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Product Code: 00005848

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Federal Character principle is one of the policies adopted by the Federal Government to accommodate the various federating units in the country. The idea was to foster peace, inclusiveness and to promote national unity among the diverse groups that make up the country.  The policy was also meant to ensure integration of the diverse ethnic groups and at the same time maintain unity in diversity. This inspired this study to investigate the impact of Federal Character Principle on Civil Service in Nigeria using the National Planning Commission between (2004-2009) as its focal point of study.  The broad objective of the study is to evaluate how federal character principle has impacted on civil service in Nigeria between the periods under review. The data for the study were collected using primary and secondary sources of data. The data collected were analyzed with content analysis, correlation coefficient and z-test statistical analyses.  David Easton’s system theory was adopted as theoretical framework. The theory postulates that there is a structural interdependence in all systems and a dysfunction in one part of the system affects other parts respectively. The study found out that federal character principle occasioned the recruitment of unqualified personnel in the Nigerian civil service and therefore promoted mediocrity in the service. This is contrary to the primary aim of fostering national integration. We however recommended that the federal character principle should be restructured in a way to ensure that the best candidates are chosen for jobs while adhering strictly to the dictates of  the federal character commission to ensure equity and merit.  









Title Page                                                                                                          i

Abstract                                                                                                            ii

Table of Contents                                                                                                          iii


1.1             Background to the Study                                                                                 1

1.2             Statement of Problems                                                                                    3

1.3             Research Questions                                                                                         5

1.4             Objectives of the Study                                                                                   6

1.5             Significance of the Study                                                                                6

1.6             Scope of the Study                                                                                          7

1.7             Limitation of the Study                                                                                   7

1.8             Definition of Terms                                                                                         7


2.1       Federal Character and the Problem Inequalities in the Civil Service 10

2.1.1   Federal Character and Educational/ Recruitment Process in the Civil Service                                                                                                            13

2.1.1   Application of the Federal Character Principle and its Impact on Policy                           Implementation                                                                                               14

2.2       Conceptual Review                                                                            16

2.2.1   The Concept of Federal Character Principle                                       16

2.3       Review of Empirical Literature                                                          19

2.4       Gap in Literature                                                                                22

2.5       Theoretical Framework                                                                      23

2.6       Justification of the Theory to the Study                                             24

2.7       Research Hypotheses                                                                   25       


3.1       Research Design                                                                                 26

3.2       Sources of Data                                                                                  26

3.3       Methods of Data Collection                                                               26

3.4       Population of Study                                                                            26

3.5       Sample Size and sampling Technique                                                27

3.6       Validity of Research Instrument                                                         28

3.7       Reliability of Research Instrument                                                     28

3.8       Method of Data Presentation and Analysis                                        28


4.1       Questionnaire Distribution and their Responses Returned                30

4.2       Data Presentation                                                                                31

4.3       Data Analysis and test of hypotheses                              41                                                                                                                                                                   


5.1       Summary of findings                                                                         48

5.12    Conclusion                                                                                                     49

5.3       Recommendations                                                                             49

            References                                                                                          51

            Questionnaire                                                                                     54





            Nigeria is a heterogeneous state, like many sub-Saharan African states. In the Northern part of the country, there are the Hausas, the Fulanis, the Kanuris, Igalas and many others. In the Southern part of the country are the Yorubas, the Edos, the Urhobos, the Ibos, the Ibibios, the Ijaws and other minority ethnic groups.  The religion of the people of the north is dominated by Islam, while the South is dominated by Christianity and a host of other indigenous religions.

            In spite of all these differences, the Colonial Government under Lord Fredrick Lugard unified the various people under a common administration in 1914. This union has been described by Ayoade (1998) as a forced brotherhood and sisterhood. Ever since, the country has been confronted with the challenges of accommodating diversity, fostering inclusiveness and promoting national unity among these diverse groups that make up the country.

            Prior to the attainment of independence in 1960, the desire of many citizens of Nigeria (irrespective of their origin, class, religion, cultural affiliation or gender) was to enjoy the rights, privileges and opportunities that the country offers.  However, as the clamor for independence deepened, the expectation of an egalitarian Nigeria was far from being realized.  For example, in 1954 when Nigeria opted for a federal system of government, it was observed that within the Nigerian nation, there were differences in culture, varying stages of social, economic and educational development of different sections of the country having recognizable advantage in the employment of their indigenes in the public service. Mustapha, ( 2007).

Efforts by the Federal Government to surmount these unpleasant challenges led to the introduction of the concept of Quota system as a policy in the recruitment of persons into the Armed forces, police force, immigration as well as admission into educational institutions. With the attainment of independence, the need to define criteria for the equitable spread of development, appointments and admission into federal owned institutions became even more pertinent.

