Uche Usim, James Ojo, Isaac Anumihe, Ndubuisi Orji, Fred Itua and Okwe Obi, Abuja
From post-independence, the Federal Government has consciously nurtured a profligate system where various agencies and departments of ministries parade bloated and redundant workforce that waste the nation’s resources via fat yearly budgetary spend.
Aside contending with the high number of moribund agencies and the haemorrhaging effects on the economy, the government is still battling to weed out ghost workers leeching on its lean purse.
Data from the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies shows that Nigeria currently has 719 federal agencies. Out of that figure, 111 of them were created between 1999 and 2018.
Checks by Sunday Sun, however, revealed that not all the 111 establishments are entirely new as few had their Acts amended to reflect current realities and accommodate broader responsibilities.
Again, between 2015 and 2018 (President Buhari’s first tenure), 11 fresh parastatals were established via Acts of parliament. Among them are; National Senior Citizens Centre (Act 2018); Northeast Development Commission (Establishment Act 2017), Air Force Institute of Technology (Establishment Act 2017) and National Institute of Mining and Geo-Sciences, Jos (Act 2017).
In the 2020 appropriation document submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are to spend N4.88 trillion on recurrent expenditure out of an entire budget of N10.33 trillion.
With recurrent expenditure gulping 70 per cent of the MDAs annual budget, virtually all of them perform a 100 per cent in this area, but perform abysmally in the capital spend of 30 per cent.
This, according to economic experts, explains why the country is burdened with perennial infrastructural rot. The rot in turn has dwarfed local production, constraining the country to rely heavily on receipts from exported crude and imported consumables.
From 2015-2018, funding gap for capital projects in Nigeria stood at N2.03 trillion.
The breakdown shows that the Federal Government released the sum of N5.41 trillion to its MDAs for the implementation of capital projects.
The amount, which was released by the Ministry of Finance, to cover various capital projects as approved in the national budget of each of the four years, exclude the trillions of naira spent on recurrent expenditure.
N722.2 billion was allocated for capital projects in the 2015 fiscal period from the total budget of N4.49 trillion for that year.
Out of the N722.2 billion, the sum of N557 billion was actually released for capital projects implementation leaving a funding shortfall of N165.2 billion.
In the 2016 budget, the sum of N1.58 trillion was allocated for capital projects out of the total annual budget of N6.06 trillion.
From the N1.58 trillion, the sum of N1.21 trillion was released for capital projects execution, leaving a funding shortfall of N368 billion.
For the 2017 fiscal period, the sum of N2.36 trillion was allocated for capital projects out of the total annual budget of N7.44 trillion.
From the N2.36 trillion allocated for capital project in that year, N1.56 trillion was released leaving a funding gap of about N800 billion.
For the 2018 budget, further analysis showed that the sum of N2.87 trillion was budgeted for capital projects out of which N2.07 trillion had been released as at May 14.
Disturbingly, this anomaly was not corrected in the 2020 appropriation document as N2.46 trillion was allotted for capital expenditure for an administration claiming it wants to slash government’s overhead cost with a N4.88 trillion allocation.
According to analysts, the age-long challenge of swelling the number of agencies is worsened by dirty politics, especially after the nation returned to democracy in 1999.
They reckon that most of the newly-created parastatals have overlapping functions with existing ones, but have been sustained because they are to primarily feather politicians’ nests, without recourse to the value added.
But with dwindling oil receipts amid gloomy global economic regime, the government seems to have been jolted to reality as efforts are being intensified in recent times to curb wastages in the system.
A seasoned economic analyst and the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere told Sunday Sun that the government has come to a point where it can no longer play politics with the economy.
“The economy is in crisis. It’s time to merge some of these agencies. There are some that should be scrapped off completely so we can release more funds for capital expenditure.
“You cannot use my tax to pay those doing nothing or rendering no service. The days of Father Christmas are over.
“I’m totally in support of the job done by the Orasanye committee. The report should be implemented, unless the government is not serious to check wastages in the system”, he said.
Interestingly, the Senate recently reopened the matter of bloated and redundant agencies, raising the alarm that out of 719 government agencies over a hundred were dormant.
A cross section of students and young entrepreneurs who spoke with Sunday Sun said that they have not heard nor understood the functions of scores of government agencies.
Precious Johnson, a university student said: “I’m a final year student and yet, I don’t know where the National Senior Citizens Centre is. I’ve an aged grandmother. I can take her there and let us see what they can help her with in any area of life.
“But where is it? Even the agency for enterprises do not have a functional and interactive website. Something is wrong with us”.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has warned that any federal worker not captured on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by October 31 would not be paid his monthly salary.
The move, he said, was one Federal Government’s efforts aimed at managing personnel costs in line with its fight against corruption.
