How Age Reduction is Crippling The Nigerian Civil Service

 

The civil service in Nigeria is the highest employer of labour of the public sector. Men and women employed in this sector are required by the Nigerian Civil Service Act to retire either upon the attainment of 60 years of age or thirty-five years of active service whichever comes first. The only exceptions are Judicial Officers and academic staff of Universities who retire at ages 65 and 70 respectively.

Retirees prior to now look forward to their retirement with ecstasy as they join the clique of the hallowed senior citizens having served their country meritoriously. In the last two decades, however, there appears somewhat a reversal in the ecstatic expectation of retirement. Several persons dread approaching their retirement year.

It is believed that this attitude is not unconnected with the diminishing state of the economy as soon to be retirees have forebodings about living month to month without a salary, no matter how meagre.

Another explanation for this feeling is the almost impossibility in the payment of retirement benefits of the retirees several years after retirement especially among state employed civil servants. While some are paid between 5-10 years after retirement, the unlucky ones do not live to see theirs.

The reasons above and perhaps more is believed to be behind age reduction by a large chunk of Nigerian civil servants. For some, it is the easy way out of early unplanned retirement. It is not uncommon to see people troop into Court complexes with the singular aim of deposing to an affidavit of age declaration. Most resort to the use of affidavits even when their birth certificates are available. The aim is to reduce their age and this reduction varies for some, usually between 10- 15 years.

This practice of age reduction has its attendant consequences. Firstly, it reduces productivity. There is agility connected with youthfulness, with age comes somewhat reduction in resourcefulness particularly for jobs where physical strength is required. It prevents assimilation of others into the system, employment opportunities with the sector is hardly available as those who ought to have retired are still in employment. Again, this practice encourages mediocre living, it is an indication of an overwhelming fear of the unknown. It appears to the employee that there is not much to life beyond the civil service, therefore, such a person is unwilling to try out new things but prefer rather to ‘buy time’ in the civil service by age reduction. Age reduction also engenders corruption and moral decadence.

To discourage this scourge, there is a need to re-orientate employees, life does not begin and end with the civil service. Core values of probity and dignity of labour must be upheld and rewarded. Retirement and life after retirement require adequate planning and preparation.

As part of reforms for the civil service, investigations should be made into declared ages of workers and those found defaulting should be relieved of their office.

There is also a need to take a second look at the code of conduct for public officers under the Constitution which prevents civil servants among others from running businesses except farming. Provided a small-scale business does not interfere with working hours of the employer as to bring a conflict of duties, such businesses should be encouraged. It can be argued, however, that this may be abused but one cannot turn a blind eye to the economic realities of the country, as a matter of fact, the code of conduct notwithstanding, some civil servants are constantly seen displaying their wares in their offices or nearby. Therefore, to avoid throwing away the baby with the bathwater, the law should be amended to accommodate the millennial realities.

Most importantly, the government should beam its searchlight on the present pension scheme that provides for contributions from the employer with a Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) and ensure that retirement benefits are paid not more than 12 months after retirement.

When there is visible improvement in the lives of retired civil servants, perhaps, the corrupt practice of age reduction will be less appealing to the workers.

 

Ginikachi Nkem Onyenukporo practices Law in Enugu.

A YALI Fellow, writer, Editor and Teens Coach & Counsellor. She is passionate about teenagers, good governance and civil society organisation and management.

 

56 thoughts on “How Age Reduction is Crippling The Nigerian Civil Service

  1. Good point made Ma, the issue of age reduction is not only crippling the civil service but the youth at large. The various arms of civil service is nearly becoming irrelevant in solving societal issues because its employees are men who should be rocking a seat instead of their brain. I hope more citizens of my country will see this in this light. #keepspeakingout#

    1. You are right.The sad reality is that the youth of today who lacks an opportunity at his youth, may, join the bandwagon also to make up for ‘percieved lost time’. It is clearly seen in Football.

      Thank younfor stopping by.

  2. It’s hard sha. But it’s really crippling. My mum for example was a person people were surprised at cos she retired after 35 years of service or so,not necessarily her age. The people investigating sef may even collect bribes.
    Well, keep it up dear.

    1. The bribe part is a sad reality. Even when you are truthful, severalnothers see you as not being wise. It happened to my Mum also, she retired at 50 having worked for 35 years. She became an auxilliary teaching staff after JSS (those good ol’ days the states needed teachers), so she was being trained and also teaching, ahe later found out her counterparts lied about their ages, most are still working now, I mean persons way older. So, when she retired they ‘felt for her’ like she missed out’

      The woman is happy babysitting her grandkids

      6 years after, she has just been paid 3/4 of her retirement benefit (that was even possible because she knew someone in the office of the perm sec, terrible) Most of her co-retirees have got nothing yet.

