Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, former Head of Service of the Federation

…as he orders implementation of public sector restructuring

By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

As the government ponders the full impact and the long time negative effect the COVID-19 will have on the economy, the desire to cut down on the cost of governance has become inevitable. This has led to the reversion to the presidential committee set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan to reform the public service to streamline it for effectiveness and cost-cutting purposes.

Towards this end, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally approved the implementation of the Steve Oronsaye Report, which was submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration before he left office.

The Oronsaye committee

The Stephen Oronsaye was then the immediate past head of service of the federation, and his appointment was generally welcome as appropriate having managed the system himself. The Oronsanya-led committee was given a mandate of August 18, 2011, to among others, identify civil service inadequacies. Among others, its terms of reference included:”

“To study and review all previous reports and records on the restructuring of Federal Parastatals and advise on whether they were still relevant; examine the enabling Acts of all the Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions and classify them into various sectors; examine critically, the mandate of the existing Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions and determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions and make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap some to eliminate such overlaps, duplications or redundancies; and  advise on any other matter incidental to the foregoing which might be relevant to the desire of Government to prune down the cost of governance.”

In its report submitted, the committee said then that there were 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies (statutory and non-statutory) in the country and consequently recommended a downsizing in the number of statutory agencies from 263 to 161. At present, the number of federal agencies has since ballooned close to 1,000.

Based on the revised report, the Buhari administration has endorsed the merger of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, and Nigerian meteorological services, NIMET.

Recall that the white paper on Orasonye’s Presidential Committee on restructuring and rationalization of FG parastatals, commissions and agencies which the federal government made public last week has buttressed early speculation on likely merger of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) to form Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA).

Also to be merged is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). The report also suggests the merger of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Vehicle Inspectorate (VIO) since their functions are similar.

According to the report, some agencies that may be affected if Federal Government’s White Paper is ultimately given teeth include the Federal Civil Service Commission, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, National Poverty Eradication Programme, Utilities Charges Commission, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET).

On the line also are the National Teachers Institute, Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa,  Nigerian Institute for Education Planners and Administrators, Specialty Hospitals, Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Projects Development Institute (PRODA), National Council for Arts and Culture, National Commission for Museums and Monuments; and National Gallery of Arts, Industrial Training Fund.

Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, in an interview on Channels Television, Monday said: “The president has approved that this administration should implement the Oronsaye report. It has reviewed the whole of the size of government and has made very significant recommendations in terms of reducing the number of agencies and that would mean merging some agencies.

“This is a report that has been in place for a long time and there hasn’t been implementation but the president has approved that this should be implemented and we have conveyed Mr President’s approval to the arms of government that are responsible for this and that will be the office of the secretary of government and the head of the civil service of the federation.”

Part of the recommendation is the merger of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and Consumer Protection Council. It is also recommended that statutory agencies under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy are either to be fully commercialized or firmly positioned as regulatory bodies or independent businesses with the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the implementation of the Oronsaye Report eight years after it was submitted.

It would be recalled that the 800-page report by the committee has recommended the abolishment and merging of 102 government agencies and parastatals. In particular, it advised the government to abolish 38 federal agencies, merge 52, and the reversion of 14 agencies to departments in relevant ministries.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) will retain its position as an IT regulatory body. The Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Limited and Nigerian Postal Agency (NIPOST) will be offloaded for commercialisation to attract private investments. The government will retain an only minority stake in NigComSat while Galaxy Backbone Limited (GBL) will be further positioned to run like a private business entity servicing IT infrastructural needs of government and non-government organisations.

The Report had advised that the duties and role of NITDA be taken over by its overseer-ministry to function as a department in that ministry. But the government has since jettisoned this advice and ruled that the NITDA will “continue to remain as an agency under … the enabling law.”

However, Government has approved recommendations in the Oronsaye Report that it “sells off its shares in NigComSat, retains minority shares, ceases budgetary allocations to the NigComSat and its functions that relate to space development be reverted to the National Space Research Development Agency (NASRDA).

The Committee is said to recommend that NIPOST be fully commercialized and Galaxy Backbone be appropriately restructured to meet its set objectives as a business entity. The committee sternly advised the federal government to stop the funding of professional bodies including the likes of the Computer Professionals’ Registration Council among others.