• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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48 ministers: Tinubu side-steps Oronsaye report

When the news broke in June that the Federal Government has saved about N400 billion in four weeks from the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, many commended the development, hoping that it signals the new administration’s focus on cutting cost.

Though, it is not clear what the savings would be used for, the fact that the government’s effort has yielded good results impressed many.

Sadly, and once again, the promises of cutting the very high cost of running government in Nigeria by the past administrations and the present seem all rhetoric as President Bola Tinubu with 48 ministers, sets a new record for highest number of ministers since 1999.

The Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration had reviewed the list from initial 42 to 27 ministers as well as reduced the number of ministries to 40. Musa Umar Yar’Adua appointed 39, Goodluck Jonathan had 33, while Muhammadu Buhari named 36 and 42 ministers during his first and second terms respectively.

With 48 ministerial nominees, who are being screened by the Senate, and who are most likely going to pass the screening, the new administration is upholding the old tradition, jettisoning Steve Oronsaye report on cutting cost and putting unnecessary pressure on the nation’s lean resources, amid one of the worst economic hardships in the history of the country.

On April 16, 2012, the Steve Oronsaye Committee submitted an 800-page report, known as the Report on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, which recommended the abolition and merger of 102 government agencies and parastatals, while some were listed to be self-funding.

It followed the unsuccessful attempts by successive administrations to reduce the number of federal government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as a cost-cutting measure.

As it stands, the 48 ministers mock the cost-cutting measures, which were part of the campaign promises of the new administration.

“The bloated ministerial list is because the many elements and interests that worked to see the new government in power have to be settled,” Aaron Nnodi, former commissioner in Abia State, said.

According to Nnodi, who has gone back to lecture in his state university, “if you allow the politicians, the list can get up to 100 nominees and if possible, they will create more ministries because this is settlement time.”

He also warned that the bloated ministerial list would put pressure on the national treasury, especially now that the economy is in a very bad shape.

Toeing the same line, Samuel Onikiyo, a Nigerian academia in Brussels, Belgium, noted that the new administration, which started by removing subsidy, a clear cost-cutting measure, should further the trend by trimming the ministerial list to reflect the economic reality of the country.

“Yes, removing subsidy is cutting costs. But bringing too many dependents on government’s lean resources in the name of ministers and appointees, at this time, will make nonsense of the good intention of the cost-cutting measures. I think the new government should apply austerity measures in its operations now,” Onikoyi said.

But Ademola Afe, a lawyer, disclosed that politicians will always remain politicians. “The flamboyant, extravagance and settlement of loyalists, which politicians are known for, will always continue.

“It is even when there is no money that the political class shows off. So, the many ministers being screened are representing many interests that must be taken care of. Remember, there is another election after four years,” Afe said.

Speaking further, Afe said the recent inclusion of Festus Keyamo on the list and replacement of Maryam Shetty from Kano with Mairiga Mahmud, are part of taking care of interests and rewarding loyalists.

“When it comes to sharing appointments, the politicians are after their interests and not necessarily competence, if not Nigeria would not have been in this economic quagmire if competent ministers had been in charge since 1999,” he noted.

Considering the development, pundits think that the president is settling his colleagues, friends and even enemies that played one or two roles in his victory at the presidential election.

But they beg that there should be competent hands among the ministers and not all about politics as the country is in a very bad shape at present.

Another school of thought noted that implementing Steve Oronsaye’s report would help the new government in cutting, hence urged President Bola Tinubu not to ignore the report and also desist from the old tradition of governance, which has seen the country waste resources that would have built the economy if saved and utilised properly.

Nigerians want Tinubu’s administration to cut excessive like; the outrageous allowances to federal lawmakers, selling off several planes on the President’s fleet, reduction in the number of cars in the convoy of top government officials, especially the President and governors.

There are also calls for the pruning of government expenditures, checking leakages in budget and other expenditures of government at all levels.

Such measures would be seen as sharing in the pain of the moment which calls for even more sacrifices from the citizenry.

“As we commend the government’s courage in enacting a series of policies, we trust that the government would be courageous enough to cut the cost of governance.

“This will demonstrate to Nigerians that the leaders share in the suffering and sacrifice of the people,” Michael Olawale-Cole, president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said.

Olawale-Cole noted that the perks available to public office holders are so enormous that it is difficult for the average Nigerian to understand why they suffer so much and those in leadership are unaffected.

Speaking recently at the inauguration lecture which was part of activities that was lined up for Tinubu’s swearing-in, Akinwunmi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said the bloated size of government comes with high cost of public sector expenditure and its negative impact on the development process in the country.

“The cost of governance in Nigeria is way too high and should be drastically reduced to free up more resources for development. Nigeria is spending very little on development.

“Today, Nigeria is ranked among countries with the lowest human development index in the world, with a rank of 167 among 174 countries globally, according to the World Bank 2022 Public Expenditure Review report,” Adesina said.

Observers say Tinubu has gone back on his promise to run a cabinet of mostly technocrats to favour his cronies. He also failed short of his campaign promise to have 35 percent women in his cabinet.

Many are particularly upset at his recycling of some politicians, especially former governors who failed in their states.

There are those who believe that Tinubu’s emergence makes him indebted to lots of career politicians, with the road he took to the Villa. It is their belief that what may be playing out now is a calculated effort to repay a lot of politicians “I owe you.”

His ministerial list is packed with career politicians who must be compensated for their contributions for his electoral victory.

“The list is more of a compensation list than a ministerial list. Of course, there are career politicians who are also technocrats but can’t we have a departure from the old order?

“Must we continue to recycle the same people who are the abiding symbol of Nigeria’s current woe?” Tope Musowo, research fellow, Partnership for African Social and Governance Research/Carnegie Corporation of New York,” said.

Read also: Ministerial nominee list misses the female affirmative benchmark

Musowo added that there was the probability that when politicians are many in the cabinet the desired objectives may not be realised.

“Nigerians have that fear that when too many career politicians populate the government; politics will take precedence over governance.

“Politicians think about the next election and would not mind sacrificing good governance on the altar of party politics,” he added.

Babatunde Olanrewaju, a politician, said some of those appointed did not merit it and were rewarded for loyalty.

“They must be in one political office all their life; they are those who manipulated him into office. So, compensation beholds. I bet that most of them have nothing to offer. Look back into how they handle their previous offices,” Olanrewaju said.