Sunday, December 15, 2013

Re-inventing the Civil Service

civ·il serv·ice
the permanent professional branches of a government's administration, excluding military and judicial branches and elected politicians.
Numerous articles have been written on how Nigeria's civil service is a significant contributor to the Country’s poor state and how it has aided the entrenchment of corruption in our society. To understand the implication of this charge, the role of the civil service should be understood.
What is the Civil Service?
Some definitions of the civil service include:
E.N Gladden: Civil Service is a professional body of neutral experts dedicated to serve the nation irrespective of their own gain and without reference to party- political views

F.A Ogg: It is the great body of men and women that translates law into action from one end of the country to the other and brings the national government into its daily contacts with the rank and file of the country 
The textbook characteristics of the Civil Service include: professionalism, neutrality, anonymity, impartiality, service and accountability.
 Reality versus Theory
Nigeria's civil service does not exhibit above characteristics neither do the definitions apply to it.  Although,characteristics such as neutrality and impartiality are impossible, countries such as Australia and New Zealand have been able to develop systems that recognize the human factor but still make it work whilst patronage and deference to the government in power is the status quo for our civil service.
Professionalism and service are lacking in Nigeria’s civil service. Recall your last experience with a civil servant (trying to get your driver's license, process your passport, sign off on a letter, get a certificate of occupancy etc.). The blasé attitude to work is obvious. The civil service is responsible for formulating and implementing policies. A nation cannot progress if civil servants responsible for policy are unable to conceive practical and original policies and are unprofessional. For instance, a civil servant in the Ministry of works believes that solution to the disrepair of federal roads is to introduce a tolling policy though allocations for road maintenance is provided in annual budgets.  Also consider the 2013 budget where 200 million Naira each was allocated for generators in countries with constant electricity like the UK and UAE. If that was the only error, it would be a clear case of enrichment. The height of mental laziness was the same amounts were allocated to different countries with different currencies and tariffs. Read the story here and here

The principle of anonymity (civil servants are not held responsible for actions or inactions) promotes incompetence. This principle  makes it difficult to hold civil servants accountable because they are not elected and have tenure (job security) while the elected official bears the consequences (if any) for actions. An example is the unspent funds for the Health ministry that led to the resignation and prosecution of the health minister.  This attribute may also be responsible for embedding corruption in the country. Whilst both military and democratic governments have played their parts in establishing corruption, these governments were enabled by civil servants “who know and work” the system. The lack of accountability and no consequences for actions of civil servants has been a disservice to Nigerians. 
On the other hand, the structure and design of the civil service is demotivating. The work spaces do not encourage productivity, there are no performance metrics- this makes it possible for a civil servant to do nothing between 9-5 or abscond from work- and for the junior cadre, their take home pay can't take them home. Yet, a significant portion of State and Federal Budgets  is spent on overheads like salaries, maintenance and training

Why should we care and what can we do?
Nigeria’s development lies in the hands of civil servants as they are the delivery medium at schools, hospitals, ministry of works, ministry of housing etc. so we should care because the actions and inactions of civil servants affect citizens directly. For instance, a tolling policy means that anyone plying the Lagos- Ibadan route would include tolls in their budget; epileptic power supply has caused maintenance of generators the number one expense for families (probably before food).  

How do we solve a problem like the Nigerian Civil Service.
In conclusion

In addition to streamlining the roles of ministries, service charters for each ministry with clear consequences for service failures should be published. For instance, A state's hospital's service charter can be: attend to a patient within 30 minutes of arrival in non-life threatening cases. For the ministry of Commerce it can be: application for a business permit should be treated in 48 hours etc.  
Citizens should be sensitized on their rights and obligations in their relations with civil servants and examples should be made of offending staff. 
Procurement procedures should be transparent and there should be real Freedom of Information. The affordable cost of the Internet allows for transparency in procurement and freedom of information.
The Judiciary also has a part to play in revising laws so that punishment is commensurate with offences. Recall the Pension scam where the civil servant was fined N750, 000 and compare to the phone thief who was sentenced to death. Nigeria’s law code appears to prefer white-collar crimes to physical crimes
Finally, the Federal character principle should be abolished. Federal character does more harm than good by promoting a false sense of equality over merit. Employing or promoting someone from a certain region or local government because that position is slated for their local government breeds more unprofessionalism and no accountability.
If the nation wants to retain the equality the principle purportedly gives, it should be anywhere else but the civil service and security forces.
Further reading:

