Merging of government’s agencies

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Some of the parastatals and agencies of the Federal Government have become an embarrassing financial baggage that ought to be pruned down through merging and/or scrapping. With over 600 parastatals, with quite a number of them duplicating efforts, coupled with the economic realities of the day, the time has come for a re-visit to the Steve Oronsaye Committee Report which had suggested a pruning down to about 110 agencies only.

No nation which takes itself seriously and which hopes to fight its way out of recession should sustain the number of irrelevant agencies that Nigeria currently maintains. No doubt, the civil service culture of ineptitude, of simply reporting at the office with no work to do throughout the day has become entrenched in the nation’s polity. This unhealthy culture breeds waste and serves as a drain pipe on scarce resources. No businessman, certainly, would manage his or her organisation the way Nigeria is run.

The business will go bankrupt in less than a year. How come, therefore, Nigeria has refused to prune down the number of parastatals long after it became official that some of them are not needed? How come this country has not developed the political will to do things the right way? Is this another example of the failure of the Nigerian State to frontally confront apparently straightforward issues?

This matter recently came up in the Senate when the upper chamber called for a merger of government agencies after reports came in that some government agencies misused Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) between 2012 and 2016. In making the call the Senate referred to the Stephen Oronsaye Panel report which recommended ‘about one hundred parastatals in all for the Federal Government.’ The matter therefore is not new to persons who are familiar with government activities in the country. The real problem is why the government has failed to act on the recommendations till date.

The answer is not far-fetched. Some of the agencies were created as jobs for the boys. It did not matter at the time whether or not other agencies were already charged with the duties being assigned to new ones. This was in the days of ‘anything goes’. In the spirit of extreme frivolity during the time, certain agencies were created to give power to some cronies of the powerful men in the country. While they fed fat from the national patrimony, the economy bled and the people suffered. It was against this background that the Goodluck Jonathan administration set up the Oronsaye Panel to see which of the parastatals should go. After a painstaking examination of the facts on the ground, recommendations based on sound economic reasons were proffered. Alas, as with everything with the government, anything that has to do with serious reform, the government of the day foot-dragged until it was swept out of power.

Although the government that set up the Panel is out of power, the issues have not gone away. We spend too much money on overheads on agencies that could well be done away with. The chief executives spend millions buying official cars, keeping a long retinue of support staff and drain the public purse servicing their personal appetites and godfathers. Some even go to the extent of giving monthly returns to their patrons out of government purse. The scope of the problem is wide and the chain of persons is so long that such practices go undetected for years. We therefore call on the government to act immediately on the Oronsaye Report and put a stop to these unwholesome practices.

All the agencies that were recommended for a merger should be so merged. To be sure there will be no job losses, all the workers in such agencies should be deployed to existing bodies or sent back to their parent ministry. The era of job for the boys is over. Government has to show the way by being prudent in its expenditure profile. Profligacy and undue favour is not part of the deal which the Buhari administration promised the Nigerian people. It is a breach of the unwritten agreement which President Muhammadu Buhari signed with the Nigerian people. The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo should summon the will power and do what is right. This will go a long way to show that the mantra of change of the APC government is not a phantom promise.

Finally, we call on the government to act immediately and save the nation millions of naira which go down the drain through official corruption. It is not only when an individual or a group fiddles with the books that acts of corruption are committed. Sustaining a frivolous chain of money-wasting agencies is a definite case of corruption. The Federal Government should take itself seriously and give hope to the suffering Nigerian masses by ensuring that the proper way of doing things is entrenched.

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