Disciplinary Procedures In Nigerian Public Service

The Concepts Of Discipline In Public Service

Discipline within an organization can be understood as adhering to the rules and processes that are set in place. It holds great significance for the organization as a whole, as the stability and success of the organization heavily rely on how issues such as complaints, misconduct, and failure to meet standards are addressed and dealt with.

The existence of discipline is necessary due to the unpredictable nature of human behaviour, which can lead some individuals within the organization to intentionally or for various reasons, deviate from the established standards, procedures, and regulations.

Education Lesson

In the civil service, there exists a framework for addressing offences and wrongdoing, wherein penalties such as fines, reprimands, suspensions, terminations, or dismissals are imposed. The authority to administer disciplinary actions solely lies with the Civil Service Commission. The civil service handbook specifies the behaviours and actions that warrant disciplinary measures.

These include acts of insubordination, immoral conduct or horseplay, lateness, absenteeism, drunkenness, theft, deliberate destruction of government property, falsification of records, corruption, negligence, engaging in fights while on duty, affiliation with secret societies, financial impropriety, convictions on criminal charges, disobedience to lawful orders, and engaging in street hawking.

Such actions are considered misconduct or improper behaviour. They are typically subjected to investigation when alleged against any public officer, and upon proof, appropriate disciplinary action is taken in accordance with the established civil service procedures outlined in the civil service handbook.

The disciplinary measures serve as punitive actions aimed at deterring other employees from engaging in official misconduct.


Procedures for Handling Disciplinary Issues in the Civil Service

The civil service functions as a formal institution that adheres to set rules and regulations. It has established processes to address disciplinary issues pertaining to officers who exhibit misconduct or serious misconduct. Misconduct refers to specific instances of wrongdoing or inappropriate behaviour, which necessitate thorough investigation and substantiating evidence.

Each officer must notify their superior if they believe that another officer has committed an offence. The accused officer may be suspended, followed by an investigation.

The impacted officer has the right to be fully informed about the entire case brought against him or her and should be given ample opportunity to present a proper defence.

Depending on the seriousness of the offence, it is possible to establish a board of inquiry to determine the suitable consequences or disciplinary measures in cases where the accusation is proven.

The disciplinary processes within the civil service are complex and lengthy. They follow a comprehensive framework involving inquiries, responses, and committee sessions, among other elements.

The primary step in disciplining an officer who is under investigation is to provide written notification of the reasons for the proposed disciplinary action. The notification, issued in a concise and direct manner, outlines the specifics of the offence. Within the given time frame stated in the notification, the officer is expected to submit a written response, presenting any grounds they have to excuse or defend themselves. The subsequent course of action depends on the seriousness of the offence and the officer’s justifications, which must be provided within the designated time period. Additionally, there is an opportunity for appeals.

In situations involving minor offences, individuals may be given warnings and sufficient opportunities to improve. This typically occurs within one year of the alleged offence and the issuance of warnings. The officer in question may face disciplinary actions such as a reduction in their official rank or the withholding/deferment of an increment.

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The disciplinary standards of officers within the public service are also reflected in the annual performance evaluation report (APER). Further discussions on alternative disciplinary measures and concepts will be provided in subsequent sections of this document.


Principles Of Discipline In Public Service

Hot Stoves has identified eleven principles and paradigms of discipline in the discussion of public service. These principles and paradigms encompass various aspects of discipline.

  1. Principle of forwarding
  2. Principle of reasonable expectation
  3. Principle of definite policy and procedure
  4. Principle of consistency
  5. Principle of immediacy
  6. Principle of fairness
  7. Principle of Privacy
  8. Principle of forgiveness
  9. Principle of exemplary conduct
  10. Principle of right to appeal
  11. Principle of prevention


Principle Of Forwarding

In order to ensure accountability, it is crucial for public service employees to have a thorough understanding of the rules and regulations of the organization. The Civil Service Commission is responsible for providing comprehensive information about these rules to its employees so that they can adhere to them appropriately. Training sessions and orientation programs within the public service are designed to familiarize all staff members with the standardized rules and operational procedures.

Principle Of Reasonable Expectation

In the field of public service, it is crucial for rules and standards to be fair and fall within the range known as the “Employees Indifference Zone,” as defined by Chester Bernards. According to Bernards, subordinates are more likely to comply with instructions from their superiors if they meet certain conditions. Firstly, they must understand the instructions. Secondly, they must perceive the instructions as benefiting both themselves and the organization. Lastly, they must have the mental and physical capacity to carry out the instructions. Additionally, it is vital that the instructions are clearly communicated and comprehended by the employees.

