As Buhari Down-Sizes Federal Agencies, Will he Go Far Enough?
By Nnanke Harry Willie
In what appears to be a major revolutionary step, Nigeria’s over-bloated federal agencies and parastatals are set to be rationalized and drastically reduced. This is coming on the heels of President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the implementation of a report submitted by the Jonathan-era presidential committee on restructuring and rationalization of federal government parastatals, commissions and agencies.
The Oransaye report which unsettled a lot of power brokers and stakeholders even during President Jonathan’s regime had made some far-reaching recommendations to cut down the unwieldy number of agencies and departments, commissions and agencies then numbering 541 and sought to scrap or merge those with overlapping or similar functions. As expected, those who had been feeding fat from the system preferred that the status quo be continued. Indeed, in the dog fight that ensued Orosanye was himself accused of corruption and while he struggled to clear his name the nation focused its attention on other issues.
The focus of the Orosanye committee then was to come up with recommendations to make the MDAs more efficient and effective and reduce the huge drain of their operations on the nation’s finances. Incidentally, rather than reducing federal agencies have since ballooned to about 1,000 and counting as it seems most laws passed by the national assembly inserts the establishment of an agency or commission rather than empower existing co-ordinate ones. If indeed President Buhari implements the noble recommendations of this committee, he would be saving the country hundreds of billions of naira as a good number of them are indeed drain-pipes that need to be blocked permanently. In addition, it would signal a new turn in government where politicians give oxygen to the often touted maxim that government is a continuum and work initiated by a preceding administration should be executed by the new one if it is for the benefit of the people and country.
According to Zainab Ahmed the minister of finance, budget and national planning “The president has approved that this administration should implement the Oransanye 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.
She said, “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.”
Nigerians are waiting with bated breath to see how far and when the president’s brief will be implemented as Nigeria and indeed every country of the world grapples with the crippling economic meltdown occasioned by COVID-19 and the crash of the oil market. This is a great opportunity that government should not be used to create needless ‘jobs for the boys’ and government money should not be spent like confetti as has been and is presently the case.