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Reactions as 9000 federal civil servants fail promotion exams

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Nigerians were shocked to the marrow over the news that no fewer than 9,000 civil servants who sat the 2022 Federal Civil Service Commission’s promotion examinations failed.

According to the report, the list of the workers’ performance was obtained from the Federal Civil Service Commission.

Pmnews.ng gathered that out of about 13,000 civil servants that sat for the examination, which was held in about 69 Computer Based Test Centres across the country, over 9000 failed, leaving the number of the successful candidates in the neighbourhood of 4000.

The candidates, the report said, were drawn from the core civil service, including the Nigeria Police, other paramilitary and specialised agencies.

The report also said that the letter containing the list of the successful civil servants was dated November 30, 2023, and sent from the Federal Civil Service Commission.

The letter, tagged: ‘FC.6241/S.35/Vol.xi/ T12/268,’ was signed by the Director of Promotions, Sani Bello, and addressed to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

A cursory look at the list showed that only 3,851 civil servants, out of over 13,000 civil servants who sat for the promotion examination passed, while the rest failed.

Since the report filtered into the public domain, Nigerians have been reacting, with many saying that the major problem which the country faces today is the issue of unqualified and dumb civil servants.

Those who hold this line of thought have strongly argued that the civil service of any nation is the administrative engine that keeps such a country’s government running.

Leading this argument is a mechanical engineer, Livinus Eze, who lamented that recruitment into the civil service in Nigeria is no longer based on merit, but rather on one’s ‘connection.’

He told newsmen: “I remember in those days, when civil servants were held in high esteem because they were believed to be highly cerebral.

“Those days, when you hear that somebody is a permanent secretary, you would know that such a person is an embodiment of experience, competence and intelligence.

“But, what do we have today? We have a bunch of mediocre people, parading themselves as civil servants.”

How did the country descend into such low ebb?

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He said: “The problem started with the introduction of a quota system in the recruitment process. The quota system made it possible that those who were not qualified got jobs in the civil service because of where they came from.

“For me, there is nothing wrong in quota system because it will ensure that one section of the country does not dominate other section, but where a section of the country or a state fails to provide qualified persons for particular vacancies, the proper thing to do is to fill the vacancy with competent and qualified people from outside such area.

“But, in Nigeria, so long as you are from a state or region that must fill certain vacancies, whether you are competent and qualified or not, you will be given the job. And that is the bane of our civil service.

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“How can you explain what has happened; that out of 13,000 civil servants, who sat for ordinary promotion exams, which I am sure were based on their job specifications, not up to 4000 passed? And over 9000 failed?

“So, what are they doing receiving fat salaries at the end of every month? No nation can make progress this way; it is quite unfortunate,” he stated.

There are others who insist that the result of the promotion exam has only shown the level of rot in the country’s civil service.

One of those pushing this line of argument is Chidiebere Eze, a business administrator.

He argued that the corruption that is almost destroying every fabric of the country took its roots from the civil service.

“You don’t need to search far to know why Nigeria is classified as the global poverty capital. When you have people who don’t know anything but only to go to work and receive salaries at the end of the month, how can such a country be productive?

“Poverty will inevitably be the lot of such a nation. Everything our politicians know about corruption was learnt from the civil service.

“They were the ones that introduced the famous ‘five percent’ of the 1960s that brought about the first military coup in Nigeria.

“The rot in the civil service is just too much and needs an urgent intervention. And it is good that this kind of exam was conducted and its result made public so that Nigerians can see where their problems are coming from and know what to do to tackle it headlong,” he told newsmen.

Also commenting, the Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said the import of the massive failure is that the civil service is lacking competence.

While speaking to DAILY POST, he stressed that its implication was low productivity as no man can give what he does not have.

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“The implication is that unqualified people are occupying positions in the civil service, meaning that productivity will be very low. Memos will not be up to the standards they ought to be. And of course, performance in the civil service will be declining.

“But that is not a new thing because the unnecessary bureaucracy, which the civil service shows clearly is a function of this kind of performance.

“When incompetent people are occupying positions, of course, their performance will be below standard, and rather than doing things correctly, unnecessary bureaucracy comes in and the whole system suffers as a result,” he said.

