Government Ministries

The Permanent Secretary Every ministry was under the control of a Permanent Secretary who was a senior public servant, responsible to the Minister for the proper working of the Ministry. The minister had general control and supervision over the ministry, and might give the Permanent Secretary directions, but, since he was not experienced in administration, he could not assume the work of running the ministry in detail. What is more, Ministers might come and go, according to which part was in power, so that there had to be a permanent head of the Ministry who knew the work of the department and could assist a new minister with his responsibilities. It was the duty of the permanent secretary to keep his minister informed of everything the ministry did, because the Minister was responsible to the legislature and might have to answer questions in it. He submitted to the Minister all matters of importance which required a decision, and these the minister might bring before the council of ministers (or Executive Council) or decide for himself. If the minister gave the permanent secretary a direction which would involve administrative difficulties, it was his duty to point them out to the minister. None the less, if the Minister insisted, the Permanent Secretary had to ensure that the direction was put into effect. The Division of a Ministry In a large ministry there would usually be two or more divisions, each under the charge of a deputy permanent secretary, an under-secretary, or a professionally qualified officer with some special title. These heads of divisions were responsible to the permanent secretary. For instance in a typical Regional Ministry of works there would be the following Division.

[1] The Administrative Division, headed by a deputy permanent secretary. It handled all the personal affairs.

[2] The Architectural Division headed by a Chief Architect.

[3] The Civil Engineering Division, headed by the Chief civil Engineer.

[4] The water Engineering Division, headed by a Chief water Engineer.

[5] The Mechanical and Electrical Division.


A minister usually had a private secretary, who was a public servant allocated to him to organize his touring arrangements, his official entertaining, and his private papers and correspondence, and to perform various other duties not directly connected with the running of the department. The Parliamentary Secretary Usually a Parliamentary Secretary was appointed to a ministry. This was a political appointment. He might represent his minister in the legislature when there was no important business connected with the Ministry, or the Minister might send him on tours of inspection. He could not give directions to the permanent secretary, however, many of the ministers who held office latterly had served as Parliamentary Secretary first. Minister of State Sometimes, in a large Ministry, the work of supervising particular branches of it was given to subordinate ministers known as ministers of state. They were course, responsible to the Minister in charge. For instance, the federal minister of defence had three ministers of state, for Army, Navy, and Air Force respectively.


Many ministries could not have worked properly if all their staff had sat at headquarters, and they therefore set up their own organization in each province. In a regional ministry of works, there was a provincial engineer who controlled all buildings, roads repairs water supplies – in fact all ministry responsibilities in his province. He would have various officers under him – possibly a Mechanical Superintendent, an inspector of works in charge of water supplies, and so on. The ministries of Agriculture and Education normally had a provincial organization of the same kind. The Ministry of Health had its hospitals throughout the region, though it did not have a provincial Head of Department. Regional Ministries of Finance had their Government Treasuries at Provincial and Divisional Headquarters also.

Some Federal Ministries had provincial organizations, notably the Nigeria Police. The provincial police officer had a self-contained command, with all the necessary equipment, and was in touch with Regional Police Headquarters by radio. The Ministry of Communications had post offices throughout Nigeria. But the Federal Ministry of Works, which was responsible for main trunk roads, airfields and Federal Buildings such as Nigeria Police Stations and Post Offices, usually asked the regional Ministry, through the Provincial Engineer, to act on it behalf.


As already mentioned, each region except the Midwest was divided into provinces – 13 in the North, 6 in the West and 12 in the East – and each province into Divisions. In charge of each Province of the Northern and Eastern Regions there was a Provincial Commissioner, who was a political appointment similar to a minister. The administrative staff of the province consisted of a divisional officer (or District Officer) in charge of each provincial Secretary, who was the head administrative officer of the province, was responsible to the provincial Commissioner just as the permanent secretary was responsible to his minister. The administrative staff were responsible for the good government of their areas. The administrative service was controlled by the Regional Premier’s office, but it was concerned with every aspect of government activity. One of the main functions of an administrative officer was the supervision of local government in his division or province. As mentioned later, he had certain legal powers over native authorities and local government councils. For this purpose he acted as the local agent of the Ministry of Local Government. But he also supervised Government Treasuries, which were the concern of the ministry of finance, and sometimes sat as Magistrate. In the Eastern Region he inspected the local prison on behalf of the federal Ministry of Internal Affairs.

By 1966 the West and Midwest no longer had an all-purpose Provincial Administration of this kind, but a staff of Local Government Advisers, controlled by the Ministry of Local Government, who were responsible only for supervising local government councils. The Federal Government had the following Miistries:[1] Finance: This Ministry operated like the Regional ministries with additional responsibility for customs and excise duties, inspection of banks and exchange control. The collection of some Federal revenues was handled by the Boards which operated under ministry’s control but formed a separate organization of their own;

(a) The Board of customs and Excise collected £95 million every year. It had a staff of 1300 and an annual expenditure of £890,000.

(b) The Federal Board of Inland Revenue collected income tax from commercial companies throughout Nigeria and from all person living in Lagos, to the value of £8 million each year. It had a staff of 329 and an annual expenditure of £250,000.

[2] Defence.

[3] Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations.

[4] Communications.

[5] Mines and Power.

[6] Transport and Aviation. There are several other ministries, but space does not permit to mention them all. You can also mention them via comment section.


Each Government had such a department. The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is a minister who must be a lawyer of ten years standing. He is appointed both as supporter of the party in power and as a prominent lawyer. His department is responsible for giving legal advice and assistance to all other ministries, and for representing the Government in court. One branch is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who conducted all important criminal prosecutions in the High Court. All the senior staff of the Department are lawyers known as ‘State Counsel’.

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