      Let’s keep lending our voice and speaking out, we sure hope to change the narrative.

      Dalu

  3. It is a cause effect relationship. Remove the cause and the effect is gone…phew, like margic! But when the cause appears to be a standard, like in the Nigerian situation, integrity becomes the only hope.

  4. It’s crippling us badly…the govt has to wake up and take care of the elderly only then can things be made whole. Pay pensions and gratuity on time and help d elderly any xtra way they can.

    1. Exactly, I beleive if Pensions and Gratuity are paid immediately upon retirement, most peraons atleast won’t succumb to age falsification.

  5. I totally agree with you. Even when new employees want to write correct age, the older ones wield a lot influence resulting in age reduction pretending they are doing the person a favour .With age reduction many obtained their WAEC at age 3 .That is why insertion of date of birth on certificates will curb it to some extent .In the alternative any one who serves for 30 years should give way to younger ones.

  6. Nice submission. My input is that government should make the environment conducive enough for businesses and private Enterprises to thrive. That can be done by good economic policies.

  7. Interesting read!

    Is it not ridiculous to see aged and unproductive father who’s supposed to be retired “actively working” fruitlessly cos he had his age reduced while the energetic and highly productive son is retired at home due to no vacancies to occupy?

    That’s our reality!

    But we can change the narrative… Yes we can!

  8. Good one dearie.
    God bless you and cause your voice to be heard and heeded by those who matter. Keep up the good work

  9. Interesting article.

    It is just a mindset and until there is a mind shift, age reduction would be on the increase. This is the same mindset that most aged politicians in this country have too.

    God bless Nigeria.

    1. The mindset shift can only be achieved through reorientation and working systems.

      I just hope our own generation don’t succumb to the menace (with the rate employers are looking for 25 years old graduates with 5 years work experience)

      It is a battle for our integrity.

      We shall win.

      God bless Nigeria!

  10. Good points. On proposed solutions, paragraph 2(b) of the 5th schedule to the Nigerian Constitution has already limited the restriction on engaging in private enterprise to managing or running it. It’s just that that provision is commonly interpreted in a strict manner. So nothing really stops a civil servant from having a side gig and still working diligently.

    I agree with your observation on fear of the unknown and love of the comfort zone. Perhaps, the government could ensure that talks on planning for retirement and other rewarding post-retirement engagements are included in seminars and workshops organized for the Civil Service. These could encourage voluntary retirement.
    Let me not even start with the education curricula for schools. Cheers!

    1. Thank you for your eye opening contribution my Lord.

      When I hear voluntary retirement in other climes, I wonder when we’ll hear of such here, we have to rise above mediocrity.

      We are getting there!

  11. The problems in one area of the nation is often as a result of a lapse in another sector. If the nation’s data management is well structured, a lot of these problems wouldn’t arise. Imagine if there is a central database for all births with finger prints linked to the immigration service, bank, driver’s licensing office etc, the culprits will be fished out early.

    People don’t equally want to retire because the little being paid is not enough for a living standard talk less of the pensions.

    A larger percentage of civil servants and the political class are beneficiaries of this, hence the needed correction may not occur anything soon.
    Simple solutions can start with punishment of offenders to deter future offence, bank BVNs details can equally be used to verify age, since most people got their accounts before need to age falsification. Data sharing is the cure.

    1. Apt! I couldn’t agree more with the urgent need to maintain a central data base as a nation, we are long overdue.

      Most times, I wonder what the National Population Commission does, births are still registered manually 58 years after Independence.

      We’ll keep lending our voice.

      Thank you

      1. Infact 2 or 3 people can register the birth of the same child at the same registration center on different dates.
        It’s really terrific

  12. Sadly interesting! But that’s the state of our country.

    We really need a total re-orientation and overhaul of our sensibilities and morals in this country for us to put an end to act since it affects everyone of us.
    Firstly, as u pointed above, “life does not start and ends with civil service”; we all should have this in mind always. All the countries with thriving economies encourage entrepreneurship. Civil servants should think/learn how to start something for themselves, that will create more jobs and also reduce the fear of “what will happen when I leave active service”

    1. Exactly. More often than not, we allow fear inhibit our creativity.

      Civil servants can have viable businesses that can employ others.

      Thank you

  13. I’m not advocating for age falsification, not at all. But there are more sides to a coin than the head and tail. There is a rim side and the edge too.

