…Will implementation substantially reduce cost of governance?

Despite the Oronsaye report being submitted as far back as 2012 to the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration, the report has recently sparked extensive debate in Nigeria.

The Oronsaye Report, calling for the restructuring and rationalization of Federal Government agencies, has yet to be implemented after over a decade. Officially known as the Report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, the report has, for many years, gathered dust on the shelves of policymakers, with its recommendations largely ignored. Considering the current socioeconomic situation in the country, the need for reform has become increasingly apparent as Nigeria grapples with economic challenges and the inefficiencies of an overbloated public sector.

After so many years, the recent endorsement of the report by President Bola Tinubu has reignited discussions on the report’s implementation. Tinubu’s commitment to adopt the report’s recommendations could mark a significant shift in Nigeria’s approach to governance. By consolidating agencies with overlapping functions and eliminating unnecessary parastatals, the government hopes to foster a more efficient, transparent, and accountable system that can drive the nation towards sustainable development.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, while speaking to State House Correspondents after a Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, described the President’s move to adopt the recommendations of the report as “a very bold move” and revealed that a number of agencies, commissions and departments would be scrapped as a result.

“Some have been merged, while others have been subsumed. Others, of course, have also been moved from some ministries to others where government feels they will operate better,” Idris explained.

“The Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate has been scrapped. The National Senior Secondary School Education Commission is also being looked at with the aim to modify some of its processes and a final decision on that will be taken,” he said.

Other agencies, commissions and parastatals affected by the approval of the FEC meeting of 26th February 2024 are as follows:

Agencies to be merged

National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) to be merged under the Centre for Disease Control in Federal Ministry of Health; National Emergency Agency (NEMA) to be merged with National Commission Refugee, Migration and Internally Displaced persons [NCFRMI]; Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) to be merged with Directorate of Technical Aid (DTAC) and to function as a department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to be merged with Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE); Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to be merged with Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC); National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) to be merged with National Centre for Agriculture Mechanization (NCAM) and Project Development Institute (PRODA); National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to be merged with National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB); National Institute for Leather Science Technology (NILEST) to be merged with National Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT); Nomadic Education Commission (NEC) to be merged with National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult Education and Non Formal Education; Federal Radio Corporation (FRCN) to be merged with Voice of Nigeria (VON); National Commission for Museums and Monuments to be merged with National Gallery of Arts; National Theatre to be merged with National Troupe of Nigeria; National Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC) to be merged with National Metallurgical Training Institute (NMTI); Nigerian Army University (NAUB) to be merged Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA); and Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) to be merged Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).

Agencies to be subsumed

Service Compact with all Nigerians (SERVICOM) to be subsumed to function as a department under Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR); Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) to be subsumed to function as a department under the National Boundary Commission (NBC); National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to be subsumed into Revenue Mobilization & Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMAFC); Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution to be subsumed under Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA); Public Complaints Commission (PCC) to be subsumed under National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis (NITR) to be subsumed into Institute of Veterinary Research (VOM); Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) to be subsumed under the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD); National Intelligence Agency Pension Commission to be subsumed under the administration of Nigerian Pension Commission (PenCom); and Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) to be subsumed as a department in the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy.

Agencies to be relocated

Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) to be relocated to Ministry of Power; National Agricultural Land Development Agency (NALDA) to be relocated to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; National Blood Service Commission to be converted into an Agency and relocated to the Federal Ministry of Health; and Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) to be converted into an Agency and transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Delayed implementation

Several factors have contributed to the delay in implementing the Oronsaye Report. Political will, or the lack thereof, has been a significant hurdle. Successive administrations have shown reluctance to take on the sweeping changes proposed, likely due to the potential backlash from affected stakeholders and the fear of job losses. Additionally, bureaucratic inertia and vested interests within the government have impeded progress, as many officials stand to lose power or influence should the report’s recommendations be adopted.

These issues were loosely alluded to in a post on X by GreenPressNGR, saying, “The report’s comprehensive recommendations seem likely to be faced with resistance, particularly within the political elite circles, where the preservation of redundant agencies serves as a bargaining chip for maintaining the status quo and safeguarding political appointments. This resistance underscores the entrenched interests within the National Assembly, where lawmakers wield significant power in shaping bureaucratic structures.”

As a corollary, it is safe to say that the move to restructure the system based on the findings of the Oronsaye Report may have latent effects such as the potential displacement of numerous employees and the shake-up of established power structures. While this can possibly reduce redundancy, improve efficiency, and cut costs, its implementation has generally been considered by most pundits as a politically sensitive issue.