            Although, the leadership and citizens of Nigeria acknowledged the need for equity and fairness, there were no specific guidelines for its realization.  According to Adamu (2003), sharing and allocation of resources as well as the distribution of infrastructural amenities were done voluntarily, arbitrarily and not mandatory.  In addition, there were no defined procedure of sharing resources and manpower of the federal government. Overtime, many citizens and various sections of the country began to feel excluded, marginalized and ignored in the scheme of things in the nation.  This necessitated the review and adoption of the Quota system in 1967 for filling vacancies into federal owned schools, establishments and ministries. Ironically, the policy was carried out without having in place a body that is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of implementing it.

            With the disruption of democratic process of the Second Republic upon which the 1979 constitution was based, the federal character principle was affected as various military governments clearly ignored the principle both in appointment and allocation of resources. Ayoade (1998) contends that imbalances still exist with deep feelings of real and imagined deprivation and marginalization expressed by many Nigerians. Crisis from aggrieved and marginalized sections of the nation were known to disrupt the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians for years.

            It was against this background that the Gen. Sanni Abacha’s regime sought among other things to redress most of the issues that had generated conflicts in the country.  Consequently, the Federal Character Commission was established in 1996 after the constitutional conference of 1995.

            The problem with federal character seems to be the means or methods of implementing the principles and achieving the objectives.  Since the objective of the Federal Character is to secure national unity and loyalty, then efficient governance seems suitable as a method of achieving that goal. Furthermore, the implementation of the Federal Character Principle, recruitment of qualified personnel which will guarantee good service delivery seems to be dominated by favoritism and ethnicity instead of meritocracy.


                         Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society with over 250 ethnic groups. For a long time in Nigeria, distribution of resources and employment opportunities had remained on the principle of arbitrariness. This has resulted in ethnic bickering and cry for marginalization and domination. It was in a bid to address the cry of the minority groups that the Federal Government introduced the Federal Character Principle which was enshrined in Nigerian constitution in 1979 and 1999 respectively.  The fundamental aim of the Federal Character was to ensure that appointments in public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious and geographical diversity of the country as well as maintain peace and unity in diversity. This diversity was the major reason that necessitated the introduction of the Federal Character Principle in Nigeria.

            Unfortunately, the application of Federal Character Principle has not been intending with the provisions of the constitution or the emphasis on achieving unity, fairness, justice, equity and peaceful co-existence. The political class whose duty it is to implement these policies have continued to abuse it by promoting marginalization, inequity and injustice in representation.

            It does appear that the law itself has not got fair interpretation because if those whose mandate it is to implement these policies derail from their mandate, the law suppose to define terms of engaging them or punishing them for violating the provisions of the constitution.

For instance in 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari was accused of appointing only Hausa/Fulanis in his cabinet which was against the provision of the constitution.  There was no stipulated penalty in the constitution to punish high ranking personality like the president who violates such laws.

            There has also been gross misconduct in the area of employment due to sectional consciousness and nepotism from those in authority in the ministries and parastatals.  Federal institutions while trying to obey the principle of Federal Character, seem to recruit unqualified persons in the ministries without minding the effect of such actions to the efficiency and quality of output to the nation.  However, successive governments after the civil war have tried to resolve these problems through policies such as the creation of states and local governments, establishment of unity schools, revenue allocation, rotational power sharing and federal character principle, yet these problems persist.

            Furthermore, the ethnic, regional and religious cleavages in Nigerian society are made more problematic by systematic and overlapping patterns of inequalities that correspond to the cleavages.  These inequalities are caused by complex range of factors including history, cultural orientation, national resource endowments, geography, religious affiliation, current government policies and past colonial policies Soludo (2007).

            It is pertinent to say that the introduction of federal character principle has not solved the problem of injustice, marginalization and inequality in the Nigerian civil service. In fact the major issue that is currently destabilizing the survival of Nigerian civil service is the federal character. This is because people take up positions that they do not merit but has to occupy them because they are either appointed to occupy such positions or because it is their quota to provide personnel for such positions.

            It is also worthy of note that the federal character principle was well intentioned, but were hijacked by the politicians and used as tool of formation as the whole idea of setting up of these programmes were politicized, thereby undermining the objectives of setting up the policy. For instance, beneficiaries of these programmes are usually party faithfuls, loyalists, family members and friends instead of members of the society, that is those who are qualified for the posts.

