By Usman Aliyu, Abuja
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, recently announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has given approval to the implementation of the Oransaye report with its recommendations which include merger and abolition of several agencies and parastatals of the federal government.
The implementation of the report to a certain degree will need the approval of the National Assembly as some of the agencies are a creation of the law by the federal parliament.
However, over the years and most recently, the position of the National Assembly appears to be in opposite of the Oronsaye report. Members of the National Assembly had sponsored several bills which ultimately will lead to creation of more commissions, agencies, schools and institutions.
There are seven major government agencies considered for scrap.
These agencies are the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, National Poverty Eradication Programme, Utilities Charges Commission (UCC), National Economic Intelligence Committee, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
The implication of abolishment of NAHCON and NCPC is that government will stop sponsoring religious pilgrimage.
In the 103 pages of the white paper, Premium Reporters noted that the Act establishing the listed agencies should be repealed, while also suggesting the merger of other bodies with similar responsibilities.
The document which was prepared by a seven-member committee and inaugurated on 18th August 2011 by the former President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to fully take effect in 2014 but was not implemented.
Nine years after it was inaugurated, Buhari on Thursday, 30th April directed Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and Head of Service (HoS) dr. Folashade Yemi Esan to implement the report so as to prune down the cost of governance, as the COVID-19 pandemic bites hard on the country’s economy.
“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,” said Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“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.”
The Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR), an agency established to initiate government reform policies also acknowledged the changes in a tweet on Thursday.
The ICIR here highlights the functions of the seven agencies listed for scrap.
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) was established in 2007 by the Act of parliament to ensure prudent government expenditure. It also performs almost similar responsibilities with the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The Committee advised that the FRC be closed down, a recommendation which was accepted by the Jonathan-led administration. Mohammed Adoke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former Minister of Justice were further directed to commence needed actions to scrap the commission.
It was agreed that the RMAFC should also perform the responsibilities of FRC while the law establishing the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) should be repealed.
In view of this, activities of the NSIWC are to be governed by the RMAFC Act.
“The Committee recommends that the fiscal responsibility commission be abolished and its enabling law repealed as RMAFC is already empowered by the Constitution to carry out the functions,” it stated.
National Poverty Eradication Programme
The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) is an initiative of the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, designed in 2001 to help reduce poverty in the country.
But, it is part of the programmes pencilled for scrap. The committee recommended that NAPEP should be integrated into a new organisation known as the National Agency for Job Creation and Empowerment (NAJCE) alongside Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDAN) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
While the federal government agreed to scrap NAPEP, it rejected NAJCE.
Utilities Charges Commission (UCC)
The Utilities Charges Commission is an agency of the FG established under Cap Law in 2004 and amended in 2016. It is meant to monitor charges and advise the government on tariffs charged by any of the public utilities.
The Oronsaye Committee, however, advised that the law which sets up the commission be abolished and other enabling laws repealed. Existing staff of the commission were directed to be redeployed to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation; since the workers are public servants.
“Government accepts this recommendation and directs that the process of repealing the enabling law should be initiated by the OSGF,” the document stated.
National Economic Intelligence Committee
The National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) Act (1994) domiciled in the Presidency has the responsibility to analyse the annual budget and enforce fiscal measures that could help achieve revenue targets, grow the economy and other related matters such as tax evasion.
The 13-member committee is empowered to monitor monetary guidelines issued by the Central Bank on Nigeria (CBN), enforce existing tax regulations and give situation report of its activities on a quarterly basis to the president.
“The NEIC should be scrapped and its enabling law repealed, and further budgetary allocations to NEIC cease forthwith,” the Commission recommended.
Federal Road Safety Corps
Further, the Committee also recommended the disbandment of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
Though the advice was rejected by the past administration, the committee argued that road safety management and highway patrol should be the primary responsibility of the Police as obtainable in other developed nations.
The FRSC officials, the committee added should be redeployed to the Police Service Commission (PSC), Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) and the Vehicle Inspection Office in the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA)
Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) and National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)
The Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) and National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) are among federal government agencies the committee advised should be scrapped.
Oronsaye’s report said rather than sponsoring pilgrims, the government should restrict itself to providing the needed vaccines and consular supports.
Functions of the commissions were asked to be taken over by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Though the Jonathan administration rejected recommendations for these two commissions, it is unclear if the current government would accept it, considering the current economic reality in the country and global oil market.
“The federal government should stop sponsoring pilgrims and pilgrimages with effect from the 2012 fiscal year, and government stop granting concessionary foreign exchange rate to pilgrims,” the Committee advised.