The foreign service and the military and para-military services are specialized divisions of the public service. They differ in operations, organization, structures and programmes. They have distinctive features which glaringly affect their respective practices and organizations. They constitute the essentials services associated with the existence of the nation-state. They have peculiar responsibilities and management. However, certain aspects of the public service rules equally govern the foreign, military and para-military services.
The foreign services is a specialized and highly professionalized aspect of the public service. It holds to pensionable and non-pensionable benefits. The conditions of service additionally, differ from that of the public service. The foreign service constitutes of the staff in the ministry of Foreign (External) Affairs, and the Nigerian diplomatic and consular missions. The service is categorized into diplomatic, representational duties and Non-diplomatic. They are liable to serve in any part of the world on behalf of the country.
The Federal Civil Service Commission is responsible for recruitments in the foreign service, While the president apoints the Principal Representatives (ambassadors) on substantive or temporary basis. Career diplomats and some members of the civil service are also appointed as Ambassadors, while the Non-career diplomats when appointed, have their appointments terminated at the determination and the tenure of the president.
The grade structure is similar to that of the public service, but differ in the nomenclatures and titles. It has criteria concerning advancement for deserving officers which are similar to those of other ministerial arms. The Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) is used. The assessment normally covers the officers performance in the last three years. The evaluation forms are passed onto the Federal Public Service Commission, together with the Federal Ministry of External Affairs recommendations. The political leadership holds notable effects on the foreign service and the Ministry of External Affairs.
The compulsory age of retirement in the foreign service remains the attainment of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service. The service is highly committed to discipline and frowns greatly on any official misconduct and unethical practices. The foreign service organizes the training of its officers at the Foreign Service Academy in Lagos. Also, refresher courses, workshops, seminars and conferences are regularly organized for its staff, with the collaboration of other training and human development institutes.
Recruitment Into The Foreign Service
Recruitment into the foreign service is hardly opened to all comers. The service stipulates high criteria for entrants into the service. University degrees in any chosen discipline, preferably the arts, social sciences and law are considered. Lateral transfer from the state civil service and other ministerial departments are also adopted in recruitments.
However, preferences are often given to candidates from certain states, based on the quota system, federal character principles and other administrative exigencies. The minister of state for foreign affairs supervise the recruitment and the development of officers. This is done in collaboration with the Federal Civil Service Commission. The President authoritatively appoints the Ambassadors and officers on Representational duties.
Training and development programmes are constantly organized for new entrants and those already employed in the Foreign Service. To Foreign Service Academy Lagos, the Administrative Staff College Of Nigeria (ASCON), and other relevant management training programmes and institutions have grossly assisted in this direction.
Promotion In The Foreign Service
Promotion in the foreign service is based on the similar criteria in the Public Service. The Annual Performance Evaluation Report, which normally assesses performances in the last three years are adopted. The items evaluated include; general demeanour, relationship with colleagues and outsiders, as well as fluency in both spoken and oral English and other required foreign languages. The Evaluation forms are passed on to the Federal Public Service Commission together with the Ministry’s recommendations.
The federal character principle is usually emphasized on promotion matters. The minister of state and other political office holders involved with foreign service are generally very careful not to politicize promotion issues to the detriment of the foreign service.
The foreign service remains a relatively well disciplined organization. This is due to the crime and high caliber of persons cum the rigorous recruitment system of the foreign service. The service by nature and characteristics, creates a climate of geniality in inter-personal relationship.
Additionally, the lucratic allowances (estacode) which are usually paid in valued foreign currencies, assist to boost the morale and discipline in the foreign service. The lucrative allowances are paid to officers while on foreign missions, to help improve their economic status.
Also, the multiple rules and conventions to which the officers in the foreign service are made to conform, enhance discipline. They are expected to confirm to the provisions of the public service rules and the conventional rules of the foreign service. For example, the Foreign Service convention prohibits the officers and their spouses from trading, private practice etc when on postings to foreign missions.
Probems Of Nigerian Foreign Services
The following are observable problems with the Nigerian Foreign Service:
1. Politicization Of The Service
Political influences, interferences and gratifications affect recruitments, postings, transfers and the creation of foreign missions. Sometimes economic considerations are not the major justification for opening of new missions; hence they drain our scarce foreign exchange and limited resources of the service. Some of the missions were opened because politicians in the corridors of power hold business interest in such places advocated for their creation. It is also plausible to admit that the expansion of missions was to accomodate the increase in Ambassadorial appointees and officers on lateral transfers. The foreign Service is grossly threathened by Political Maneuverings.
