Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
By Chukwudi Nweje
Analysts have at various times blamed the country’s seeming ineffective governance and poor state of infrastructure on bureaucratic bottlenecks. The argument is hinged on government spending much of the annual budgets on overhead cost due to duplication of functions in various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). The belief is that if the Federal Government were to trim down on the number of MDAs, it would save huge resources from the cost of running government and thus have funds that could be diverted to infrastructure development and other areas of need.
This, incidentally, seems what would happen as the Federal Government has finally adopted the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government parastatals, commissions and agencies led by former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steven Oronsaye.
The committee inaugurated in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan submitted an 800-page report in early 2012 in which it recommended that 220 out of the 541 federal agencies should be scrapped. A White Paper Committee was thereafter established to look at the recommendations of the committee. After weeks of consideration, indications are that the Federal Government has accepted the recommendations of the Oronsaye Committee. The review committee on the draft White Paper chaired by President Jonathan however accepted the retention of 321 other parastatals.
Highpoints of the expected restructuring in the federal civil service include an amendment to the law establishing the Police Service Commission (PSC) to make the Minister of Police Affairs to head the Commission; the fusion of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) into one anti-corruption agency; and abolition of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, since the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) was already empowered by the Constitution to carry out the functions of the FRC. Government equally directed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take over from the Public Complaints Commission (PCC).The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) will also be scrapped and merged with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), among others.
Many analysts have described government’s acceptance of the report as gratifying, arguing that scaling down the number of MDAs would help in reducing the cost of governance. It is noteworthy that the Oronsaye report had stated that the average cost of governance in Nigeria is believed to rank among the highest in the world.
The feeling among those who criticise the huge government overhead costs is that by reducing the number of government MDAs, government overhead cost will also reduce thereby freeing more funds to be channelled into infrastructure and other areas of need.
Fred Agbaje, lawyer and activist in fact, argues that the Federal Government’s adoption of the report was worth celebrating. He argues that the implementation of the report would not only stop duplication of functions, but would also end corruption. On the personnel that would be laid off with the merger or scrapping of some MDAs, Agbaje argues that such people should go back to their original posts before joining the federal agency. “A policeman who left the police to join the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) should go back to the Police. If they do not accept him, then he should find something else to do,” Agbaje stressed.
Nevertheless, some others have expressed fears that government’s action would lead to unemployment, wondering what would happen to employees that would be laid off after the merger of some agencies.
This is even as some have identified areas they see as mistakes. The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) for instance condemns merging the EFCC and the ICPC describing it as a step in the wrong direction, arguing that the government misplaced its priority.
Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman while accusing the government of paying lip service to the fight against corruption argues that rather than merging the EFCC and ICPC, the country “needs more anti-graft agencies to complement the efforts of the existing ones.” He insists that the merger of the two anti graft bodies “is antithetical to the spirit of the fight against corruption.”