Consequently, some qualified job seekers are denied employment and they get frustrated because they are asked to pay either in cash, in kind or both to gain employment for a job they know that they are qualified for.  Some of these discriminated job seekers end up unemployed and vent their frustration on the society in forms of prostitution, armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking, internet fraud and other social vices or even leave for greener pastures abroad.  The category of job seekers who paid their ways into employment end up engaging in various corrupt practices in order to recoup their “investments”.  The fact remains that the majority who paid their ways were hardly taken on merit, their productivity is always short of expected standards. They go on promoting unhealthy competition and tribal dominance in public service.

            From the foregoing therefore, it appears that the objectives of the federal character principles are not achieved the way it is being applied in Nigeria. It seems that the federal  character principle does not stipulate stringent penalties that are commensurate to the gains therein for defaulters. Arbitrary application of the principles seems to be brewing acrimony and rivalry among the contending groups.  The Federal Character Principle according to Ibike (2012) appears to be responsible for the brain-drain of our nation’s best brains.  It could be argued that the Federal Character Principle’s application is responsible for the low output of the nation at large with regards to national integration, harmonious co-existence, political activities, economic development and fight against corruption because people take up positions that they do not merit but has to occupy them because it is their quota to provide personnel for such positions’.

            The above arguments, accusations and counter accusations are what this study is set out to investigate  and find answers to.   



            The following research questions were posed to guide the study:

1.                  To what extent has the application of Federal Character Principle fostered inclusiveness and promoted unity in diversity in Nigeria?

2.                  To what extent has the practice of Federal Character Principle solved the problem of personnel imbalance in the civil service?

3.                  How does the application of the Federal Character Principle promote mediocrity in the civil service?     


            The broad objective of this study is to examine the extent to which Federal Character Principle has favored national integration in Nigeria civil service, with particular focus on National Planning Commission, Abuja.

The specific objectives are:

i.                    To determine whether the application of federal character principle has been able to  foster inclusiveness and promote unity in diversity in the country.

ii.                 To examine the relationship between Federal Character Principle and personnel imbalance in the civil service.

iii.               To ascertain the extent to which the Federal Character Principle has promoted mediocrity in the civil service.

1.5       SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY         

            This work is significant in more ways than one, and to that extent its significance would be shown in two levels: theoretical and empirical.

            Theoretically, this study will contribute in theory-building to assist student researchers and scholars in finding solution to the role of Federal Character Principle and its impact on the Nigeria civil service. It will also serve as a reference point for further studies.

            Empirically, this study will be of immense importance to the Government and the representatives of the people by equipping them with the knowledge of the impact of federal character principle on civil service in Nigeria and the best way to apply the principle to yield better result.


            The scope of this research is limited to a critical examination of the impact of Federal Character Principle on civil service in Nigeria with special focus on the National Planning Commission.


The researcher encountered some difficulties in the course of doing this work. The attitudes of some respondents were nothing to write home about. The reactions of some of the respondents posed a lot of problems. Some were reluctant to air their views, some did not return their questionnaire, some returned unfilled questionnaire. Some of the problems were however, surmounted by revisiting the respondents and convincing them on the need to assist the researcher in completing the questionnaire.



Federal Character Principle – A principle of representatives in which recruitment, promotion, and distribution of resources are aimed at establishing a fair balance of ethnic and regional representation in all federal government agencies and parastatals. 

Merit System: Is a personnel system in which comparative merits or achievement governs each individual selection and progress in the service and in which the conditions and regard of performance contributed to the competency and continuity of the service.

Human Resources Management:  Is the activities of recruitment, employment, manpower planning, employee training, management development wage, salary administration, health and safety (at work, benefits and services, union-management relations and personnel research.

Public Service: It is viewed as the comprising members of all public institution financed and maintained by the tax payer, and the emoluments of whose member, regularly authorized by the legislature acting in concert with the executive.

Manpower: This refers to individual’s ability or capability available for labor to be employed into any organization.

Manpower Utilization: This refers to affective utilization of manpower capability available through the process of motivation, training, rewarding, evacuating etc, in the organization.

FCC:  Federal Character Commission

FCP:   Federal Character Principle: 

Meritocracy: Rule by merit and talent. By extension, now often used to describe a type of society where wealth, income and social status are assigned through competition

Mediocrity: Not having quality skill or ability. Short of standard ability of achievement

CDC:  Constitution Drafting Committee

National Integration: National integration is the togetherness and oneness felt by the citizens (even after having differences in cast, creed, religion, culture, language. Region etc) of any country to maintain the national unity and integrity as well build a strong National Planning.

Unity in diversity: Unity in diversity is a concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity is a concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation” that shifts that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.


Personnel Imbalance: Refers to inequality in the appointment  or recruitment of personnel to accommodate the federating units in equal proportion.

National Planning: This is a development plan that will analyze the country’s objectives and priorities in relation to various sectors of the economy, education, health, sport, culture and tourism etc in response to well-identified national needs. 

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