Federal Character/Quota System And Productivity Of Employees In Nigeria Public Service

Project and Seminar material for Public Administration

Project and Seminar material for Public Administration

Chapter One


1.1 Background To The Study

Plural and sharply divided societies all over the world attempt to manage their diversities and divisive tendencies through one or combination of policy alternatives in the organization and management of their public services for performance; and Nigeria is not an exception (Bodunrin, 1989; Ayoade, 2000; Abdullah, 2007). Often times, these policy alternatives turn out to be delicate arrangements; but when carefully conceived, crafted and practiced, it provides opportunity for centre-seeking and centre-fleeing forces to interact peacefully and co-habit on agreed terms which has been proved to have enhanced productivity. One of such policy alternatives adopted for the management of the public service in Nigeria for even representation is the federal character principle, which was borne out of the need to ensure even spread of government appointments in all the regions, states and local government councils in the country (Nzeshi, 2012).

Nigeria is a federal society comprising 36 states structure with a population of more than 150 million people and has more than 250 ethnic groups, which necessitate an arrangement that could accommodate people from the different segments of the country in the public service (Gberevbie, 2012). The notion of federal character presupposes the existence of a federal society. However, as a federal state, Nigeria was faced with the challenge of how to imbibe the principle of federalism in practice. As a result, the quota system was introduced into the Nigerian public service in 1958 by the government to ensure equitable representation of the various groups in the country (Tonwe and Oghator, 2009). To further consolidate on the gains of the quota system, the Federal Military Government of Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo in the drafting and approval of the 1979 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the transition to civilian rule (1976-79) introduced into the Nigerian political and administrative landscapes the principle of federal character (Ekeh, 1989). Federal character principle sought to give opportunities in education and employment, usually at the point of entry, to disadvantaged groups and areas to enable them compete and catch up with more advanced areas and sectors of the nation (Ekeh, 1989).

In comparing the practice of quota system with that of the federal character principle, Ekeh (1989) posits that the latter demands far more than the former in the sense that it switches emphasis from opportunities to privileges and benefits. He argues that federal character principle is a legal weapon put in place to regulate appointments, promotions, security of tenure and severance in every government department. The reference to the phrase disadvantaged groups in the area of educational opportunities means that special consideration should be given to candidates from the Northern provinces and other areas where educational facilities were more backward than elsewhere (Gboyega, 1989). The awkward application of the federal character principle tends to pose challenges to the productivity of the Nigerian public service through the circumscription of merit. Such practice of the principle of federal character in personnel procurement without due regard for merit is more likely to mire efforts at sustainable development in a society.

The formal adoption of the federal system in Nigeria, which came into existence with the introduction of the Lyttleton constitution of 1954, signaled the need for representative bureaucracy that could address the problem in the composition of the federal public service anchored on productive service delivery (Adamolekun, 1989; Ayoade, 2000;Ikelegbe, 2004). Accordingly, Max Weber (1864-1920) showed the way forward on how to achieve organizational productivity through the theory of ideal bureaucracy; and it is doubtful if any modern human organization, whether in public and private sector can function adequately without adhering to the principle of rationality in employee procurement and rewards as postulated by Max Weber (Edigin and Otoghile, 1994; Anyebe, 2004).

The main focus of this research project is the Federal Civil Service. The Civil Service is a body without which the business of government would be impossible to operate. The role of the civil servant is so vital that such personnel is expected to be productive, progressive and enterprising; hence the need to employ well educated, skilled and experienced people.

But for political reasons, the Federal Civil Service now combines the administrative ethics of merit and political doctrine of federal character as a recruitment policy because of the need for a representative bureaucracy.

The federal character principle was incorporated as an employment policy having taken into cognizance the impervious and insistence demand by each ethnic group, no matter how small numerically, or how poor materially, or how backward educationally for a fair and dignified place in the Nigeria sum.

