12 Nigeria’s Iconic Bureaucrats That Have Shaped The Federal Civil Service

12 Nigeria’s Iconic Bureaucrats That Have Shaped The Federal Civil Service

January 09
12:30 2021

The civil service occupies a central and strategic position in the evolution of any nation. In Nigeria, the Civil Service, whether at the federal or state l e v e l , h a s i m p a c t e d monumentally on the development of the country since its independence, 60 years ago. It has been a principal hallmark in g o v e r n a n c e a n d i n guaranteeing stability and continuity. 

The Federal Civil Service is the  engine of governance and the administrative machinery for implementing the federal government’s policies and programmes.

While all the top bureaucrats at the helm of affairs at different times worked hard while in ofce, a few of them were remarkably outstanding in their policy thrust, leading to some reforms of the Service. The contribution of this crop of bureaucrats remains incalculable, and  documenting their milestones is the least that can be done to accord them their due recognition in history. Some of the proles are courtesy of Wikipedia.  The roll call includes:

Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo

Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo

Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo was a outstanding administrator, lawyer and diplomat. Adebo worked at the Federal Ministry of Finance and in 1961 became head of the Civil Service and Chief Secretary to the Government of the then Western Region. He was appointed Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations from 1962 to 1967 and as United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive General of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research until 1972. After the end of the Nigerian civil war, Nigerian Head of State General Yakubu Gowon instituted a commission to review wages and salaries of Nigerian workers and to look into means of ameliorating the economic conditions of workers, the importance of the commission was due to the rise in cost of living as a result of uncontrollable inflation during the civil war. Simeon Adebo was called to head the commission which later became known as the Adebo commission. Workers who had demanded wage increases were happy for the choice of Adebo. He was seen as an apolitical administrator who could look thoroughly into workers plight and investigate the concerns of workers in the civil and private sector.

Chief Jerome Oputa Udoji CMG

Chief Jerome Oputa Udoji CMG, CFR was one of Africa’s most distinguished administrators who had the rare and remarkable opportunity to serve in not only the colonial, military and civilian governments in Nigeria but also in the country’s expanding private sector. He was the first African administrative officer to serve in the British Colonial government. Over the course of his government career he served in the ministries of finance, health and commerce, and was head of service in the former Eastern Region, Nigeria. He was part of the Constituent Assembly of 1977-78 that worked on the 1979 Constitution of Nigeria (Second Republic).


Chief Michael AniChief Michael Ani is one of the pioneer Nigerian public servants. He is a reference point in public service in Nigeria. A lot of those who headed the federal civil service in Nigeria were under his tutelage. He is also one of the top bureaucrats that worked tirelessly for Nigeria’s independence. While the likes of Zik, Eyo Ita, Okoi Arikpo and Awo were in the “trenches”, he was working within the system to smoothen things for his fellow compatriots. This was largely because as a civil servant, he could not directly participate in partisan politics. In 1966 he had been appointed a Commissioner by Ironsi to assist in reviewing unication of the regional public services. His 1976 appointment followed his retirement from the Civil Service. He later was appointed the chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) established by General Olusegun Obasanjo to conduct elections leading to the Nigerian Second Republic, which was inaugurated on 1 October 1979.

Ahmed Joda OFR, CON, CFRAhmed Joda OFR, CON, CFR is a Nigerian administrator who rose through the administrative cadre of the Northern regional government and then the federal civil service to retire as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industries. During the administration of the youthful Yakubu Gowon, he was considered to be among a group known as super Permanent Secretaries. He joined the Northern regional government as a Chief Information Ofcer then later Permanent Secretary from 1962 to 1967. In 1967, following the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War, he was seconded to the Federal Civil Service as a Permanent Secretary serving in the Federal Ministries: Information, Education and Industries, where he retired in 1978.


Alhaji Adamu FikaAlhaji Adamu Fika was Head of Service of the Federation between 1986-1988. He is a respected elder statesman and skilled administrator who previously served as Permanent Secretary of six federal ministries as well as pioneer head of FCC and Wages Commission. Malam Adamu Fika, CFR (Wazirin Fika) was appointed Deputy Secretary, Interim Common Services Agency, 1968 – 1970 and later appointed Secretary, Interim Common Services Agency, 1970. He was appointed Commissioner of Finance, North- Eastern State in 1972. After serving for three years as a commissioner, Malam Adamu Malam moved to the federal civil service where he was appointed at various times Permanent Secretary in the following Ministries: Internal Affairs 1975, Commerce 1979, Public Service Department, Ofce of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, 1981 – 1982; Communications 1982-1984. He was also Permanent Secretary, Police Affairs Department, Executive Office of the President; and later Federal Capital Territory and Chief Executive, Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja, 1984. Malam Adamu Fika was appointed Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in January 1986 where he served until he retired from the Federal Public Service in April 1988. His services continued to be sought even after retirement. He was appointed Chairman, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), from March 1989-1990. Chairman, Administrative Secretary by the Federal Government for Social Democratic Party, 1990.