Definition of week
“We weres”- (we  were there before you and would be there after you have gone):  
A civil servant who  believes he is not accountable to anyone and therefore resists change and progress

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reading Assignments

Hi all, 
*passing by*
Thought to share these 2 articles that succinctly describe the mental laziness of our civil servants and effects of impunity in our society
Read the articles here and here 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Between a MINT and a BRIC

Nigeria and India’s population figures in their respective continents have accorded them powerhouse status- Nigeria is MINT while India is a BRIC and the relations between them have been cordial. Recently, Nigeria-India relations was shaken when a Nigerian was murdered in Gao,India. I was listening to a radio commentary on the murder and the comments by an Indian Minister describing Nigerians as a cancer after protests by Nigerians in that community. A commentator noted that there was no difference between Nigeria and India and Nigerians resident in India should return home. I was surprised that the listening public vehemently disagreed with the remark.
I submit that Indians and Nigerians are very similar in shared experiences, attitudes, values and living conditions. For instance, on issues that would require explanation to an European, American or Chinese, my Indian friends understood immediately. I also remember when an Indian tried to rip me off. When I told him I was Nigerian, he refunded my money. Even our communication patterns are similar. As Nigerians we are not wired to keep it short and simple, I have discovered same with the Indians I interact with. 
A colleague once mentioned to me that Africans especially Nigerians underestimate the level of development that has occurred in the continent. He noted that though Africa is far behind, there is a semblance of organization around our under-development.  He cited the example of Victoria Island and Ajegunle where you can differentiate uptown and downtown. In India there is no such organization, beside a castle is a shack. Another colleague on a work-related visit to China recalled when she and 3 other colleagues (Pakistani, Indian and Indonesian) were lost in China. The Indonesian was frantic whilst the other 3 had the what-is-the-worst-that-can-happen. To buttress my belief that we are similar below are comparisons from reports and studies on India and Nigeria

Approx. 170 million
 Approx. 1.2 billion
Colonial Power
 System of government 
 Mix of presidential and parliamentary
 According to Nigeria’s Minister about 70% of the population have no access to electricity i.e about 120 million people
Income Category
 Lower middle income
Lower middle income
Year of Independence  
World Bank Ease of doing Business ranking   

Purchasing Power Parity: India does better
In simple terms, PPP is “the rate at which the currency of one country would have to be converted into that of another country to buy the same amount of goods and services in that country” (IMF definition). The PPP exchange rate is the rate at which the currency of one country would have to be converted into that of another country to but the same amount of goods and services in each country. The idea is all things being equal,  a bottle of coke in India should cost the same as in Nigeria. Some calculations go into determining PPP between countries but for this post, simple mathematics would suffice. In India the average price of 33cl Coca-Cola is 20 rupees. In Nigeria,33cl of Coke costs 24 rupees

Bad roads everywhere
In both countries, roads are the major means of transportation for people and goods and are in dire need of repair. According to this Deloitte report, 10% of India’s roads are motorable with poor connectivity to hinterland. This lack of access is a reason that has been adduced for India’s slow development rate. Nigeria’s story is also similar. According to PWC’s Africa’s Gearing Up report, only ¾ of Federal roads are in a fair state (Nigeria’s road network comprises 32100 km of Federal roads, 30,900 of State roads and 132,000km of local government roads). CIA world report notes that of Nigeria’s 193, 200km roads, only 28, 980 km is paved.

