opinionBy Ibrahim Akawu
Five years into the administration of Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, the Niger State Civil Service has had its own sizeable share of reforms injected to reposition and galvanize it to serve as engine of transformational drive towards attaining the Vision 3:20:20 the government set for itself.
This effort is not unconnected to the fact that the Chief Servant believes that to achieve enduring socio - political and economic development, the civil service, which serve as the only old and standing institution that translate political manifestoes and promises of politicians into concrete policies and breathe life into them, must first be organized, repositioned, galvanized and reformed to serve the purpose of any serious dispensation.
That was exactly what the Chief Servant has done, and being also a former federal Permanent Secretary, he knows where the onus lies and thus wasted no time in correcting the anomalies.
First, he declared his mission and vision for the civil service and challenged them to be the garrison commanders in making success of his all encompassing vision he hoped the state would attain in the year 3:20:20.
Since it was a vision, the governor hoped that the state civil service shall be the best civil in Nigeria in terms of professionalism, ethics and service delivery with the mission of being the best service propelling a transformation of the state into one of the 3 top economies in Nigeria by the year 2020.
What this means however is that the success of the journey to attaining the lofty vision lies solely on the shoulders of the civil service. This is apparently connected to the fact that although regimes and governments come and go, the civil service remains an immortal institution that carries essential services to the people.
Realizing these, the Chief Servant set out to implement four strategic reforms aimed at imbuing the institution with strong blocks that will help it achieve the stated objectives for the state. These four strategic reforms include, structural reforms; manpower development; work incentives and pension matters
Structural Reforms: Before Governor Aliyu's ascension into office, the practices and operations in the civil service were business as usual, where promotion was given not on any rational templates but only after attaining three years in the present position.
The deficiency here is that qualification, merit, performance and ability were not considered as indicators for promotion. Even though in some cases they were considered, they were not taken serious.
The norm was that by every three years, promotion would be effected whether other criteria were attained or not or whether performance meets expectations.
This has changed. Promotion or advancement can only be based on merit, performance and ability to ensure that only the best occupies position. This is done to promote efficiency and effectiveness in service deliveries which are important drives to attaining the vision 3:20:20.
Under the structural reforms, the service also witnessed an addition of a new cadre of Grade level 17 at the directorate level, reminiscent of the federal structure. This was a change of the old structure where directors terminated at Grade level 16. This reform was to achieve the purposes of closing the gap between permanent secretaries and directors, which also is a component of succession planning and work incentives.
Any officer promoted to this level is expected to occupy the permanent secretaryship position in the future, however after proven record of enviable performance and service. More so, the new Grade 17 comes with its financial reward as salaries and allowances differ from level 16.
With this new structure, the Grade level 17 is the position of a director, 16, deputy director and 15, assistant director, unlike in the past where 16 was the senior director, 15, deputy director and there was no assistant director.
However, attaining the new grade must be by merit, not just like waiting after three years and promotion comes to you, but by strictly attaining new laid down criteria. The Chief Servant has introduced retreats and examinations where unless certain marks are scored as aggregate for pass, the officer remains where he is.
The implication is that when an officer fails or continue to fail examinations, his juniors could come up and overtake him if they in turn are passing the examinations. The effort is to ensure that only the best manages people's affairs by applying their expertise for the general good.
It is noteworthy to mention also that under the structural reform, the wise attempt of putting square pegs in square holes becomes practicable as obtains in other civilized climes.
The administration has implemented what it called "appropriate placement policy" in which officers are placed only where their qualifications and experience are relevant and even encouraged to excel and become professional, a deviation from the past where there was confusion. This has helped improved the productivity output of the service.
At the top level of the directorate cadre, this has been achieved and in recent past, the lower and middle classes of the service were placed appropriately where they belong.
That is why today, you cannot find an Architect as administrative officer or Engineer as director of administration or a graduate of Building Engineering as staff officer, something that was obtainable in the past.
To be continued