The rules or regulations of any human enterprise or organization set out its guiding principles and policy, acceptable conduct, modalities for actualizing organizational objectives and the basic rights, duties and entitlements of its personnel. Any organization is as effective as the rules guiding its operations. The Nigerian Public Service can be likened to an organization of human activity which is governed and regulated by rules. The Public Service Rules (PSR) provides the operational framework, the regulatory principles and a charter of rights, privileges and duties of all public servants while detailing what sanctions erring conducts could attract. The PSR is a guidebook for employee-employer relationship which also stipulates conditions of their engagement. The name of this document has changed overtime. From the colonial period to 1974, it was known as “General Orders” while from 1974 to January, 2000, it was called “Civil Service Rules” And from 2000 to date, it became known as the “Public Service Rules”. The change of name of this guidebook goes beyond the name it is called, there are contextual and textual changes as well as structural changes which are all reflections of epochal changes resulting from the transition of the Service from one era to another.
The changes inherent in any new era ought to be reflected in the PSR because the country’s Public Service is embedded in the web of societal influences which, to a very large extent, derived from global pressures that are impinging on the political economies across the world. The challenge is for the PSR to be responsive to changes as the need arises. If the public service system is faulty, it is either the rules are themselves faulty or that
the rules are not well-applied. It could as well be that both the rules and their application are problematic. There is therefore a palpable linkage between the quality of our PSR, its application and the effectiveness of the public service system in our country.
In this paper, I do not intend to bore you with repetitive detailing of the provisions of the PSR but rather invite you on a critical adventure which will broaden your perspectives on the essence, quality and value of the PSR, and in particular, the efficacy of its application. At the end of this lecture, you should be able to ask critical questions about certain problematic aspects of the PSR in the light of the country’s evolving political and economic realities.
The PSR like the country’s 1999 Constitution is an imposed document with virtually no inputs from the civil servants on whom it is binding. It is not surprising that the PSR after 16 years of unbroken democratic governance since the emergence of the post-military era in 1999 still have some despicable provisions indicating hang-up or idiosyncrasy of the erstwhile military dictatorship. This is understandable because the PSR like the Constitution depicts the values and principles that were dominant in the military era but which ought to have been discarded with the advent of the current dispensation. The recent efforts at inviting inputs from MDAs for a planned revision of the PSR is perhaps a new reality that should be supported to ensure that the inputs are well-processed and incorporated into the PSR in deference to the tenets of representative public service systems as it obtains in other developed democracies of the world.
The PSR has 16 Chapters with some annexes which contain
relevant information on parastatals and the Nigerian Foreign
Service Regulations. Chapter One detailed the exemptions to the
rules on appointment and highlighted the different statutory
bodies that derived their powers from the Constitution (Rule-
010101). At Rules- 010102- 010105, the key concepts and terms
are explained for easy comprehension of their use in the PSR.
It is very important that officers acquaint themselves with the
provisions of the PSR in order to function more efficiently on their
schedules. In the subsequent sections an attempt would be made
to present a panoramic view of the contents of the PSR.
The PSR clearly recognizes the authority of the Federal Civil
Service Commission (FCSC) as the constitutionally empowered
institution responsible for processing appointments to public
offices in the Federal Civil Service. Where the MDAs recruit
personnel on Gl. 01-06, it is done with the direction and
authorization of the FCSC (See PSR -020101) The rule guiding
appointment of junior staff on GL.06 and below in the MDAs is
PSR – 020103 (a)- (c). The relevant rules guiding appointment of
officers on posts graded GL. 07- 12 are detailed in PSR-020102
(i)-(v). These rules highlights the requisite qualifications to be
possessed by prospective appointees as well as the processes
PSR 020104 and 020105 are rules on promotion to all posts
and incremental date of an officer appointed or promoted to a post
would be more relevant in sections on promotion in the PSR.
PSR 020106 states that seniority in any department shall
be determined by the entry date/ the date and timing on the
assumption of duty certificate or as reflected in the appropriate
PSR 020107 prohibits the employment of unpaid staff
PSR 020108 (i) - (ii) highlights the role of the Permanent
Secretary as the custodian of staff personal records as well as
the inalterability of the date of birth recorded by an officer on
Recruitment is defined as the filling of vacancies by the
appointment of persons not already in the Public Service of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria. It excludes the transfer of officers
from other Public Service in the Federation to the Federal Public
Service (See PSR 020201).