Nigeria and India rank poorly on the Liveability index
 The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Liveability index ranks 140 cities on stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. In 2011, New Delhi ranked 113, Mumbai - 118 and Lagos ranked 137. Compared to other BRIC nations, India is the worst (Beijing -72, Moscow-70, Rio de Janeiro – 92)

Systemic corruption abounds
Corruption is systemic in both India and Nigeria. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, India ranks 94/176 while Nigeria ranks 137/176.  Government Institutions in both countries are highly corrupt and the price paid for corruption is very high in terms of lost opportunities to develop. A friend recalled his experience at India’s immigration and same scenario would have occurred in Lagos.

The difference between India and Nigeria is six and half a dozen. However,India has developed a niche in Engineering and also developed healthcare tourism and it is a possibility that Nigeria will fare worse if her population was over a billion. In the words of the commentator, why leave one shack for another? Nigeria is just 170 million.  Isn’t it easier to compete with 170 million people than 1 billion people?


P.S:Lord Lugard- Nigeria’s first governor general was born in India and also served in India

P.P.S: An interesting study would be the effects of British Colonial rule on attitudes of both Indians and Nigerians. For instance after the British left India, did Indian elites take over and become Ogas like their Nigerian counterparts? Why was India divided into India and Pakistan at Independence, yet Biafra was not “allowed” to secede from Nigeria?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book review: The Next Gulf: London, Washington and oil conflict in Nigeria

(pages: 306; publisher: Constable& Robinson; year: 2006) 
The cover photo of the book summarizes the core of the book which is the destruction of the Niger-Delta environment. Using Ken Saro Wiwa as the focal point, the book examines the relationship between Niger-Delta, the Nigerian government, Shell (International Oil Companies) and UK and US governments.
The book authored by Andy Rowell, James Marriott and Lorne Stockman discusses the roles of above players in Niger-Delta’s underdevelopment, Shell as Nigeria’s Goldman Sachs- a number of Shell staff move into government roles after working with Shell and the deliberate policies by these governments to ensure that unlike the Middle East, the flow of oil from Nigeria is not disrupted.
The book is very detailed in exploring Nigeria as a rentier state, the commercial nature of Britain’s colonial policies in Nigeria, the role of Shell, the politics of Ken Saro Wiwa’s death and the emergence of the culture of violence in the Niger-Delta. The book also identified an un-utilized area of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector
As a reader, I enjoyed the personal touch the writers provide through their own stories in relation to the events mentioned in the book. It is also telling that the the chickens have come home to roost  for IOCs. The peaceful and non-violent requests by the people met with violent reactions by the IOCs through the deployment of State Security forces. These IOCs have become targets of kidnaps and sabotage- oil bunkering. It is also telling that some of the Nigerian Shell staff who were involved in building the culture of violence have become part of the “change process".
The repetition of themes, the adulation given Ken Saro Wiwa and few editing errors detract from the book.
The book is thorough and provides good historical and current accounts of the developments in Nigeria’s oil sector. The book asserts that the global North represented by the UK and US have focussed on Nigeria oil and want to get it at all costs because of the instability in the Middle East.
However, events in the oil sector in the last 5 years demonstrate that countries that rely on oil are seeking alternatives to oil. Countries such as the US are also reducing their reliance on other countries. In addition, the once favourable Nigerian environment is now unconducive for IOCs as a number of them are selling their oil blocs in the country. By extension, this means the energy focus of their home countries would change.
I recommend this book for another perspective on Biafra, the oil connection in Nigeria- Britain relations, corruption in the global North and its effects in Nigeria and how embedded Shell is in Nigeria’s government.
I close with a few quotes from the book:
"Unfortunately, we now have this combination of violence, greed, in terms of illegal oil bunkering taking over from the empowering non violent struggle for the environment and for resource control"( Ken Saro Wiwa Jr on the state of the Niger-Delta today )

"When I travel outside the Country, people often ask me how far away Ogoni is. I tell them it is as far as the nearest Shell service Station" (Ledum Mitee on the interconnectedness of oil and it's consequences on the Niger Delta across boundaries).


