Federal character was adopted in Nigeria to ensure that no group or section suffers imbalance or marginalization of any kind. However, it implementation had been fraught with criticism by scholars and public servants who see it as an instrument of favouring some sections against others. It had been linked to the high level of administrative inefficiency experienced by the civil service system in spite of myriad of reforms over the years.

 The study examined the application of federal character principle and its implication on service delivery in Nigerian federal civil service. The Nigerian federal civil service is the bedrock of Nigeria’s quest for socio-economic development. However, over the years, service delivery and infrastructural development have remained a hydra headed problem.

Secondary data was utilized in carrying out the research and after all studies have been done; it was observed that there is a relationship between federal character principle and employees‟ service delivery as well as poor attitude to work by bureaucrats. To achieve efficient service delivery and better attitude to work by civil servants in the service, government should imbibe the prescripts of Marx Weber bureaucratic theory as regards recruitment based on merit, technical competency and qualification, as well as re-examine the reliability and validity of the application of federal character principle.

Also, the research reviewed previous planning experience of Nigeria prior to the introduction of the NEEDS which has both SEEDS and LEEDS as its state and local government level respectively and define key initiatives required for institutionalizing development planning model in Nigeria.


Title page







1.1    Background to the Study

1.2    Statement of the Problem

1.3    Objective of the Study

1.4    Research Questions

1.5    Significance of the Study

1.6    Scope/Limitation of the Study

1.7    Definition of Terms



Literature Review



3.1    National Planning Commission

3.1.1 A brief overview

3.1.2    History

3.1.3    Functions

3.1.4    Programs: transformation agenda

3.2    The plan preceding the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS)

3.2.1    The perspective plan and the rolling plans (1986-1994)

3.2.2    National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) (OlusegunObasanjo 1999-2007)

3.3    NEEDS- vision, objectives and strategies

3.4    NEEDS and Government’s policies in 2003-2007: a reflection

3.4.1    Economic Inequality

3.4.2    Social Inequality

3.5    Procedures for recruiting into the Nigeria public Services

3.6    Why the Federal Character Principle?

3.6.1    Policy implications



4.1    The missing link in development plans: reorienting NEEDS’ implementation

4.2    The Challenges of Application of Federal Character Principle in Nigeria

4.3    State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS)


5.1 conclusion and recommendation





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 service 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 opportunities 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 futher consolidate on the gains of the quota system , the Federal Military Government of General Murtala Mohammed and OlusegunObasanjo 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 main focus of this research project is the Nigerian Public service. It is a body without which the business of government will be impossible to operate. The role of the public 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 of bureaucracy.

The federal character principle was incorporated as an employment policy having taken into cognizance the impervious and insistence demand by the 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 a while 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 believes negates the administrative ethics of merit system-skill, qualification, experience through training which are the basic criteria for efficiency. However, this study seeks 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 Nigeria civil service as there are a specific number 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 Ministries and Parastatals. Federal institutions seem to recruit on nepotism and favouritism 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 continue to 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

i.    To examine the relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity in Nigeria public service.

ii.    To investigate whether certain standards are maintained in the course of recruitment on quota basis in the country’s civil service.

iii.    To determine the factors militating against productivity in the Nigeria public service.

1.4    Research Questions

i.    What is the relationship between federal character/quota system and productivity in Nigeria public service?

ii.    Are there any certain standards maintained in the course of recruitment on quota basis in the country’s public service.

iii.    What are the factors militating against productivity in the Nigeria public service?

1.5    Significance of the study

The study of the implications of the 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.

1.6    Scope/Limitation of study

The scope on the study of 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.   1.7    Definition of Terms

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

ii.    Public service:        Refers to the organization, personnel, practices and procedures essential to the 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 public service wherever referred to in this work means federal government employee, organization practices and procedures directly involved in public administration.

iii.    Representation/Representative:        A condition which exists when the characteristics and acts of one vested with public functions is 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.

iv.    Quota:    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.


Abdullah, S.A. (2007) “The Civil Service Reforms.” In H. Saliu, Amali, E: Olawepo, R. (eds) Nigeria’s Reform Programme: Issues and challenges. Ibadan: Vantage Publishers Ltd. pp.342-362

Ayoade, J.A.A (2000) “The Federal Character Principle and the search for National Integration.” In K.Amuwo, Suberu, R., Adigun, A. and Herault, G. (eds) Federalism and political Restructuring in Nigeria. Ibadan: Spectrum Books ltd. pp. 101-120.

Bodunrin, P. (1989) “Federal Character and Social Justice.” In P.P Ekeh and E.E Osaghae (eds) Federal Character and Federalism in Nigeria. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books Nigeria Ltd. pp. 303-324

Ekeh, P.P. (1989) “the structure and meaning of Federal Character in the Nigerian Political System.” In Ekeh P.P and Osaghae, E.E. (eds) Federal Character and Federalism in Nigeria. Ibadan: Heinmann Educational Books. Pp.19-44

Gberevbie, D.E. (2012) “Forms of Political Administrative systems.” In R.Ajayi and Fashagba, A. (eds) introductory text in political science. Omu-Aran: Landmark University. Pp. 187-210

Nzechi, O. (2012, March 11) “The quest to Amend Federal Character Commission Act”. ThisDay Newspaper (Lagos).pp.97-98

Tonwe, D.A and Oghator, E.O. (2009) “The Federal Character Principle and Democratic Stability in Nigeria.” In Ola, R.F. and Tonwe, D.A (eds) Nigeria Public Administration. Lagos: Amfitop Books. Pp. 230-256




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