Membership of all governing boards, councils, government agencies, parastatals and commissions must be drastically reduced if the proposed implementation of the Steve Oronsaye panel’s report on the restructuring of the federal service is to be effective, the Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ) has said.
Last week, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said the government had commenced the implementation of the recommendations of the report as part of its strategy to raise money to finance the huge deficit in the 2020 budget.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy has worsened the situation in the Nigerian economy, with crude oil prices crashing to the lowest level in almost two decades.
The resultant dwindling revenue flows to the government coffers necessitated the drastic review of the 2020 Budget fundamentals and a 30 per cent cut in the overall approved appropriation by over N1.5 trillion.
The plan to exhume and implement the recommendations of the Oronsaye Panel Report, the Minster said, was part of efforts to explore internal sources to raise alternatives funding for the over N2 trillion deficit in the Budget.
CENSOJ noted that a situation where each governing board, council of government agencies, parastatals and commissions had more than seven members was not helpful in cuttimg down cost of governance.
“The member of these governing boards, council of government agencies, parastatals and commissions should not be more than seven. Besides, the composition should be based strictly on merit and competence.
“Also, a single seven-member board should be appointed to serve and oversee all the River Basin Development Authorities in the country as against the current practice of one board per River Basin Development Authority,” the Lead Director of CENSOJ, Eze Onyekpere, said in Abuja on Saturday.
Apart from asking the river basin authorities to account for the tens of hectares of land placed at their disposal, Mr Onyekpere said they should also be made to become revenue generating agencies “rather than mere cost centres to guzzle large appropriations.”
At the inauguration of the Oronsaye Committee in 2006, its terms of reference included, among others, to examine the enabling Acts and mandates of all the federal agencies, parastatals and commissions determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions.
The committee was also asked to make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap overlaps, duplications or redundancies, to help government prune down the cost of governance.
Mr Onyekpere said beyond reducing the cost of governance, Nigeria also needs to improve productivity through the restructuring exercise.
Consequently, he called on the federal government to halt the proliferation and duplication of research institutes and agencies through mergers and also establish the National Research Development Fund to grant all research institutes competitive research funding.
On the convergence of functions, CENSOJ said the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should be merged with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and National Space Research Development Agency (NASRDA) with the Nigerian Communication Satellite Ltd (NigComSat);.
Other agencies the Centre wants merged included the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) and the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN); the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Federal Competitions & Consumer Protection Commission and the Department of Weights and Measures.
Also, the Centre wants the government to merge Nigerian Export Promotion Council and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council; and the Nigerian Export Processing Zone and the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority.
Considering the secular/multi religious nature of the Nigerian society, Mr Onyekpere said the government should immediately scrap the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission and the National Hajj Commission.
“Religion is a private affair of citizens which should not be funded by the State,” he said.
On petroleum industry reforms, Mr Onyekpere said while the petroleum and gas sector reforms should be pursued through the passage of a progressive Petroleum Industry Bill, the legislative process on this Bill should be expedited.
He stressed the need for staff and management audit in all tertiary institutions, including teaching hospitals considering the administrative staff far outnumber the core staff of these institutions.
The Centre urged the government to cut the size of the federal cabinet below 15 through the amendment of the Constitution, as well as limit the number of assistants and advisers to the President.
“Again, the government should ensure that all Bills pending before the National Assembly seeking to set up new agencies should be reviewed for duplicity or overlap of functions and an evaluation of the cost of implementation.”
The Oronsaye Presidential Committee on reform of government agencies had recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161.
During its assignment, the committee also discovered there were a total of 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies (statutory and non-statutory) in the country.