Principle Of Definite Policy And Procedures

To ensure fairness and avoid bias, it is essential for organizations to have a clear and well-defined disciplinary policy and procedure. This policy should be based on the needs and interests of both the employees and the overall organization, rather than being influenced by personal biases or narrow perspectives.

Decisions regarding disciplinary actions should be guided by established policies and procedures, rather than being subject to the arbitrary preferences of management staff.

Principle Of Consistency

The regulations and guidelines of the civil service should be applicable to all personnel, regardless of their position. It is crucial for these rules to remain consistent over time. This concept aligns with Max Weber’s Unified Disciplinary Action, emphasizing the importance of equal treatment for all individuals and offences without favouritism. It is imperative that everyone be subject to the same rules and regulations.


Principle Of Immediacy

The aim of this principle is to establish an optimal scenario in which the employee’s immediate supervisor has the authority to authorize disciplinary measures against the offending officer. This implies that the process of implementing disciplinary action should always be initiated by the employee’s direct boss or higher-ranking superior.


Principle Of Fairness

This concept encompasses the principles of fairness, equity, and impartiality. It signifies that the punishment for wrongdoing should be balanced and proportional to the offence committed. In the context of this situation, a disciplinary notification should clearly outline and elucidate all accusations based on the existing documents and written correspondence.


Principle Of Privacy

It is advised in this principle that any criticism or reprimand of an employee within the public sector should be conducted in a private setting. Similarly, the principle suggests that acknowledging and rewarding exceptional and commendable service should be done openly and in a public manner.


Principle Of Forgiveness

According to the suggestion, it is recommended that the negative performance history of employees be cleared every two years. Additionally, when disciplinary measures are implemented against an employee in the public sector, the management should treat the employee in a normal manner.

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Principle Of Exemplary Conduct

It is incumbent upon higher-ranking officers to display exemplary behaviour and serve as role models for their subordinates. Therefore, in order to foster a robust sense of discipline, supervisors and superior officers must lead by example for others to follow suit.


Principle Of The Right To Appeal

This indicates that there should be a mechanism in place for recourse for a misbehaving officer. This will ensure the adherence and preservation of rules, thereby promoting the core value of discipline within the public sector.


Principle Of Prevention

In order to minimize mistakes and unprofessional conduct within the public service, it is essential to modify the environmental factors that contribute to such behaviours. Additionally, where applicable, employees can be relocated, taking into account the specific circumstances. This approach aims to decrease the likelihood of offensive actions and erratic conduct among staff members.



Disciplinary Terms And Concepts

Discipline encompasses several important concepts and terms, such as termination and dismissal, suspension, lay-offs, compulsory resignation, and retirement.


1. Termination

Discharge or permanent separation from the civil service refers to the termination of an employee’s employment. This can occur as a result of insufficient performance or the commission of a severe offence by the employee.

Termination can also be referred to as being fired or being let go. It is a form of banishment and rejection, often viewed as a severe punishment. For the employee involved, it is a distressing and traumatic event. In the case of public servants, they cannot be terminated or dismissed from their positions unless the proper procedures outlined in the public service rules are followed, ensuring strict adherence to the disciplinary “due process.”

Termination, which is different from dismissal, can result in the affected employee receiving their full retirement benefits, depending on the specific circumstances.


2. Lay-Offs

The implementation of disciplinary measures in public service aims to address irregularity, punctuality, and uncooperative behaviour. It involves removing employees from the payroll due to reduced labor requirements, and various significant factors, such as a declining economy, job eliminations, and technological advancements. This measure is also used by the government to minimize the financial burden of paying salaries and benefits to public servants. The selection process for affected staff members is based on their disciplinary records.

In cases of economic downturn or instability, temporary layoffs may be implemented as a means to mitigate financial strain. This allows for the possibility of rehiring affected employees once the economic situation improves. During this period, laid-off staff members are typically provided with a lump-sum payment or severance package as compensation.


3. Suspension

This disciplinary action is implemented to instil a sense of accountability in an employee who has committed a wrongdoing. Its objective is to alert the implicated individual of the gravity of the offence and the potential repercussions that may follow future misconduct.