    1. I understand you. There are several factors that may lead one to falsify age, however we can’t justify them.

      We have to uphold integrity, moreso, our actions affect others and our society at large.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  14. This is the true tale of the average Nigerian. Sadly, this is not only common with the civil service. It is qlso an issue with the average Nigerian youth. Imagine graduating from a public university at about 24 – 25 and you are required to in the next one year secure a trainee role in a choice profession. This particularly becomes an issue when you are unable to secure one in the next one year as the average Nigerian employer dangles the age barrier in your face telling you, you are not just old at 27 but inneligible to apply for these roles. So, most of us are tempted to thread this path that same path, the path to queue up to have a change of DOB to meet up with this requirements.

    In summary, until a system that works out a plan to ensure that every citizen has a longer life expectancy is in place, people will always find ways to beat the stringent conditions that these employers put in place.

    1. Akunne, I agree that age reduction is not only practiced in the civil service.

      Most times, I see it as a failure of our value system and not just the failure of societal/political/governmental system or structure. I’ll tell you why, do you know that some parents who want their wards to get in to a particulary secondary school alter/falsify the ages of those wards? Now, they are not reducing this time, they are increasing. I know some schools that strictly adhere to 11 years as admittance age for JSS1, some parents whose kids are 10 desirous of getting them in at that age do the ‘magic’.
      Now, it is not a system thing, but that of value.

      If we can dispassionately look at this, it might just be that we’ve gotten comforatble with dishonesty as a people.

      I sincerely hope our system works.

  15. Very true, the sad reality is that the practice of age falsification in civil service is born out of plethora of other corrupt practices in our nation. It is one of the effects of other anomalies which have become the tradition in Nigeria.

    The idea of investigation of those who may have engaged in this practice would be sabotaged even from the highest offices as the people at the top would equally be implicated.

    However the most effective solution to this plague would be early orientation of the youths on the need for less dependence on paid employment and encouragement of private enterprises. What we need is a shift in mindsets of the upcoming civil servants.

  16. In my opinion, the system made the people the monster they’ve become. And the annoying part of this is that the human mind does not just give back what it receives, it incubates and replicates it a million times.

    Of course, by the people, I mean the present day propagators of age falsification.

    Yes, the failed civil service system was wrecked by corrupt officials, however to address the menace, we may need to make the system independent of public interferance.

    Let productivity sack the loose ends, let tests be carried out. If age has failed us in proving when a person should retire, then a tired memory should be our yardstick.

    Hence we stay in this jungle and keep praying for a messiah.

    Thank you for this piece barrister, it’s one of the million flaws of a one time giant.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts sir.

      What do you mean by making the civil service independent of public interferance?

  17. As bad as age reduction is, it wouldn’t be fair to outrightly condemn those who are perceived to be involved in the practice. It is clearly one of the ripple effects of a failed society. How can you expect someone who spent maybe 2years or 3years at home before gaining admission, not because of any fault of his, but because every politician has a list of candidates that must be admitted, and after gaining admission, he spends 6years instead of the regular 4years which he is supposed to spend, as a result of either ASUU or NASU strike. Then maybe the NASU strike fell in towards their clearance period and he happened to be a victim and misses his service year. He has automatically lost 6 productive years of his life. If he gained admission at the age of 20, and graduated at 27, assuming all those strikes took place. Then he roams the streets for additional one year job hunting, that’s 28years. Then a company now publishes a job advert for applicants under 26 years, what do you expect him to do. He was just a mere victim of circumstance, so he has to do the needful to compensate the downtimes which no one took responsibility for. So, before age falsification can be tackled, the society has to be fixed. Age falsification is largely seen in failed societies.

    1. We know the system doesn’t help most times but that does not in itself justify the act.
      The article is not to condemn the perpetrators of the act but to present the big picture of the effect of this act.
      I certainly agree that there are certain things if in place in a sustainable society will lead to reduced if not non-existence of this vice.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, MVP!

  18. Of all the possible solutions canvassed, I believe the significant problem is the payment of benefits on time and the absence of an alternative source of income.

  19. I think that the significant issue for the government to fix to address the falsification of age trend is to pay pensions and retirement benefits on time as Ginika posited.
    Once this is done, I think it’ll no more be as indiscriminate as it is.

    1. Exactly. Pay them on time so they can use same to start up something when they still have the strength to do so or atleast ‘enjoy’ the benefits.

      It will go a long way.

      Thank you Chisco

  20. Actually it’s because of the way the government treats the civil servants that pushed them into such vice.
    However,they(civil servants) must note that two wrongs can’t right a wrong and a destructive means can never provide a constructive end.

    Civil servants should have plan B no matter how small it may be.
    They should save for their retirement as the Biblical ants.

    The government don’t give a damn about its citizens and it will be too disastrous to entrust your future in the hand of government.

