• Making Sense Out Of The Oronsaye Report – Independent Newspaper Nigeria

    Making sense out of the oronsaye report independent newspaper nigeria - nigeria newspapers online
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    It came as a pleasant surprise to most people when they heard from the Special Adviser to the President on Policy Co­ordination, Hadiza Usman, while briefing the Villa press corps on Monday, the 26th of March, 2024 that the Federal Executive Council had agreed to dust up the almost forgotten public service reforms recommendations by the Steve Oronsaye Panel on the Restruc­turing and Rationalization of Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions, which was set up by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and the Report submitted timeously in 2012.

    The Committee’s terms of reference were essentially to “re­structure and rationalise” the var­ious bodies comprising the federal government and its mammoth bu­reaucracy which were considered at that time to be unduly bloated to the extent that it became a massive drain on the nation’s fast declining resources and also constituting an insurmountable clog to government efficiency and effectiveness.

    Needless to say today that if indeed the Nigerian government was already over-bloated by 2012, it has today become an albatross and a mammoth obstacle to the fiscal and productive wellbeing of Nigeria. So far, government has become a wayward outlet for dolling out nepotistic and sinecure appointments to people who do not add anything positive to the effi­ciency and effectiveness of public administration in the country – a colossal wastepipe for draining taxpayers’ money.


    The 800-page Report which was presented to President Goodluck Jonathan by the seven-man Com­mittee, in summary, boldly recom­mends the scrapping and merging of 220 out of the 541 government agencies in existence then, the aim being to “streamline opera­tions and eliminate redundan­cies”, a process which was esti­mated to save Nigeria the pretty sum of N862 billion between 2012 and 2015 alone!

    Giving the well-known fact that one of the major reasons why the cost of government in Nigeria is probably one of the highest in the world is the unnecessary duplica­tion of goals and functions across multiple agencies that often end up clogging each other and frus­trate smooth government opera­tions. Another major source of waste in our government is the disproportionately large and glut­tonous Legislature that draws so much of the nation’s resources in the form of stupendous allow­ances and “constituency projects” that have no fiscal parallels any­where in the democratic world.

    All these institutional wastages are in addition to the fact that they all feed on the limited resources of the government which means that what should have been de­ployed to rendering government services to the people in the key areas of health, education, basic infrastructure are being diverted to the payment of unnecessarily bogus salaries and humongous allowances.

    It therefore remains a matter of serious concern that President Jonathan who initiated the good idea ended up merely urging its implementation after a White Pa­per endorsing most of the recom­mendations failed to bring them into fruition immediately and also why President Muhammadu Buhari, who took over from Pres­ident Jonathan, after “reviewing” the Report and issued another White Paper also failed to imple­ment it. What was the scare?

    As a matter of fact, both the Jonathan and Buhari adminis­trations, contrary to the funda­mental principles enunciated in the Oronsaye Report which is the evolution of a leaner and smarter government for the federal gov­ernment which the other tiers of government in the federation were expected to emulate, actu­ally went further to be recklessly creating more wasteful agencies just for the sake of providing jobs “for the boys” and as political pa­tronage and, in some awful cases, as avenues for nepotistic and pa­tronage-disbursement of lucrative offices to only favored individuals irrespective of their lack of capac­ity and requisite qualifications to actualize the “lofty” goals of those agencies.

    It is, therefore, commendable that the present administration has taken the bull by the horns and decided to reconsider the long-abandoned Report and see how it could be conscientiously implemented by demonstrating the elusive political will in policy implementation. It is also note­worthy that this time around, the government did not just proceed to implement it in the usual im­promptu manner without the ini­tial recourse to consultations with all the stakeholders as a matter of responsible governance proce­dure.


    I would suggest that the mem­bers of the Civil Service should be represented on the review Committee because whatever is eventually approved will affect them directly. This is in spite of the assurances so far given by the government that the forthcoming exercise will not adversely affect the employment of workers in those soon-to-be-reformed agen­cies even though it would nec­essarily reduce on the number of those high-earning crowds of CEOs, Chairmen and Executive heads of many agencies.

    The reality now is that in the intervening 12 years since the Oronsaye’s applauded recommen­dations, the number of agencies within the federal government has more than doubled. If the Report thought that 561 agencies were too many in 2012, what would it be saying today that we now have more than a thousand government agencies fighting for operational spaces within FCT and elsewhere?

    It then means that the new Committee must proceed to study and properly understand the fun­damental principles that informed the original recommendations and then proceed to apply them in ra­tionalizing what we have now and in consonant with contemporary realities. Accordingly, if Oron­saye recommended the reduc­tion on the number of agencies in existence then by more than half, this new Committees should not attempt to be reinventing the wheel, it should simply proceed to restrict the size of government agencies to no more than 400 fol­lowing the well-thought-out Oron­saye’s formula. More importantly, a moratorium should be placed on the National Assembly which takes uninformed pride in creat­ing new and fanciful agencies at each of its sitting. This irrespon­sible proliferation of agencies by our parliamentarians must stop.

    The President would be making the work of the Committee even lighter if he could just set the ex­ample of cost-cutting in his gov­ernment by rationalizing the size of his Cabinet and presidential aides at the earliest possible time because, more than anything else, perception is as powerful as reality. This action is necessary because, as been pointed out elsewhere, there is a difference between the “Price of Government” which is more of the spending profile of the particular administration and the “Costs of Government” which re­lates more to the structure of the government in place. Both should be considered pari passu if we are to make progress in seeking for leaner governments.

    It is remarkable that even be­fore the Committee is formally inaugurated, there are already protests from some quarters who will never accede to the idea of cutting the extremely prohibitive costs of government because they have come to believe that govern­ment exists only to cheaply line their private pockets and glutton­ously fulfil their peculiar materi­alistic sense of entitlement to the exclusion of the majority.

    Some people have wisely sug­gested that since Mr. Steve Oron­saye is still alive, the government should directly engage him as an “elderly adviser” to the new im­plementation Committee and seek his take in whatever areas he per­sonally thinks the Report needs further reworking, giving the ben­efits of his hindsight because a lot of water must have passed under the bridge since 2012.

    Like every reform, President Tinubu should expect petty and self-serving resentments and ra­bid personal abuses from those who do not wish the nation well. But if he must succeed in his reform mission, he should, like Ceaser’s wife, be above reproach and that would require his avoid­ance of any allusion to selfishness and overt partisan considerations in the process. Going on interna­tional missions with his children in tow, for example, will only com­plicate the much-needed trust and confidence of an already skeptical public that he means well about cutting costs.

    The current size of the Nigeri­an government must be pruned down drastically if this economy is ever going be able to fulfil the renewed hope of sustainable de­velopment as is often espoused by the government after the massive debilitation it has been subjected to over the years through hedonis­tic governance. If it means cutting costs, starting from the Presiden­cy, through the Legislature and across the entire gamut of gov­ernment across the various tiers of government down to the local government, so be it!

    *Prof Ikhariale is a columnist in the Daily Independent

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