Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
By Chukwudi Nweje
Last week, the Federal Government finally accepted the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government parastatals, commissions and agencies. The committee was headed by former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steven Oronsaye.
The committee inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 was set up due to recurring complaints that the cost of running government was too high, and that the duties of some of the agencies overlapped with other departments of government. In early 2012, the committee submitted an 800-page report in which among other things, 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, and after weeks of consideration, the Federal Government accepted the recommendations to scrap some of the agencies and parastatals. The review committee on the draft White Paper chaired by President Jonathan however accepted the retention of 321 other parastatals.
Indeed, the Oronsaye committee’s report confirmed the position of analysts that some government agencies were duplication of already existing departments and therefore constituted drainpipes on government resources. Oronsaye confirmed this in the report that stated that the average cost of governance in Nigeria is believed to rank among the highest in the world.
Prominent among the agencies to be abolished are the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), National Poverty Eradication programme (NAPEP), National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC), the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), and the Utilities Charges Commission (UCC).
The reasons for the scrapping of these agencies are not farfetched. The committee had observed that the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) were practically performing the same duties. The Oronsaye committee also recommended that the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) be abolished while the RMAFC should take over its functions. The government accepted the recommendation scrapping NAPEP because the aims and objectives of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) were in consonance with those of NAPEP. The Federal Government also approved 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. The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice has been directed to initiate necessary action to affect the adopted changes in the constitution.
For the BPE, government has directed that a “Sunset Clause” should be introduced to the agency to conclude its assignment and wound down. It also instructed that the NIPC currently domiciled in The Presidency be relocated to the Ministry of Trade and Investment and be merged with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to synergise for management and utilisation of resources.
While upholding the continued existence of the Police Service Commission (PSC), the government in its report, directed that the law establishing the PSC should be amended to make the Minister of Police Affairs to head the Commission. The government equally directed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take over from the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), directing the AGF to see that the PCC Act is removed from the Constitution by amending Sections 153 and 315.
Also in line with the report, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is to be restructured with a view to developing a framework to cover critical areas of national socio-economic development to which corps members would be deployed for their primary assignments.
Government also directed that the enabling law of the Nigeria Football Federation/Nigeria Football Association be amended to reflect the directive of FIFA that the organisation should be named a Federation. It also approved the redeployment of all staff of the Utilities Charges Commission to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation “provided they are civil servants.” The Council for Registered Engineers (COREN) and the Surveyors Registration Council (SRC) would no longer receive budgetary allocations with effect from 2015 fiscal year, even as the Federal Government also directed that the withdrawal of the military from the Contributory Pension Scheme be reversed.
While the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and the Federal Highway Department of Federal Ministry of Works are to be transformed into an extra-ministerial department, government rejected the report that the Act setting up the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) should be repealed. It also rejected another recommendation that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) be merged with the National Refugees Commission into one agency to be known as the National Emergency Management and Refugees Commission.
It had, before now been argued by experts that the Federal Government had been carrying excess baggage in terms of the number of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). For years, analysts had observed that some of these MDAs were unnecessary duplications of government offices and functions. Many indeed argued that much of the annual budget was spent on overhead cost due to these duplications. Arguments had been made 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.
Nevertheless, even as many analysts see the adoption of the Oronsaye committee recommendations as a welcome development, they recall that this is not the first time the Federal Government would be trying to restructure the Federal Civil service. Between 1963 and 1999, various committees had been set up to look into the nation’s civil service with a view to restructuring and repositioning it for greater efficiency. These include the Morgan Salaries and Wages Commission (1963); The Adebo Commission (1971); the Udoji Public Service Review Commission of 1974; Dotun Philips Civil Service Reform Commission 1988; and the Allison Ayida Civil Service Reform (1995).
All these committees made wide ranges of suggestions on how the Federal Civil Service could be made more effective though very little changed. Rather, critics had argued that rather than improve for better, the service had turned for the worst.
Some have described the Federal Government’s acceptance of the Oronsaye Committee’s report as gratifying. Although they agree that scaling down the number of MDAs would help in reducing the government’s overhead cost and make more funds available for infrastructure development and other areas of need, some of the changes have not gone down well with some section of the society.
For example, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has condemned the Federal Government’s action of approving the merger of the EFCC and ICPC, describing it “as a wrong step in wrong direction.” Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman of CACO argued that rather than merging the two anti-corruption agencies, the Federal Government should have created more because the existing agencies are overstretched.
He said, “It is very unfortunate that our government misplaces its priority. The Federal Executive Council could reject the scrapping of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission and the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and transferring their functions to a department under Ministry of Foreign Affairs as advised by Orosanye’s Committee, but the same body could endorse the merging of the two anti-graft agencies.
“This shows that our leaders are only paying lip service to the fight against corruption in the country because the merging of EFCC and ICPC is antithetical to the spirit of the fight against corruption. “It is a well-known fact that these two agencies are even overstretched. We need more anti-graft agencies to complement the efforts of the existing ones, especially at the rate at which corruption is growing in our public and private sectors. There is need to create anti-graft agencies that will specialize in different areas of crimes instead of whittling down the power of the existing ones through merger,” Adeniran argued.
Fred Agbaje, lawyer and activist, disagrees arguing that the EFCC and ICPC were duplications of the Nigerian Police Force. 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 argued.