PSR 020202- 020204 detailed the types of appointment as
trainees or pupil, probation in a pensionable post, non-pensionable
contract to a non-pensionable post or against a pensionable
post for a specified period, and acting appointment, while the
conditions that could warrant each of these types of appointment
and the processes involved and entitlements of affected officers
are elaborated upon in PSR 020301- 020412
PSR 020205- 020207- highlight the eligibility criteria for
appointment into the Federal Public Service as well as the
Section 5 of chapter 2 of the PSR detailed the processes
involved in effecting transfer and secondment of officers. PSR
020502 defined “Transfer” as the permanent release of an
officer from one scheduled service to another or from one class
to another within the same service.” Secondment” is defined
as the temporary release of an officer to the service of another
Government, approved body or any recognized International
Organization or body for a specified period. PSR 020502- 020506
contain relevant information on the requirements to be satisfied
by intending transferees or secondees.
Chapter 3 of the PSR contains a whole gamut of rules guiding
the exercise of disciplinary control over officers in the Federal
Public Service. Every serving officer is expected to acquaint
himself/herself with these disciplinary rules and other regulations
in force. Officers are to read these rules along with the “Guidelines
on Appointments, Promotion, and Discipline” published by the
Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC). Although the FCSC
is vested with the power to exercise disciplinary control over
officers in the Federal Public Service, this power may be delegated
to any member of the Commission or any officer in the Federal
PSR 030201- defined “General Inefficiency” as a series of
omissions or incompetence, the cumulative effect of which shows
that the officer is not capable of discharging efficiently the duties
of the office he holds.
PSR 030202- 030208 detailed the processes of removing
an officer from office on grounds of general inefficiency and the
different punishments for related errant conduct.
PSR 030301-defined“Misconduct” as a specific act of wrongdoing
or an improper behavior which is inimical to the image
of the service and can be investigated and proved. It can lead to
termination and retirement. Immoral behavior, unruly behavior,
drunkenness, foul language, assault, battery, refusal to proceed on
transfer or to accept posting, habitual lateness to work, deliberate
delay in treating official document, failure to keep record,
unauthorized removal of public records, dishonesty, negligence, membership of cults, sleeping on duty, improper dressing while
on duty, hawking merchandise within office premises, refusal
to take/carryout lawful instruction from superior officers,
malingering, insubordination, discourteous behavior to the public
are some of such offences.
PSR 030302- 030314 highlighted the processes of commencing
disciplinary action against an officer on grounds of misconduct
and other sundry related offences in the service.
PSR 030401- defined “Serious Misconduct” as a specific act
of very serious wrong-doing and improper behavior which is
inimical to the image of the service and which can be investigated
and if proven, may lead to dismissal. Serious acts of misconduct
include: falsification of records, suppression of records,
withholding of files, conviction on a criminal charge(other than a
minor traffic or sanitary offence or the like); absence from duty
without leave, false claims against Government officials, engaging
in partisan political activities, bankruptcy/serious financial
embarrassment, unauthorized disclosure of official information,
bribery, corruption, embezzlement, misappropriation, violation
of oath of secrecy, action prejudicial to security of state, advance
fee fraud( Criminal code 419), holding more than one-full time
paid job, nepotism or any other form of preferential treatment,
divided loyalty, sabotage, willful damage to public property, sexual
harassment, and any other act unbecoming of a public officer
The disciplinary procedure for serious misconduct is spelt out
in PSR – 030302- 030306. PSP 030407- 030601 detailed all other
related offences which could be given the same consideration as
The PSR has provisions for promotion of serving officers.
PSR-020701- 020708 highlight the conditions, requirements and
procedure for promotion, pointing out the vital roles played by
the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Office of the Head of
Civil Service of the Federation in facilitating the successful conduct
of the promotion exercise. This section of the PSR needs to be
read along with the Guidelines on Appointment, Promotion and
Discipline for deeper appreciation of the criteria for promotion
which serving officers must satisfy to be eligible.
a) Maturity criterion: The minimum number of years that
an officer must spend in a post before being considered eligible for
promotion shall be as follows:
i. GL 06 and below - Minimum of 2 years
ii. GL 07- 14 - Minimum of 3 years
iii. GL 15- 17 - Minimum of 4 years
b) Merit: Promotions shall be made strictly on the basis of
competitive merit from amongst all eligible candidates.
c) In all cases, a generally satisfactory record of conduct
shall also be considered.
d) Responsibility for the promotion of officers shall be as
i. GL 06 and below- by the Ministry/ Extra-Ministerial
ii. GL 07- 14 - by the Ministry/Extra-Ministerial Office or
the relevant staff pool subject to confirmation by Federal Civil
iii. GL. 15- 17 - by the Federal Civil Service Commission on
recommendation from Ministry/Extra-Ministerial Office or the
relevant pool routed through the Head of the Civil Service.