Mr. Allison AyidaMr. Allison Ayida The administrative history of the Nigerian public service will denitely not be complete without the mention of Mr. Allison Ayida. He is credited with being one of those that laid the foundation of the public service in Nigeria. Like the legendary Simeon Adebo and Jerome Udoji, Ayida belonged in what we affectionately, and with a bit of nostalgia, refer to as the golden years of public administration in Nigeria. And even more so, he was one of the “notorious” super permanent secretaries whose roles in the prosecution of the Nigerian Civil War have been the subject of positive and negative analyses. Together with Ahmed Joda, Ime Ebong, S. O. Wey, Phillip Asiodu, and so on, Allison Ayida played a signicant and crucial administrative part that had a lot to do with their vision of the Nigerian project, as well as the professional credentials they had acquired as public administrators.

Alhaji Idris GidadoAlhaji Idris Gidado was a dedicated public servant who provided decades of distinguished service to this country. He was the first and only person till date who served two former Heads of State as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (General Sanni Abacha and General Abdusalam Abubakar). He was among very few people who spoke truth to power. He once told the late General Sani Abacha a truth no one could tell him. The Generals had a meeting about an issue and they couldn’t find anyone to disclose it to the Head of State and Gidado took it upon himself. It was such that he feared for his life afterwards but he was a close confidant of the General. Alhaji Idris is a seasoned and highly-reputed civil servant. He has an impeccable record at the highest level of leadership in the Nigerian civil service. A longtime Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria and Head of the Federal Civil Service, Mr. Idris also served as the Clerk of the National Assembly between 1979 and 1983.

Yayale Ahmed hmudYayale Ahmed (Ajiyan Katagum in Bauchi state), CFR is a distinguished Abusite and respected Nigerian elder statesman and politician from Azare, Bauchi State who was Head of the service of the Federation, Secretary to the government of the Federation as well as Defence Minister of Nigeria. He started a civil service career with the Bauchi State Government as an Assistant Secretary in the State’s Ministry of Finance in 1977. He transferred his services to the Federal Civil Service in 1986 under the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs where he was immediately appointed as the Secretary Customs, Immigration and Prisons Board serving from 1986 to 1988. He subsequently served as Director of Finance and Suppliers 1988; Director-General 1994 and Permanent Secretary 1997. He was posted to the Federal Ministry of Education in the same capacity in 1998 from where he was appointed the Head of Service of the Federation in December 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who described Ahmed as “Mr. Civil Servant”. He served in that capacity until July 26, 2007.

Engr. Ebele Ofunneamakea OkekeEngr. Ebele Ofunneamakea Okeke OON, CFR, FNSE, FICE, FAEng, C.Engr. is the First Nigerian Female Civil Engineer and the First Nigerian Female Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. She is remembered for laying the foundation for the reforms that strengthened the federal service that her successors improved on. She broke the glass ceiling that was hitherto barring women from emerging as Heads of Service of the Federation in Nigeria. She worked in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources; became Deputy Director Water Supply; Director Rural Development; Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Water Resources. It is from this ministry that she was appointed Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. She holds two National Honours of OON (Officer of the Order of the Niger); and CFR (Commander of the Federal Republic). She is a Fellow of the different engineering Societies/Institutions.

Stephen OronsayeStephen Oronsaye is a chartered accountant who was appointed Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in June 2009. He began an energetic program of reform immediately after his appointment. He retired on 16 November 2010 after reaching the statutory retirement age of 60, was appointed Head of the Nigerian Civil Service in June 2009. In December 2009 he announced plans to train 4,600 civil servants by March 2010 to prepare them for the higher challenges that came with the new tenure policy, and to remove stagnation from the civil service.


Winifred Oyo-ItaWinifred Oyo-Ita The federal civil service will forever remember Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita for initiating the EPIC program and for bringing private sector into government business. She is the immediate past Head of the Service of the Federation. At 51, she made history as the youngest Head of Service of the Federation in recent times and the third woman to occupy the position in Nigeria. While in office, she carried out the most spectacular transformation of the civil service through a program she called, EPIC, meaning a civil service based on the ethos of efficiency, productivity, incorruptibility and citizen-centredness. For the rst time in the history of Nigeria, she led the service to engage with the private sector actively, working out a lot of collaborative arrangements. She secured in-kind support for the service especially in the area of institutional strengthening of the federal service. In her time as Head of Service, civil servants’ entitlements and emoluments were paid promptly. She gave a befitting facelift to that Office and digitised the operations of the Federal Service which helped the Civil Servants to cope with Covid-19 pandemic by working remotely. Early this year, she was retired.

Alhaji Bukar Goni AjiAlhaji Bukar Goni Aji is a humble and self-effacing man who prefers to give all the credit for his achievement to others. However, beneath that humble mien lies a steely determination, uncommon courage and fiery patriotism. A self assured man, he had a policy of continuing and fast-tracking the good policies of his predecessors. He prioritised the urgent need for the Service to have institutional memory by completely revamping the Federal Records Centre in Karu. He also prioritised staff welfare by facilitating the implementation of soft loans at 2% interest to civil servants and more than 100,000 applications were received for the 5 estates of the Federal Government Staff Housing scheme at that time. He also pursued the policy of the domestication of training in Nigeria. The result of the policy stopped capital fight and instead, boosted its internally generated revenue.





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January 2021