Is the report it tune with today’s reality?

There are also concerns about the report being outdated and out of tune with reality. A member of the House of Representatives, Mr Kama Nkemkanma, has noted that the recommendations in the report may not reflect the present realities in the country, hence may not address the cost of governance as envisaged some years back.

Related News

The lawmaker said the report “may be described as outdated, especially because of how dynamic society, the economy, polity, technology, and all facets of our national life have been”.

He added that “contrary to the assumption that the full implementation of the report would reduce the cost of governance, with the current realities, the full implementation of the report will not substantially reduce the cost of governance as it does not reflect the current situation in the Public Service of the Federation”.

Similarly, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN, has faulted the implementation of the Steve Oronsaye report, describing as outdated the 12-year old report recommending the merger of government agencies and commissions.

In a statement on 27 February, Falana said contrary to the belief in official circles, the report won’t “substantially reduce the enormous costs of governance in the country as it does not reflect the current situation in the public service”.

However, Falana said, “No doubt, the implementation of some of the recommendations of the Panel will take appreciable time as the merger of certain bodies requires constitutional amendments or repeal of a number of statutes.

“The 800-page report of the Steve Oronsaye Panel recommended the reduction of statutory agencies from 263 to 161, scrapping 38 agencies, merging 52, and reverting 14 to departments in different ministries.

“Since the Goodluck Jonathan administration produced a White Paper on the Steve Oronsaye Report in 2014, the Federal Government has created more ministries, departments and agencies.

“Whereas the Report recommended the reduction of 263 agencies to 151, the number of ministries, departments and agencies has increased to 1,316. Even the current administration has increased the number of ministries and created new agencies. To that extent, the Steve Oronsaye Report is completely outdated.

“However, in implementing the Oronsaye Report the Federal Government should ensure that the crisis of insecurity is not compounded through the retrenchment of hundreds of thousands of workers.

“Instead of downsizing the public service the Federal Government should ensure that the two houses of the National Assembly are merged while the number of Ministers, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants is significantly reduced.”

A vision for a leaner government

The report was written by Steve Oronsaye, whose tenure as the Head of Service was marked by significant administrative reforms aimed at streamlining government operations.

However, his arrest in 2015 on charges of fraud and money laundering cast a shadow over his previous work. These allegations pointed to misappropriation of funds and abuse of office, suggesting a betrayal of public trust.

The timing of Oronsaye’s arrest, closely following the submission of this report, raised questions about the motivations behind the legal action. Following his acquittal and release, some observers have wondered whether those charges were conveniently timed to undermine the credibility of his findings and to silence a potentially disruptive voice in the bureaucracy.

Oronsaye’s spokesperson during the whole debacle, Mr. Walter Duru, famously described the case as a witch-hunt. At the time, he said, “Time will tell because he will surely be vindicated. This is a witch-hunt and this is because of his role in the passage of some very critical bills, especially the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Centre Bill which seeks to grant operational autonomy to the NFIU which is still under the control of the EFCC.

“The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2016 is coming up for a second reading at the Senate on Wednesday (today). Is it coincidental that he was invited by the EFCC a day ahead of the hearing? Is it also coincidental that the last time he was invited was a day before the Senate hearing on the NFIU Bill? So, they are just trying to intimidate him.”

Furthermore, many pundits believe that the substance of the recommendations stands on its own merit. They assert that the report’s conclusions are the result of collective expertise and thorough analysis, not the influence of one individual, which means that the recommendations should be assessed based on their potential impact and effectiveness in addressing the issues at hand. Thus, dismissing the report solely due to Oronsaye’s legal challenges would be a disservice to the diligent work of the committee and the valuable insights the report offers.

The success of the intended reforms will be contingent upon the government’s resolve to enforce these changes rigorously. This includes overcoming resistance from vested interests that benefit from the status quo, as well as ensuring that the reforms are not reversed or diluted over time.

Moreover, the long-term impact of the Oronsaye Report hinges on the government’s commitment to maintaining these reforms amidst political and social pressures. It requires a cultural shift within the government machinery to prioritize efficiency and accountability. Only with sustained political will can the potential savings from the report translate into actual reductions in the cost of governance.

The stakes are high, and the outcomes are uncertain. The Oronsaye Report is not just a collection of recommendations; it is a vision for a leaner, more agile government. It challenges the status quo, proposing a paradigm shift in the way public institutions operate. As the clock ticks, the people of Nigeria wait to see if their leaders will take decisive action or if hesitation will lead to another missed opportunity.