The Civil Service Commission of Nigeria was first established on 3rd May 1952. It was unitary in structure. The body was set up to assist the Governor in the discharge of the personnel functions assigned to him under the 1951 MacPherson Constitution. It operated in an advisory capacity and the Governor could accept or reject its advice. In practice, the Governor could reform the following matters to the commission:
Appointment, promotion and transfer to the “senior service”;
Reduction in pensions following termination of appointment on disciplinary grounds and
Insuitable cases, matters of policy in connection with discipline, recruitment and promotion.
The first attempt to reform the body was made in 1952 when the colonial government set up the Phillipson / Adebo Commission. Unfortunately, the report of the commission could not be implemented because of the poiitical crises of 1953.
Following the adoption of the federal system of government in 1954 with the introduction of Lyttleton Constitution, the civil service commission was decentralized and three new commissions were created.
Thus, apart from the Federal Public Service Commission which existed at the centre, similar bodies were established in each of the three regions (North, East and West). This new structure created problems of its own. In particular, it triggered the mass movement of experienced civil servants from the federal level to the regions.
Consequently, the Gorsuch commission was instituted in 1954 to enquire into the structure of the civil service under the new dispensation. The commission recommended, among other things, the insulation of the public service from politics.
The public service commission should in effect be a body whose sole purpose was to ensure that staff matters were dealt with on a continuing standard of detached impartiality and fairness uninfluenced by political changes or pressures.
The report of the commission was accepted with minor modification. The structure laid down by the commission for the civil service has since then remained basically unchanged, and its work therefore constituted an important landmark in the evolution of the Nigerian civil service. The 1988 Civil Service Reforms, though significant, simply built on the 1954 Gorsuch Commission’s report.
Under the 1999 Constitution, the FederalCivil Service Commission was established. It has a chairman and 15 members. They are appointed by the President. The constitution requires that they are persons of unquestionable integrity and sound political judgment.
The commission is the clearinghouse for the civil service. Each ministry undertakes the appointment, discipline and promotion of its staff under general and uniform guidelines provided by the Federal Civil Service Commission.
Thus, the commission sets standards for recruitment and promotion and monitors the activities of each ministry of ensure that appropriate guidelines are strictly adhered to. This is essentially intended to prevent and limit the possibility of abuses.
Functions of the Nigerian Civil Service Commission
Recruitment: It is empowered to recruit high level manpower into the civil service through open competition and by interview.
Transfer: The commission also has the power to transfer civil servants from one ministry to another within the civil service.
Promotion: It promotes civilservants from one salary scale to another. This is done especially when the civil servant is due for promotion.
Discipline: This body is equally empowered to discipline civilservants who disobey the rules and regulations governing the service.
Retirement: It has to retire those civil servants that have reached the stipulated retirement age.
Dismissal: The commission has the power to dismiss erring civilservants found to be corrupt or involved in negative acts contrary to the rules and regulations of the service.
Conditions of service: The commission has succeeded in stating down, terms and conditions of service, allowances and remunerations of the civil service.
Advice: This body advises the government in areas of appointment of very senior officers of the state departments and parastatals.
Efficiency and integrity: These are the watchwords in the civil service and so the commission sees to its realisation.