2. Logistics And Finance
Inadequate logistics and finance affects the performance and efficiency of service in the Foreign Service. Adequate materials and finance are needed for the development of human capacity necessary for efficient Foreign Service and to help brush up the nation’s image.
3. Interferences By Parallel Institutions
Most times, the undue and unwholesome interferences from the Executive arm, Legislature, Ministries/Departments and other organizations cum agencies of governance, affect the growth and efficiency of the Foreign Service.
4. Mixture Of Staff And Recruitment
The foreign service accomodates political civilians and career officers. This is typical of Foreign Service and they all work side by side. This development dilutes and confuses the civilian control principle of the service. It further creates the problem of developing a career pattern for non political civilian employees and political employees. The development is to enable them acquire the varied, stimulating and quality experience needed in the Foreign Service.
Also, Massive recruitment without regards to the requisite qualifications, experience and peculiar condition of the service, affects the operations of the Foreign Service. The Foreign Service requires highly specialized knowledge and trainings and the composition of the cream of the society.
5. Incompatibility Of Interests
There exists the problem of incompatibility of the interest and concerns of the foreign service with that of the political leadership. Meaningful control of the service by the political leadership is desirable, but should not be confusing to the concerns and objective interest of the service. There should be constant policy agreement and effective direction between the political leadership and the management of the foreign service.
6. Multiple Rules
The officers in the Foreign Service are subjected to multiple rules. They are expected to conform to the Rules of public service, conventional rules of Foreign Service and higher expectation of discipline cum limited interactions. This limits the individuals level of social interactions and confusion as to loyalty in the service.
7. Deployment Of Staff
The problem of assigning the best trained and qualified officers to do important international duties is significant in the foreign service. The problem of deployment is grossly promoted by undue interferences and politicization of the service. This affects discipline and loyalty in the service.
8. Lateral Transfer/Postings
The high level of lateral transfer from the state civil services into the higher echelon of the foreign service is a major problem. The transfer is usually necessitated by the application of federal character principle, and the need to allow civil servants from the so-called disadvantaged states to benefit from the foreign service. Also, the posting chances are usually delayed and comes once in several years.
The politics of competing sub-ethnic nationalism also impinges on the development of the foreign service. Representation of interests and groups constantly hold sway in the foreign service. Our ethnic pluralism is a major factor that impedes foreign service. Inter-ethnic competition continues to manifest in the foreign service.
This is the father of nepotism and fatherism. The godfather is a powerful politician or administrator who pulls the appropriate strings to ensure that his ‘grandson’ is not posted to areas classified as ‘hardship post’ (owing to debilitating weather conditions or poor socio-political and economic conditions). He equally strives to influence recruitment and promotion.
The foreign service is similar to the military services. It is markedly different from the civil. Foreign and civil service systems have some what different pay scales, markedly different retirement systems, distinctive provisions for in service training and career development and different bases and methods of recruitment.
The Foreign Service system is considerably flexible in moving an officer from position to position. The foreign services staff officers and personal represent essentially the clerical and technical personnel of the service. For example the code clerks, secretaries, couriers, and technical communication specialists. The staff corps serve primarily at overseas. Each foreign officer belongs to a class, topped by ranks of career minister and career Ambassador. Foreign Service rank is in the man, while the civil service system attaches rank and pay, to the position actually held.
The Foreign Service is clearly and unequivocally under the control of the minister of External Affairs and the senior officers of the Ministry and the Presidency.
Military And Para-military Services
The military and para-military service include the Army, Navy, Airforce, Customs and Excise Department, Immigration Services, State Security Service (SSS), The Police, Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, etc. They are specialized and professionalized services with peculiar service rules and modes of operation. The rules are stipulated in their various service codes.
They are pensionable services with the retirement age pegged at 60 years or 35 years of pensionable services. They hold different pattern and criteria of recruitment, posting, deployment, promotion and the discipline of the respective officers.
Also, the mode of training and institutions for development are designed within their respective structures, organizations and operations.
The Foreign Service and Military and Para-Military Services are highly specialized and professionalized services which are essential for the existence of the state. The are peculiar and markedly different from the civil service. They are guided by their various codes, and the Federal Civil Service Commission regulates and integrates their system into the public service in Nigeria. Other specialized and professionalized service systems include, the Judicial service, legislative service and systems etc. They exist with an enabling commission that manages their systems.