1Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Yaba-Akoka, Lagos State, Nigeria.
Corresponding Author’s E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Towards the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, the debate on the validity and application of the principle of absolute political neutrality of civil servants resurfaced. This principle requires civil servants to abstain from political activities including campaigning and joining political parties. The Federal Civil Service Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation contend that the Public Service Rules prohibit civil servants from political activities. However, the Nigeria Labour Congress and other labour unions disagree and argue that the Public Service Rules contravene the constitution and violate civil servants’ fundamental rights to freely associate and belong to a political party. This study interrogates the legality and desirability of the principle of absolute political neutrality in the Nigerian Civil Service. It draws upon the extant statutory framework, relevant jurisprudence, scholarly literature and contemporary practices in other jurisdictions. The finding of this study shows that the Public Service Rules as presently constituted violate constitutional provisions and civil servants’ rights to hold and join political parties of their choice. The central argument is that constitutionalism principles in Nigeria and practices in other jurisdictions increasingly invalidate an approach that anchored civil servant loyalty and effectiveness on the principle of absolute political neutrality. The study concludes by recommending that in line with practices in the United Kingdom and Canada, the Civil Service Rules should be revised to permit differentiated prohibitions. This will permit civil servants that hold non-sensitive positions to hold political opinions and join political parties of their respective choice.
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