Suspension, which can range from a few days to several months, usually involves a documented explanation of the misconduct, which is then filed in the employee’s record. During the suspension, the staff member may receive a reduced salary or no salary at all, depending on the severity of the offence and the decision made by the disciplinary committee responsible for the recommendations. After the suspension period, the staff member may be allowed to return to work with the understanding that any further misconduct could result in termination from their position in the public service.


4. Demotion In Rank And Pay

In an academic setting, disciplinary actions can be taken against employees who have committed offenses that are deemed less serious and do not warrant dismissal under the public service rule. Following a thorough investigation, it may be deemed appropriate, given the circumstances, to impose penalties such as a reduction in rank, withholding or postponement of salary increments, or other disciplinary measures.

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5. Resignation

Voluntarily leaving the public service is typically initiated by the employee, and may occur for various reasons such as pursuing more appealing job opportunities, relocating to join a spouse, seeking career advancement, dealing with personal health issues, facing family pressures, or due to emigration factors. In a thriving economy, voluntary resignations are common and decrease during economic downturns. Conversely, there are circumstances where resignations are effectively involuntary, serving as a means to expel an undesired employee from the public service.

Consequences Of Resignation

If an employee resigns before meeting the required age and service period for pension and gratuity, they may face the following consequences:

  • Loss of entitlement to vacation leave or travel benefits.
  • The full repayment of loans or debts to the government may be waived by the government based on specific considerations. This applies unless the government decides to waive the refund for certain reasons.
  • Pensionable rights cannot be granted or attributed to him/her.


6. Retirement

Retirement refers to the involuntary termination of employment, which necessitates significant emotional and financial adjustments. It is a regular process for discontinuing an individual’s involvement in public service, typically occurring at a predetermined statutory age. The specific age for mandatory retirement varies across countries and even within different sectors of public service in a given country.

In Nigeria, for instance, the retirement age has been extended to thirty-five years of service, regardless of one’s chronological age or reaching the age of sixty. This reduction in the retirement age within the public service is considered as a strategy to address the escalating issue of unemployment in Nigeria. Retirement is a customary practice in the public service, signifying a well-deserved culmination of a lifelong commitment to serving the state.


7. Compulsory Retirement

This is an instance of an early and imposed retirement before reaching the mandatory and legally required age. It is a disciplinary action taken against a public service employee who may have committed a severe offense or misconduct, which could result in dismissal. However, the dismissal may be converted to a forced retirement for the benefit of the employee concerned. The employee who is forced to retire is eligible for gratuity and pension benefits.

If the affected civil service employee is dissatisfied with this treatment, they may seek recourse through the court system. It should be noted that this measure does not strictly adhere to the provisions of the civil service rules and other statutory regulations in Nigeria pertaining to the public service and its employees.


8. Dismissal

This refers to a permanent termination from the government sector, serving as the harshest penalty for serious violations and acts of gross misconduct. It is a drastic measure that renders the individual ineligible for employment in any area of the public service in the country. Upon dismissal, the individual forfeits all entitlements and pension rights.

Dismissal may occur due to various reasons, such as

Negligence or refusal to fulfil job responsibilities or follow orders, excluding cases of ill-health

unauthorized sharing of government-related information

engaging in any form of misconduct.


9. Verbal Warnings

This refers to a verbal reprimand given to an employee by a higher-ranking officer for committing a minor offense within the public sector. It serves as a warning that is designed to address any shortcomings, taking into account the specific circumstances and the attitude of the individual officer involved.


10. Written Warning

This is a disciplinary action that is taken for misconduct within the public service. Written warnings serve as tangible evidence of an officer’s wrongdoing while serving in the public service. These warnings are documented and become part of the officer’s personal and official records for future reference.


11. Annual Performance Evaluation Report

The Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) is a comprehensive assessment program in the civil service that aims to reward, critique, encourage, and counsel employees. By utilizing the APER system, the organization promotes collaboration and enhances mutual understanding among its staff members. Additionally, it facilitates problem-solving discussions between supervisors and subordinates, contributing to the establishment of favorable working conditions.

This evaluation tool aligns with the goals, objectives, and aspirations of the civil service, as well as addresses the welfare needs of its employees. Notably, the APER primarily focuses on assessing the achievement of desired outcomes rather than evaluating individual character traits.

APER plays a crucial role in various aspects such as pay, motivation, career planning, and fostering effective communication between superiors and subordinates. It consistently helps to define roles and objectives, while also cultivating cooperation in achieving shared goals within the public service domain.