• Thursday, December 07, 2023
businessday logo


How Nigerian leaders failed to rein in governance costs


Since independence in 1960, successive Nigerian governments have constituted at least a dozen different panels to trim the bloated civil service, rein in out-sized governance costs and make the public service fit for purpose.

These measures have failed and President Bola Tinubu, who campaigned on fixing Nigeria’s broken government, following the widely acclaimed incompetence of his predecessor, has a blueprint in the Oronsaye report.

An analysis of various academic research and expert opinions on efforts to reform Nigeria’s civil service leads to the conclusion that it remains bloated, corrupt, and unfit for purpose because politicians lacked the political will to enforce measures recommended by panels they formed.

Some of the political leaders are bogged down by their own corruption such that implementing some of the measures could cut off access to patronage systems or the cover through which corruption festers.

Nigeria’s civil service structure is a creation of colonial Britain. It was narrowly structured to enable colonial masters to extract value – financial and material resources needed to exact control, according to research by Rosemary Anazodo of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria, and others published in an academic journal.

Transparency, professionalism, and accountability were not counted as important features, and the Nigerians who succeeded the colonialists followed in the same tradition, leading to wanton corruption, nepotism and inefficiency.

“The Nigeria bureaucrats who occupied the leadership position in the civil service imbibed the colonial mentality of wealth acquisition for self-aggrandisement,” Anazodo said.

After independence, the Nigerianisation policy in the civil service was created to reduce expatriate predominance in the civil service but it led to the regionalisation of the Nigerian civil service, where tribe rather than competence formed the basis for recruitment.

Three years after independence, the Morgan Salaries and Wages Commission was created in 1963, to review salaries and wages of workers because of an unbearable high cost of living in the country.

The commission recommended a review of the grading of officers and corresponding salary structure to take care of the discrepancies in various parts of the country on a uniform salary grade level, conditions of service and uniform remuneration for officers performing the same duty in different parts of the country.

Some of the recommendations would have removed the motivation for corruption in the civil service but it was turned down. The Adebo Commission (1971) insisted on a wage review and recommended that a public service commission be established.

However, the Yakubu Gowon regime was marked by grand corruption. Civil servants served the interests of bureaucrats and those engaged in the accumulation of public resources for private gain. Reports detail strategies they employ to corrupt administrators.

General Gowon set up the Udoji Public Service Review Commission in 1974 and it called for a massive overhaul of the entire public service to make it more professional.

The Udoji Public Service Review called for a modern management system. Other recommendations included a unified grading structure to embrace all posts in the civil service, salary to depend on job content and performance, promotion to be based on merit, public sector composition to be in line with that of the private sector, finance and personnel management to be modernised, the introduction of code of ethics, motivation of workers, manpower development, the term administration to be changed to management, among others.

In time, these recommendations failed due to institutional weakness, cultural challenges and lack of political will. Business as usual continued until the gale of General Murtala Muhammed’s administration which upended and hollowed out the Nigerian civil service.

In 1975, General Murtala Mohammed inaugurated the Public Service Commission (Disciplinary Proceedings), and immediately purged the civil service of those it considered not useful. His anti-corruption crusade spread to the entire public service, and led to the dismissal of over 10,000 public servants nationwide.

Analysts say this created new problems as competent civil servants were dismissed in the purge.

In 1988, General Ibrahim Babangida constituted the Philips Civil Service Review Panel to streamline the public service along the lines of the presidential system of government, with the purpose of making the public service responsive to the Structural Adjustment Programme.

“One of the recommendations of the review was that professional heads of ministries be called Directors-General (DG) instead of Permanent Secretaries,” said a study by Asmau Sani Maikudi, for the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa.

In 1995, General Sani Abacha set up the Allison Ayida Panel on Civil Service Reforms, and based on its recommendation, the Provisional Ruling Council directed that the post of DG should revert back to the status of Permanent Secretary and should be the accounting officer of the ministry.

President Olusegun Obasanjo got his chance in the early 2000s to set up the Bureau for Public Service Reform to, among other things, streamline and set a minimum standard in terms of staff strength and remuneration for public service.

Under President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria embarked upon its most comprehensive reform to its public service. In August 2011, he set up a seven-member Presidential Committee led by Stephen Oronsaye, former head of service, to advise on the restructuring and rationalisation of the Federal Government’s agencies, parastatals and commissions.

The committee had a critical directive to “examine critically, the mandate of the existing federal agencies, parastatals and commissions and determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions and make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap some to eliminate such overlaps, duplications or redundancies; and advise on any other matter incidental to the preceding which might be relevant to the desire of government to prune down the cost of governance”.

The report revealed a high level of competition among several overlapping agencies, which had not only created ill feelings among government agencies but also brought about unnecessary wastage in government expenditure.

The report also made far-reaching recommendations regarding the streamlining of the overstuffed and ineffective public sector. The report recommended, among other things, the discontinuation of government funding of professional bodies and councils. The measures were primarily aimed at freeing funds for much-needed capital projects across the country.

Tinubu’s government has signalled the willingness to implement some of the report recommendations, with the recent announcement that it would stop funding professional bodies and councils from the 2024 budget cycle in line with the decisions of the Presidential Committee on Salaries.

He is stirring the country towards a market-led economic system, and analysts say a bloated, corrupt, and ineffectual public service would be an albatross.

Thanks for sharing!Mail received.Congratulations!