For some time now, the Federal Civil Service has come under criticism because its performance and productivity left much to be desired. Many attribute its unproductive and inefficiency to the adoption of the Federal Character Principle which they believe negates the administrative ethics of merit system –skill, qualification, experience through training which are the basic criteria for efficiency. However,this study seek to examine the relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity of Nigeria public service.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

The perennial problem of imbalance in our national life had revolved around other sectors of the economy, the immediate problem which prompted the research to investigate on is the issues relating to the allocation of educationally based positions among the federating units relates to federal character principle which means that all the geo-political zones will be given equal chance for the appointment and output-efficiency as it relates to observation of federal character principle.

In the related development, there have been discriminatory attitudes on many federal institutions in terms of employment into the Nigerian civil service as there are a specific numbers of candidates to be taken from each state. There is also a problem of quota system in the area of employment into the federal civil service, which has introduced mediocrity in the service.

Consequently, there has been gross misconduct in the area of employment due to sectional consciences and nepotism from those in authority in the Ministries and Parastatals. Federal institutions seem to recruit on nepotism and favoritism without minding the effect of such practices to the productivity, efficiency of service delivery and quality of output to the nation. Even when the federal character principle is observed, the institution will not consider efficiency of the candidate hence they are relatives and will not follow the due process thereby cutting corners in the recruitment exercise. All these problems have been a hydra-headed challenge to the Federal Character Commission.

1.3 Objectives Of The Study

The following are the objectives of this study:

  1. To examine the relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity of Nigeria public service.
  2. To investigate whether certain standard are maintained in the course of recruitment on quota basis in the country’s civil service.
  3. To determine the factors militating against productivity in the Nigeria public service.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity of Nigeria public service?
  2. Are there any certain standard maintained in the course of recruitment on quota basis in the country’s civil service.
  3. What are the factors militating against productivity in the Nigeria public service?

1.5 Hypothesis

HO: There is no relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity of Nigeria public service

HA: There is relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity of Nigeria public service

1.6 Significance Of The Study

The study of implications of application of Federal Character Principle for efficiency in the civil service is of immense benefit to different institutions, especially those institutions that needed employment related data for their routine activities. From such research, Federal Civil Service Commission can tell if the character principle is observed in every batch of recruitments conducted by different Federal Agencies and whether such recruitment is orderly conducted through the help of Federal Commission.

Again, by observing the character principle, the federal Bureau of Statistics can collate and manage data on employment-unemployment situation and through that ascertain the living conditions of different age brackets in liaison with National Population Commission that would give out the population of such age brackets. All these groups will benefit from a research of this nature because if well managed, because the result would have relationship with sustainable development with the help of efficient manpower development.

1.7 Scope / Limitations Of The Study

The scope on the study on federal character/quota system and productivity of Nigeria public service will cover all the issues of employment in the Nigerian civil service analyzing the methods of selection (i.e. the merit system of the federal character/quota system) considering the effects of both of them on productivity in the federal civil service

1.8 Definition Of Terms

Federal Character: The system of distributing positions/resources to reflect the ethnic, regional or sectional differences in Nigeria, irrespective of whether the person concerned is the most qualified or not.

Civil Service:

Refers to the organization, personnel, practices and procedures essential to effective performance of the civilian functions entrusted to the executive branch of government comprising those public servants appointed on merit on a permanent, contract or temporary basis without any inferences of political considerations for the purpose of executing public policy. Thus, the civil service whenever referred to in this work means federal government employee,organization practices and procedures directly involved in public administration.


A condition which exists when the characteristics and acts of one vested with public functions are accordance with the desires of one or more persons to whom the functions have objective and subjective importance. It therefore carries with it authority and legitimacy as such person performs has duty on behalf of others.


A quota is inflexible number that be reached within a given period of time, regardless of the methods used or the availability of candidates. Here, there is the possibility or every tendency that whoever presents himself will be accepted to fill the gap: thus, the acceptable standard might be lowered to achieve this aim. That seems to be the fate of the federal character principle as it is now being applied especially in the federal civil service, considering the grave imbalance between the regions or ethnic groups in Nigeria.

National Ideology:

A set of concepts, doctrine, beliefs to which the members of a society are committed and which identified the national character of the country; ideology therefore functions to influence and justify certain kinds of behaviours and claims.

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