her vision for the Service to be;

*Development and institutionalisation of an efficient, productive, incorruptible and citizen centred culture in the civil service which she said is to build upon the core values of the service which are meritocracy, transparency, professionalism, anonymity and many others. She said this goal will engender the transition to a world class civil service with positive attitude, requisite skills productive and highly motivated workforce.

*Development and implementation of an enterprise content management (ECM) system.

*Development of entrepreneurship culture and commercial orientation in the civil servant sector.

*Improve welfare and benefits packages for civil service.

You may recall that the OHCSF received a presidential intervention following the launch of the strategy in February 2017 that culminated in OHCSF signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG) which is an indigenous donor to support its implementation.

The OHCSF received the support of AIG through the engagement of the services of McKinsey & Company to work with the OHCSF to develop a clear communicable action plan for transforming the Nigeria Federal Civil Service by building on the 2017–2020 OHCSF Strategic plan with the following deliverables:

*Development of a clear, actionable and communicable roadmap/action plan to kick start and drive a determined, sincere and powerful transformation of the civil service.

*Investigation of past reform/transformation effort failures and incorporation of lessons learnt from the investigation.

Highlighting part of what the Federal Government tends to gain, Oyo-Ita said, includes the FCSSIP to deliver N60-N120bn savings from cleaning Human Resources data on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), save about N2.5bn from digitizing content, train at least 25,000 civil servants through the revamp core modules and cultivate at least 200 future leaders through the Leadership Enhancement and Development Programme (LEAD-P).

The eight PMTs, which were constituted and inaugurated by the HoS in December, 2017, are expected to drive day to day implementation of eight priority initiatives for the 2017-2020 FCSSIP.

The priority areas according to the Head of Service include; capacity development and training; talent sourcing; performance management; staff welfare; culture change; innovation; Integrated Personnel and Pay Roll Information System (IPPIS); and Civil Service Automation.

Addressing questions raised on why this new strategy is different from past ones, which had little or no impact in the service, Ooy-Ita said, adequate steps were taken to review the failures of past administrations and measures have been put in place to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Explaining further, the Head of Service mentioned some of the expected outcomes to include improved staff competences and skills through well targeted and funded programmes across all grade levels, result Based Performance and Meritocratic environment for Civil Servants with clarity on metrics, clear career path value proposition, more innovative Civil Service that brings in innovation from within and outside the service to improve service delivery, improved productivity and governance for Human Resources (HR) administration across all the processes with full transparency on Civil and Public Servants in the system.

She further explained that these improvements will culminate in a value driven Civil Service with Civil Servants that are Efficient, Productive, Incorruptible and Citizen-Centered (EPIC).

As a first-hand observer at the 3-day retreat for the Project Management Teams, I agree with her and wish to add that even if the situation is dire (which she said is not), we need to re-assure ourselves that all is well. We will call evil upon our country by exaggerating our fears. Agonizing unnecessarily at this point will do us more harm than good.

One other thing that caught my attention was the mandate given to the PMTs, which is to immediately follow the retreat with wide-spread sensitization and a 2-day ultimatum to firm up their first 100 days plan of implementation.

There is growing confidence in the civil service following the implementation of the FCSSIP, which has created enthusiasm among civil servants, who now have a rejuvenated hope for a better and more prosperous civil service, a belief that has been long lost.
– Omokwe wrote in from Abuja