Some concerned Nigerians have lamented that cutting Nigeria’s huge cost of governance in the face of dwindling economic fortunes may remain a mirage or at best, mere platitudes, going by feelers from the seat of power in Abuja and its corridors across the country,
For some time now, there have been sustained campaigns from some stakeholders, comprised mostly of economists, financial analysts, stakeholders as well as public sector commentators, for cost-cutting measures in governance across the board.
Recall that following unsuccessful attempts by successive administrations to reduce the number of federal government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as a cost-cutting measure, former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 set up the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, under the chairmanship of Steve Oronsaye.
The Oronsaye committee submitted an 800-page report on April 16, 2012, which recommended, among others, the abolition and merger of 102 government agencies and parastatals, while some were listed to be self-funding. The report revealed a high-level of competition among several overlapping agencies, which had not only created ill feelings among government agencies but also brought about unnecessary wastage in government expenditure.
The committee also recommended, among other important recommendations, the discontinuation of government funding of professional bodies and councils. The measures were, primarily, free funds for the much-needed capital projects across the country. However, eight years down the lane, the government, rather than reduce, harmonise or merge some agencies as recommended in the report, has gone ahead to establish more agencies. Ten years on, there has been a lull in the actions toward implementing the recommendations of the report.
Some commentators have identified a key impediment to the report’s implementation as being that most of the affected agencies were creations of legislation. They said the enabling laws have to be repealed before the agencies cease to exist.
However, the stakeholders have said that the actions and, in some instances inactions, of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and members of the National Assembly do not indicate any commitment to reducing unnecessary government spending, or even implementing recommendations of the report. Rather, what have been happening over the last 10 years has been the issuance of directives and the setting up of new committees to draft a White Paper, or to review the report entirely.
Findings have revealed that in total disregard for the recommendations contained in the report of the Oronsaye Committee, no fewer than 250 additional agencies, commissions and parastatals have been created through new legislative Bills in the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the lack of synergy between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government is a key factor in the delay in implementing the Oronsaye report. Some of the legislative Bills for the creation of these agencies have either been passed and assented to by the President or have reached very advanced stages in legislative processing, thereby raising questions on the commitment of the FG to implementing the report.
While the president blames the National Assembly for ignoring the report and continues to churn out legislations that create more agencies, the National Assembly says it has not received any communication from the Executive arm with respect to any serious action on the report. Just last week, a new White Paper Drafting Committee on the Review of new Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions (PACs), which was created following the Oronsaye Panel Report, proposed an engagement and dialogue with the NASS leadership to generate an understanding to streamline the creation of new agencies and Commission.
Chairman of the committee, Mrs. Ebele Okeke, a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, made the suggestion when the committee presented the Draft White Paper on the review of new parastatals, agencies and Commissions to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.