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Racket at Yaba LCDA

Governor Fashola recently stated that  local government officials involved in "traffic management do not represent any local government. My personal experience begs to differ. 

point of arrest

Recently on my way back to Lagos Island from Yaba,I was stopped by a uniformed Yaba LCDA (Local Council Development Area). Uniform pictured below
 The officer said I had passed one way (pictures of the said one-way below) and that I would be cautioned. The  "caution" was that I would go back and pass the right route. I agreed and he entered my car. Once inside, he instructed me to drive to the LCDA office. 
(I was behind another car that was"arrested". Anyone plying this route would notice that cars driving North divert and face cars going South) like below. I was going South and yet was the traffic offender. 
I was in no mood to argue with the arresting officer.  A man pictured below approached me and asked where I was coming from, where I was going, where I lived and worked and I told him all except where I worked. He tried to make me offer him a bribe and I refused. I told him to let me know my fines and I would pay. He said I would do a psychiatric test, pay N25,000 fine, N500 gate pass and N2000 for tax clearance. When I heard the tax clearance, I asked why? I told him I don't have one, what if I am unemployed? I asked him to let me make some calls and after 5 minutes, he began to harass me for my keys and when I refused to hand it over, he told his officers to deflate my tyres. Then, I saw a man who looked like his boss, approached him  and told him what had  happened. He requested for the pictures they took of my offence ( which I was not allowed to see) and said it was one way. I mentioned the 2000 tax clearance fine and he asked who told me to pay that and I pointed to man pictured below. He requested for the booking sheet and changed my fine to N15500. I paid the fine. 

Trouble began when I requested for a receipt. Officer above issued the gate pass but was reluctant to issue a receipt. Booking officer (below) was also reluctant to issue a receipt.

After making a serious fuss and calling "the boss" that reduced my fine,a lady approached me, gave me N5000  and said the boss said it should be returned to me and I was given receipt below that did not state the full "offence"
I tried to reach the numbers of the LCDA chairman (Jide Jimoh on his number given on the LCDA's website)  and the Council Manager (Tunde Ojikutu) and the lines were switched off. Dear governor Fashola, miscreants are not running this racket. It is run by Local government staff and this is another example of the impunity that occurs in Lagos state. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A thought on security

There have been suggestions that Boko Haram members are non-Nigerians who are recruited to wreck havoc on Nigeria. Proponents are yet to show what  the external architects of Boko Haram would benefit from the siege in Northern Nigeria. Yet, this line of argument is supported by the discovery of 1487 illegal entry routes earlier in the year. The issue is not that these routes were discovered but what is being done to address unauthorized entries into the country even at legal routes. My thoughts is nothing is being done

Here is a picture of the Seme border- the entry from Benin Republic to Lagos.
Seme (Lagos-Benin) border
At the border, Custom, Immigration and NDLEA officials (they either come into your bus if you are in a bus or you walk to the container-office that houses them) check you,your passport and yellow card. If you "pass"(smile well, play dumb or tip well), you fill a higher education note book with your details, your passport is stamped and you can proceed. If  you find this process stressful, you can pay a bike rider to carry you across after bribing the appropriate officials.  At the borders and airports, no biometric information is captured and you can be who you want to be. Yet, the country wants to tackle insecurity and Boko Haram. With this state of laxity at the commercially busy Seme border, imagine what other border posts look like.
Compare Lagos-Seme border with the Hilla Condji border (Togo- Benin border)

and the Bietbridge border (Zimbabwe- South Africa border) 

or Candian border
Finally the US border

The negligence towards the Country's security has little to do with corruption. It is inefficiency and incompetence. What would it cost to construct gates, train staff and computerize entry and exit points into the Country? Just wondering (and I am willing to learn), apart from smugglers, are there any other groups that benefit from this carefree approach of the government?