• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Needless duplication of government agencies

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Earlier this month, Nigerians were rattled by the decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) led by President Mohammed Buhari to establish what it called Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency saddled with the responsibility of managing proceeds of crimes in Nigeria. A bill to that effect is already on its way to the National Assembly for passage into law.

We see no justification for this new agency as the action amounts to duplication of functions and policy summersault. This is also tantamount to the federal government telling the world that looting has become part of our national life and has come to stay. We recall that the same government had plans to streamline over a thousand federal agencies. What has happened to that decision which was hailed by local and foreign experts?

Already, two agencies have been created by this same administration – The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the Police Trust Fund. By the time the new agency comes on stream, the cost of governance will double. States will also have similar institutions.

Why can’t we understudy serious nations who have effectively used law mechanisms to successfully galvanise national spirit through good leadership and motivation to encourage good behaviour and have eliminated or reduced looting of public funds? Instead of doing that, our policies create more burden than solve existing problems. It will not be a surprise if the new agency in the works ends up in the looting bucket.

We recall that during Buhari’s electoral campaign in 2015, he promised to run a lean government. And on May 1, 2020, he ordered the implementation of the Steve Oronsaye Report on the rationalisation of federal parastatals and agencies six years after it was submitted to his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

In that speech, Buhari said he approved the implementation of the report because of dwindling resources caused by the collapse of crude oil prices and the costs of COVID-19. So, economic realities are the trigger for the decision.

The Presidential Committee on reform of government agencies headed by Orosonye in its report recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161. The policy was to, among others, help to avoid duplication in governance structures, and ensure effective implementation of decisions.

Others are to help the federal government to save cost across all sectors, derive valuable contributions from board members, restrict membership of boards of parastatals to a moderate size of seven – except where a framework had been predetermined – and base appointment of members on competence and proven integrity.

The government action also runs contrary to expert advice from the international community, especially the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank which recently advised African countries including Nigeria to cut down the cost of governance in view of the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the global economy as well as crash in the international crude oil price.

It is surprising that a government which adopted measures such as increase in Value Added Tax from 5 percent to 7.5 percent, electricity tariff hike, petroleum products subsidy removal, all aimed at cutting down cost and improving revenue would thereafter turn round to create more institutions.

Over the past six years, the Buhari administration has created several commissions and agencies. In his first term, President Buhari had 36 ministers; in his second, he increased the number to 43. Recently, the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo said, “there is no question that we are dealing with a large and expensive government.” Sadly, the Buhari government has played lip service to the cost-of-governance problem.

It is painful to note that, in today’s Nigeria, infrastructure in the various sectors are dilapidated. Some federal ministries and agencies still owe salaries of civil and public servants. Pensioners, who had worked meritoriously for a number of years, yet were paid meagre salaries during their years in service, pass through untold hardship when they retire to get what is duly their right as pensions and gratuities. The on-going ravaging coronavirus pandemic has exposed the deplorable state of the nation’s facilities.

It is also unfortunate that during this period when starvation is staring people in the face, when Nigeria was classified as the poverty capital of Nigeria, what the government is thinking of is increasing the cost of governance.

For us and many other Nigerians like us, this is unacceptable. Definitely, as a country, we cannot continue as if nothing is at stake. The future of this country must be paramount over any primordial interest. Anything that would add to the overhead cost of running governance should be taken out.