Medical Rules are clearly spelt out in Chapter 7 of the PSR. The
chapter covers medical examination in the Service, confidential
medical documents, procedure for carrying out medical test,
facilities for medical treatment are highlighted in PSR-070101-
070201. Rule 070205 states that the Federal Ministry of Health
may authorize a refund of medical expenses (including charges for
maintenance) incurred by an officer while overseas on leave or on
a) The illness was not due to the officer’s own negligence;
b) The illness was attributable to conditions or the climate
c) The officer sought to avail himself of services of the local
National Health Service(where applicable) and could not obtain
the requisite attention there under within a reasonable time.
d) The officer informed the nearest accredited
representative of the Federal Government of Nigeria at the earliest
date possible that he was unable to obtain the requisite attention
through the National Health Service; and
e) The officer showed reasonable diligence, expedition and
economy in seeking and obtaining medical attention.
Rule -070206 detailed the processes and entitlements for
medical treatment overseas and the different categories of
public servants that are entitled to overseas medical check-up
at Government expense as well as the approving authorities for
the different categories of officers embarking on such check-ups.
It is important to note that officers on Salary Grade Level 16 and
above shall undertake mandatory medical check-ups locally once
a year while officers on Salary Grade Level 12 to Grade Level 15
are entitled to medical check-ups locally once in two years. The
resultant hospital bills of these check-ups are settled by the
relevant Ministries/Extra-Ministerial Offices.
Rules-070301- 070313 are rules showing the responsibility of
an officer to his employer in the event of illness, the responsibility
of the Health Care Provider, Medical Board, etc. Rules – 070314-
070318 are Sick leave rules. The maximum aggregate sick leave which can be allowed an officer, who is not hospitalized, during
any period of twelve months shall be forty-two(42) days. But, an
officer who is hospitalized is entitled to a sick leave for a period up
to three months in the first instance on the strength of a certificate
of an approved Health Care Provider.
Rules -070401- 070402 highlighted the death benefits of an
officer who died abroad or at home while still in active service.
Related to this is Chapter 8 of the PSR on Compensation and
Insurance, especially the Rule on loss of life (Rule- 080201).
Chapter 10 of the PSR contains the different types of leave that
an officer could apply for as the need arises. “Leave” is defined
as the authorized absence of an officer from duty for a specific
period. Rule – 100201 listed the different types of leave to include
Annual leave, casual leave, maternity leave, study leave with or
without pay, leave of absence, etc.
Rule 100203- States that Annual leave shall be granted to an
officer in accordance with his grade level as follows:
a) GL. 07 and above- 30 calendar days.
b) GL. 04- 06 - 21 calendar days.
c) GL. 03 and below- 14 calendar days.
Rule- 100217 defined Maternity leave as the authorized
absence from duty of a serving female officer granted by a
superior officer on account of pregnancy covering the prenatal
and postnatal periods. A female officer that is pregnant is entitled
to 16 weeks maternity leave at a stretch beginning not less than 4
weeks from the expected date of delivery with full pay. The officer
is must present a medical certificate indicating the expected date
of confinement two months before that date( see Rule- 100218).
Any female officer who is nursing a child shall be granted
two hours off-duty every day. This facility shall be granted up to
a maximum period of six months from the date she resumes duty
from maternity leave (Rule- 100219).
Chapter 13 of the PSR contains all the allowances that officers
in the Public Service are entitled to. An allowance is defined as
a monetary benefit other than salary granted to an officer for a
Rule- 130102 listed all the allowances payable to officers
in the Federal Public Service including kilometer allowance,
disengagement allowance, Hotel Accommodation allowance,
duty tour allowance, estacode allowance, books allowance,
projects allowance, overtime allowance, etc. These allowances are
periodically reviewed in consonance with the economic realities
in the country. Such periodic revisions are communicated to staff
of the MDAs through circulars issued by the relevant offices in the
Federal Public Service.
