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RIVERS STATE: AFTER THE 2023 CIVIL SERVICE WEEK: WHAT NEXT? 

From: Idanye Oruigoni 

The Rivers State civil service ‘’Week’ for 2023 was rounded off with celebrations that began with a press conference by the Rivers State Head of Service, Dr. George Nwaeke, mni.

The Head of Service, in company of other civil servants, had visits to the less privileged ones and the home of the elderly in Port Harcourt, before they had a Thanksgiving Service also in Port Harcourt. 

The Week’s celebration for 2023 got to its crescendo on Tuesday, 25th July, 2023, when civil servants and their loved ones gathered for a public lecture at the modern Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic centre in Port Harcourt. The theme for the lecture was ‘Digitalization of Work Processes in Public Service: a Gateway to Efficient Resources Utilization and National Development’.

It should be noted that the civil service week celebration is an annual event where civil servants celebrate themselves, have reflections on their services and their relevance to the society. The Week also affords them the opportunity to be celebrated by the government and the society which they labour for. 

At such celebrations, some civil servants are honoured and celebrated with awards and other incentives for distinguishing themselves in their chosen career and their line of duty.

The civil service Week has a historic background which cumulated into an annual event celebrated by different states and nations. Rivers State, as part of the global-community, has been observing this annual celebration, though somewhere during the last administration, this annual ritual of the civil service was skipped in the State. So, that it resurfaced at the beginning of the administration of Sir Siminialayi Fubara means so much for the civil servants in the State. 

The modern meritocratic week can also be traced to Imperial China, but according to the Head of Rivers State Civil service, Dr. George Nwaeke, “Civil service week is celebrated annually in compliance with the 1999 declaration of African ministers of public service, where July 25th is set aside as celebration of African public service day to recognize the values and virtues of the civil service in the country”. 

It is obvious that, among other things, the Week offers a platform for civil servants to come together, as one, to deliberate on fundamental issues bothering on the progress of the public servant with a view to seeking viable ways to continually improve the conduct of government business generally. 

The African Public service ministers adopted a charter during their conference, which has now given rise to the beginning of a campaign by African governments to restore prestige and dignity to the public service, reinforce integrity in public life, and raise performance levels and competence in government at large. 

In his speech at the civil service celebrations, the Head of Service of Rivers State (Dr. Nwaeke), re-echoed the importance of the civil service in any nation, saying that the civil service plays a major role in governance by interpreting and executing government policies. He emphasized that the strength and indeed the success of any government is metered by the quality and dedication of the civil service. 

Addressing the civil servants during the 2023 civil service week celebration, Gov Fubara, who corroborated the views of the Head of Service, (HoS), stated thus: “The civil service is the machinery through which the government articulates and implements policies and programmes”. 

The Governor, represented by his deputy, Prof. Ngozi Mma Odu, in his felicitations to the civil servants on their week, said that the celebration marks a very important milestone in the lives of civil servants, commending the unflinching support has been according the present government in the State. 

Sir Fubara also used the occasion to announce that the state government would continue to recognize and appreciate the conscientious contributions and sacrifices of civil servants in the State, thanking them for their unprecedented support for the Governor and his Deputy before, during, and after the elections. 

The Governor enthused that the support of the civil servants will not be taken for granted, promising to always give attention to matters that concern civil servants.

Governor Fubara also said the event was to appreciate the immediate past administration in the State for laying solid foundations for the development of the state, promising to build strongly on that solid foundation. 

Governor Fubara made it clear that the foundation for the digitalization of work processes in the State civil service, the better welfare packages and promotions for civil servants, among others, were laid by the administration of Chief Nyesom Wike in the State. He said; “We must not underscore what the previous administration did in the State. We owe him to build on the consolidation process.” 

What next?

Now that euphoria of the celebration is dying down, the question on the lips of every well-meaning citizen and resident of the state is, “what next”?  Should civil servants continue in their lackadaisical attitude in doing their work with the same lackluster ambience in approaching their assignments, as is being majorly complained in different quarters ? Will files and documents still be found missing and will there still be civil servants that would refuse to do their jobs except their palms were greased? 

Above are some of the thoughts that have been agitating the minds of many persons as it concerns the civil service. In some quarters, it is even erroneously assumed that most civil servants lack the acumen and sagacity to exhibit professionalism in their lines of duties. 

I stand to say that despite the ugly and unfriendly assumptions in some areas concerning the civil service, civil servants in Rivers State are core professionals dedicated and committed to their duties. There may be a few bad eggs among them, but majority of the civil servants, over the years, have been loyally delivering on their core mandates, hence from the civil service, our dear state is presently blessed with a Governor and a Deputy, among other positions of influence and development in the State and beyond that career civil servants, serving and retired, occupy. 

Now that the civil service week celebrations in the State for 2023 are over, civil servants in the State need to align with the call of the State Head of Service, Dr. Nwaeke, in his speech, which beckons on workers to understand that the civil service is a noble calling that requires selfless and a genuine flair to make a positive impact on the society. The civil service is not just a job but a commitment to serve the people with dedication and integrity. He insists that we must therefore put the needs of the society above our personal needs. 

It is therefore very important that civil servants take every part of their job very seriously. We must understand that our inactivity or inefficiency in any form will mean a disservice to the general populace. “On the other hand, we can improve the quality of life of our people by approaching our jobs with more commitment”, he declared. 

Taking a cursory look at the above charge, it then means that civil servants, henceforth, are expected to live above board and always see their work as a calling to make the society better and more developed by impeccably implementing the programmes and policies of the government. 

It is also only fit and proper for civil servants to continue to show appreciation and solidarity with the Sir Fubara-led administration that actualized the dreams of most civil servants by releasing a backlog of promotions, and a promise to continue to improve the welfare of civil servants in the State. 

The Governor’s call and charge to the civil servants, during the celebrations, that civil servants should be “steadfast, loyal, and committed in supporting the administration, and being supportive towards the success of the administration”, should not go unheeded by the civil servants in the State.

Now that the celebrations are over and promotions have come to the civil servants, the authorities should match words with action on their promises of training and re-training of staff, better incentives and welfare packages, and improvement in the keeping of records, among others. 

Civil servants must be abreast with the reality that to whom much is given, much is expected. For approving civil service celebration for 2023, even when same had been skipped for some years now, for providing buses to ferry civil servants to and from work, for approving and  releasing catalogues of promotions due civil servants, for restoring water and power to make the elevators in the State Secretariat complex, among many other welfare packages subsisting already and those still in the offing, there is no doubt that civil servants in the State are in the fore burner of the developmental agenda of the Sir Fubara-led government in Rivers State. 

Conclusion:

Civil servants should joyously reciprocate the gesture of the government by improving greatly in their work ethics and their approach to their work. 

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