    1. I agree. Plan B is no more an alternative. It is the way to go! Every civil servant must have a side hustle as we call it in Nigeria. Monthly pay don’t pay the bills anymore.

      Thank you Kingsley.

  21. Nice piece. In my considered view, one of the ways in which age falsification can be tackled is that in this 21st century, the civil service rules should be amended in respect of birth certificate. In other words, before new intakes are employed into the civil service, they must present their birth certificates, not Declaration of age certificate. The birth certificate issued by the hospital in which the person was born, or the national birth certificate issued by the National Population Commission.

    Then, apart from that, people should also have their date of birth on all relevant documents, not just on their original WASSCE certificates. And the date of birth must be consistent in all documents. Not that WASSCE certificate would have a different date of birth from the one on the person’s driver’s license, national ID card, Voter’s Card (PVC), et cetera. In Nigeria, a person’s documents would be carrying different dates of birth.

    As someone rightly said, there has to be a mind shift. That being said, let us not try to justify age falsification because what is wrong is wrong even if everybody seems to be doing it. “But everybody else is reducing their age” is not a yardstick nor justification for us to do same, so in essence, let’s continue to be the change we want to see.

    1. Thank you Yebo.

      We can’t justify it, even the perpetrators know deep down that it is wrong. It is a question of conscience for them.

  22. Cogent points raised here. It simply has to stop, the government should fulfill their part of the bargain. Treatment of retirees is really bad, most dread what comes after their years of productivity has been slaved off. If they have something tangible to look forward to, then this can be fully addressed. Retirement plans too are important for workers too, not putting all hopes in a system that can fail anytime.

    1. Exactly. I recently watched a documentary put together by Channels Television, retirees aee really suffering, particularly those whose children are not well to do. It is so disheartening.
      These issues all affect our patrotism, how can i pledge allegiance to a system that doesn’t treat me well or a nation that forgets my labour.

      We hope for a change and we’ll keep pushing for it.

      Thank you Esther.

  23. Well spoken dear,its an unfortunate situation, I think the Government is to blame greatly, when the civil servants are not well taken care of while in service and also seeing the hopeless situation of the much revered “senior citizens”, age fortifications will be an only option for so many. For instance in our Health sector,the disparities in the salaries of health professionals can leave some with several ideas in mind. Some persons are well played while some take little home as also seen in politics today.What he Senators and House of Representatives earn in a 4 year tenure ismuch more than a Doctor, Nurse,Engnr,Lawyer, Surveyor, Accountant etc will earn in 35 years of service, thus lots of civil servants never wish to leave the little they have when there is a means to extend it. My opinion, is there should be relativity in the salary structures of all civil servants, and also, no worker is more important than the other,Government should take care of ALL of them. Teachers are mostly neglected by the government and that’s why our educational system is in shambles today,they are not well motivated thus the passion dries off with time.

    1. Wow!
      Great points you’ve got Sis.

      Relativity in salary structure could work but overall is how the retirees are treated.

      If they bevome governments priority and their life style is improved visibly, I am certain most persons will likely dread retirement less.

      Thank you for stopping by ma.

  24. This is really an issue that has crippled productivity and increased unemployment…my suggestion in addition is to have a minimum age you can stay from the time of your employment after that you will be relieved of your duties.
    Also the idea of attaching birth certificate is good.
    A leadership with integrity and one that is accountable is also needed to ensure that policies against against age reduction are not obeyed in breach alone if we to see a change.

    1. Exactly. Mrs Odilinye suggested 30 years from resumption.

      Basically, accurate record keeping can cure this menance.

      If our births are regustered automatically and the database maintained, this issue will be of no moment in years to come. Sadly, we are yet to have an up to date automated birth registration.

  25. The truth is i keep wondering if our so called leaders think the way the youth of this country think because if they do, this country wouldn’t be the way it is now. An average Nigerian youth thinks disruptive revolution concepts, but no access for implementation rather they keep shouting “Lazy youths”… Let’s keep thinking till we have access to mental positive explosion for all-round revolution in Nigeria. For someone like you, i’m certain if you have your way this is one of the things you will surely curb.

    Great thought
    Great Job

    1. Oh wow!

      Thank you for the compliments, Emmanuel.

      I believe some of them do, the system is a hindrance most times you know.

      A generation of young persons with a revolutionalized mindset is fast taking over. We’ll keep saying the changes we want to see and in due ciurse, begin to implement them ourselves.

  26. I believe we can change the game by constantly lending our voices against the ills going on in our society because evil thrive when good people keep silent and do nothing.
    Together we shall win.
    Keep it up my darling

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