As there are rules guiding entry into the Service, there are
rules on how to exit the Service. PSR- 020801 detailed a whole
gamut of processes and conditions for leaving the Service with or
Rules -020802 and 020803 address the possibility of an
officer’s relinquishment of his appointment during the probation
period or as a result of his inability to secure confirmation of
his pensionable appointment at the end of the probationary
period. Also Rule-030208 and 030301 point out that an officer’s
appointment can be terminated for inefficiency or misconduct.
Rule -020804 –detailed the liabilities of an officer who resigns
his appointment to include the following:
a. forfeit all claims to vacation leave- any vacation leave or
passage privileges granted will be ex-gratia;
b. refund to the Government in full any sum of money which he/
she may be owing to Government or which, under the provisions
of other Rules or agreements entered into with Government,
is refundable to Government for his/her not discharging the
obligations set out in such agreement; provided that any or all of
such refunds may be waived at the discretion of the Government
The PSR also observed that the provisions of Regulation 15 of the
Pension Reform Act 2004 are relevant.
Rules -020806 stated two grounds on which an officer may be
a) Failure in promotion examination on three consecutive
attempts on the same grade with on-the –job performance
assessed to be below average;
b) When the service of an officer is no longer required due
to the abolition of his office consequent upon re-organization of
the office or palpable redundancy. The implementation of reforms
in the Public Service has led to other forms of exiting the Service
including retrenchment, downsizing, and rightsizing.
Rule-030301 points out that the commission of act of wrongdoing
or misconduct could lead to retirement when investigated
A Director shall compulsorily retire upon serving eight years
on the post; and a Permanent Secretary shall hold office for a
term of four years and renewable for a further term of four years ,
subject to satisfactory performance, and no more (Rule- 020810).
a) Rule -030401 states that the commission of serious
misconduct could lead to dismissal when investigated and proven.
In Rule- 030407, states that an officer who is dismissed forfeits all
claims to retiring benefits, leave or transport grant, etc subject to
the provisions of the Pension Reform Act, 2004.
b) Rules- 020807 - 020809 highlight requirements for
processing retirement benefits. Rules- 020901- 020905 detailed
the processes for applying and requirements for receiving the
Certificate of Service on leaving the service.
The Civil Service has been run over the years as an institution
that appears impervious to change and innovation. It is this
attitudinal disposition that shuts the door against the introduction
of new regulations and rules or revision of old rules in the light
of the obvious fact that some extant rules and regulations had
become irrelevant and outdated. For instance, some provisions
of the Public Service Rules (PSR) which, understandably, were a
reflection of the dominant influences of the military era but which
at the end of that era in 1999 when democratic rule was restored,
ought to have been expunged outright from the PSR, were still
retained despite the fact that the PSR had been reviewed four
times since the inception of democratic rule in the country (i.e.
in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008). To drive home this point, some of
the problematic provisions in the PSR and the reasons why they
should be deleted when viewed against other developments, are
a) Oath of Secrecy- Rule 030415: “It shall be the duty of
every Permanent Secretary/Head of Extra-Ministerial Office to
ensure that all officers, employees and temporary staff in his /her
Ministry /Extra-Ministerial Office who have access to classified or
restricted papers have signed the Oath of Secrecy in the appropriate
form before they are granted such access and that declaration so
signed are preserved”.
This rule seems to have outlived its relevance in the light of its
non-application over the years. This writer has worked in sensitive
government offices and has handled classified and restricted
documents in the course of his official assignments in the Cabinet
Office for seven years and has never been made to sign any oath
of secrecy form. In actual fact, it could be safely argued that the
Government has stopped the production of the oath of secrecy
forms, perhaps, since the commencement of democratic rule.