On the way forward, he stressed the urgent need for training and retraining of the civil servants.

He said: “We cannot say that people should be sacked, but we are saying that there is the need for training and retraining.

“It is not enough to have a degree, diploma or some certificates, people have to be trained and trained to be able to live up to their potential within the civil service.

“So, there is a need to overhaul the civil service. There is need for retraining of the civil servants and there is need for reorientation in the civil service, so that they will know the exact thing to do as civil servants.

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“Then, of course, the world is going digital; we are no longer analogue. Some of the civil servants are still analogue.

“There is a need for training and retraining to bring the civil servants up to the standard of modern civil service, so that their performance can be better.”

On the argument that such a poor performance cannot be dissociated from the recruitment process anchored heavily on quota and federal character principle, he admitted that “the recruitment process has a big problem; it is faulty and that is as a result of quota system and federal character principle.

“People are recruited based on where they come from, the language they speak and the religion they profess, rather than their competence.

“Of course, it has a direct bearing on the quality of their output because competence and performance are together; when you are competent, you perform better.

“We are not saying that the quota system should be abolished because there are some disadvantaged communities, but what we are saying is that we should not sacrifice competence on the altar of quota system or federal character principle.”

On his part, the president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, commended the Commission for conducting the promotion exam as a way of assessing the capacity of the civil servants.

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He, however, decried the outcome, which he said was disappointing and an indication that most of them were not even qualified to have been employed.

He said: “First, it is good that the Federal Civil Service Commission conducted the promotion exam, at least to assess the capacity of the civil servants they wanted to promote.

“However, what the outcome of the exam implies is that most of the civil servants were not even qualified to have been employed in the first place; but because we have a system that encourages corruption, so many of them found themselves there.

“That is why the civil servants are even more corrupt than the politicians, and you don’t see them being productive like their counterparts in other parts of the world.

“It is unfortunate that most of them were not qualified from the outset, but they still found their way there.

“So, what we must do in this circumstance is that we must encourage competence and promote it above the man-know-man approach or what some may like to call ‘connection’ in the recruitment process.

“There is nothing bad in organising a promotion exam for them. Generally, the result is a clear indication that the government must look inward to find people who are competent and productive enough to deliver.

“What this also means is that over time, we never realised that the crop of the civil servants are this dumb but at the end of the day, we have seen what the civil service is made of.

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“So, I encourage the government to do more by looking at people based on their competence and bringing them on board to get better results.”

However, a Niger Delta activist, Seigha Manager has a different view about the development.

He said the fact that over 9000 did not pass the promotion exam does not mean they are incompetent and unqualified.

He noted that those who were assumed to have passed and got promoted were those who scored the highest marks to fill the vacant position.

In other words, he explained that there are those who could have scored even above the threshold of the pass mark but could not be promoted because the vacant positions were not enough to accommodate all of them.

He illustrated what he meant with his experience when he was in the service, saying, “For example, when we were writing for our directorship position, nine people wrote the exam and there were only two vacancies.

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“Ordinarily, the pass mark would have been 49 percent, but because we were nine and only two people were needed for the two vacancies, the stake was raised.

“The person with the highest mark scored 72 percent. I was the second person with 62 percent. So, it was just the two of us that were promoted to fill the two vacancies.

“There was somebody who scored 61 percent and about three other persons that scored above 55 percent but they could not be promoted because there were only two vacancies.

“I think there were only two people that scored below the pass mark of 49 percent. But, you find out that only two of us passed and got promoted because there were only two vacancies.

“So, invariably, since only two people were promoted, it appeared as if seven others failed, but in actual sense, only two people failed. The other five people could not be promoted because the vacancies were meant for two people that scored the highest marks.

“The pass mark was 49 percent and they scored above that, but they could not be promoted because only two vacancies existed. So, it is the same thing that could have happened in this current case of over 9000 civil servants believed to have failed the recent promotion.

“Not all of them could have failed but because the vacancies that existed were limited, even though they exceeded the pass mark, they could not be promoted.”

“That is exactly what I think could have happened, but that is not to say that every person is intelligent or that nobody failed.

“There were people who could have failed but the majority passed, just that they couldn’t be promoted because the spaces were not enough to accommodate all of them,” he told newsmen.

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