b) Unauthorized disclosure of official information- Rule
030416: “Every officer is subject to the Official Secrets Act (Cap. 335)
and is prohibited from disclosing to any person except in accordance
with official routine or with the special permission of Government,
any article, note, document or information entrusted to him/her in
confidence by any person holding office under any Government in
the Federal Republic of Nigeria, or which he/she has obtained in the
course of his/her official duties. Similarly, every officer shall exercise
due care and diligence to prevent the knowledge of any such article,
note, document or information being communicated to any person
against the interest of the Government”.<
This rule prohibits the disclosure of Government’s official
secrets which were so much during the military era. But, with
the emergence of democracy and its relative transparency borne
out of its representativeness, such so-called official secrets are
the subjects of vibrant and open public discourse in the public
domain. Moreover, in May, 2011, the Nigerian Government
signed into law the Freedom of Information Bill, thereby making
Nigeria the second country in West Africa to have a Freedom of
Information (FOI) law . The FOI Act empowers Nigerians to
request for any information concerning government’s actions and
activities, to unearth facts, battle corruption and hold officials
and institutions of government accountable . Although, the
FOI Act is enormously empowering, the Nigerian Civil Societies
Organizations, Human Rights Advocacy groups and other pressure
and interest groups have not fully taken advantage of it to make
Government more accountable to the citizenry.
c) Publication and public utterances- Rule-030421: “Except
in pursuance of his/her official duties, no officer shall, without the
express permission of his/her Permanent Secretary/ Head of Extra-
Ministerial Office, whether on duty or on leave of absence:
i. act as the editor or take part directly or indirectly in
the management of or in any way make financial contribution
to any newspaper, magazine or journal except Departmental or
staff magazine, professional journal, and publication by voluntary
ii. Contribute to, whether anonymously or otherwise, publish
in any newspaper, magazine or periodical, or otherwise publish,
cause to be published in any manner anything which may reasonably
be regarded as of a political or administrative nature;
iii. Speak in public or broadcast on any matter which may
reasonably be regarded as of a political or administrative nature;
iv. Allow himself/herself to be interviewed or express
any opinion for publication on any question of a political or
administrative nature or on matters affecting the administration,
public policy, defence or military resources of the Federation or any
This provision is palpably and blatantly offensive to the spirit
and letters of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria. According to Section 39(1) of the Constitution which
says that: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression,
including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart
ideas and information without interference”, and subsection(2)
which says: “Without prejudice to the generality of subsection
(1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish
and operate any medium for the dissemination of information,
ideas and opinions” , it is clear that the PSR provision under
reference cannot be reasonably justified in a democratic society,
and therefore should be deleted
a) Corruption: The bane of Nigerian society is corruption.
The Nigerian Public Service is embedded in the web of societal
influences and therefore cannot be impervious to the raging
forces of corruption. Almost all the processes in the Service
are affected by corruption. Cash for jobs, cash for promotion,
cash for confirmation, cash for involvement in programmes, etc
summarizes the pervasive influence of corruption on the systems
in the Civil Service of the country. In this circumstance, the PSR
cannot be said to have a foothold on the operations in the Service.
b) Nepotism: This has to do with preferential
considerations wherein the PSR is applied differently to different
people. This situation describes the existence of double standards
instead of making the rules have uniform or universal application.
c) Tribalism/Ethnicity: The ethnic diversity and cultural
configuration of Nigeria seem to predispose some unscrupulous
officials to discriminatory practices on grounds of ethnic sentiment
thereby tending to favour only those from their ethnicity even to
the extent of violating extant rules.
d) Faulty application: This could result from either
deliberate decision to misapply the rules or innocent
misapplication of the rules on account of inefficiency and
incompetence which were borne out of lack of understanding of
the rules and their objectives.
e) Federal Character Principle: This principle which is
meant to ensure some form of ethnic balancing in appointments
in Federal Government Establishments or institutions has
overtime been wrongly observed. The principle is being applied to
promotion of personnel which ought to be based on competitive
f) Wrong Rules: Every society is in a state of flux. The only
constant thing in life is change. Therefore, as the society changes,
its rules cannot afford to be static. The Nigerian society which
is the operating environment of the Nigerian Public Service has
transitioned to democracy since 1999, thereby necessitating the
need for the Public Service Rules to be thoroughly divested and
stripped of those anti-democratic provisions that are conflicting
with the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
The Public Service Rules (PSR) as a guiding legal instrument
has helped in regulating the operations and behavior of all the
operatives in the Service. Without the rules, anarchy would have
prevailed. The wrong application or non –application of the rules
does not in any way detract from the importance of the rules in the
management of the country’s Public Service. The shortcomings
or inadequacies of the PSR and the larger problems of the
society impinging negatively on public sector governance and its
application of rules are issues which should be addressed as a
way effecting reforms and institutionalizing same in the Nigerian
Public Service. Having a good PSR is one thing, being willing and
able to implement it impartially is another. This would require not
just institutional reform but attitudinal reorientation..