He added that all agencies of government must obtain permission and follow due process as they embark on any recruitment exercise.
Restructuring and rationalization
While the government scampers around for ways to reduce MDAs expenditure, the 2014 White Paper on the report of the Presidential committee on restructuring and rationalization of Federal Government parastatals, commissions and agencies chaired by Dr Stephen Orasanye, made useful recommendations to the government on ways to achieve that.
In some cases, the government accepted the recommendations, but never acted on it till date.
For instance, the committee recommended that the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and its law be repealed because its functions were already being carried out by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC).
While the government accepted that recommendation and directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to initiate the necessary action for the abolition of the commission, no action of such has been taken till date.
Again, in government’s efforts to cut cost, the Orasanye Committee recommended that National Commission for Refugees (NCR) be merged with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and become one agency.
According to the committee, this will obviate inter-institutional wrangling, unnecessary overlap of functions and in the process enhance the development of operational and organizational synergy in the overall interest of the welfare of the victims of disasters and forced movements. For reasons best known to it, the government rejected the recommendation, thus lending credence to the public’s view that it was not willing to cut cost and engender an efficient system.
With regards to the Public Complaints Commission, the committee recommended that the agency be abolished, the enabling laws repealed and budgetary allocations stopped. This is because most Nigerians say they do not feel the impact of PCC.
The government rejected the proposal despite public insistence of not feeling the impact of PCC.
For the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), the committee recommended that the agency be scrapped and its functions transferred to the new body that will emerge from the merger of the National Directorate of Employment and Small & Medium Enterprises Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). The Federal Government accepted to scrap NAPEP only, however, Nigerians are yet to feel the impact the scrapping as poverty alleviation programmes are yet to trickle down to the masses.
Still on cost cutting measures, the committee recommended that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) be merged with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and accord it independence and autonomy. The move, according to the committee will strengthen the parastatal. But the government rejected the recommendation.
The committee also recommended that the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and Voice Of Nigeria (VON) be merged as their functions appear duplicitous if they remained separate entities. But the government rejected the recommendation.
Another effort by the committee to reduce the federal government’s bloated parastatals was the recommendation that the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN) be merged with the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) since both agencies are strictly for human-capital development. Again, the government rejected the recommendation.
For the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), the committee recommended that the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) subsumes the functions of Service Compact with all Nigerians (SERVICOM) in order to serve as a veritable platform for driving the Transformation Agenda and other reform programmes of the government, and that the strengthened Bureau should be domiciled in the State House; but the government rejected the proposal, asking both agencies to collaborate instead.
The National Livestock Development Project in Kaduna State is one agency Nigerians barely knew existed as it has largely remained redundant and almost unheard of. While the committee recommended that NLDP Kaduna maintained its status as a special purpose programme to encourage animal production in the country, economic watchers insist the project remains a drain pipe used in frittering away the nation’s scarce resources. They equally call for its scrapping as it has failed to curb the incessant farmers-herders clashes. It has also not helped in Livestock production forcing the government to come up with a fresh National Livestock Development Programme in partnership with the states.
The committee also recommended that the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) be subsumed along with the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) under the NUC to form the proposed tertiary education regulatory body to be known as the Tertiary Education Commission, but the government rejected the recommendation, preferring they remain as individual agencies with separate budgets.
The committee also recommended that the Nigeria Copyright Commission and the Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment be brought together as an agency and their mandate streamlined to ensure greater efficiency. It also advised that the enabling laws of the Nigeria Copyright Commission and the Commercial Law Department be repealed and a new law enacted to reflect the proposed merger of the two bodies. This has not secured legislative nod and they are still operating individually.
A peep into an agency like the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission (NIWRMC) with the mandate to license and regulate borehole drilling has been largely docile in the discharge of its duties.
When Sunday Sun sought to know why it has not been clamping down on people who illegally drill boreholes for commercial purposes, a source said: “We do not have the finances to move around. We spend over N35 million annually on rent. We are about to relocate because the building is not only leaking, but it is shaking and at the verge of collapse. In 2017 appropriation bill, it gulped N271. 9 million.
Another seemingly redundant agency is the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Its mandate as enacted by the National Assembly Act of 2007, is to promote all animal science activities and welfare of animals to effect efficient and scientific production.
However, a source said it had a heated debate with the Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN) on who is empowered to do what because both share similar responsibilities. The agency’s budget in 2017 was N410.3 million.
More so, the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria (ACRN), an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, empowered to coordinate and supervise research institutes in Nigeria, has reportedly not lived up to its expectations, given the poor output of research outcomes in agriculture sector.
Even the then Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, tackled it for not justifying its mandate despite enjoying N911.5 million as budgetary allocation in 2017 budget.
The Senate and House of Representatives have expressed willingness to target critical sectors within the next four years that will have a direct bearing on the people.
Speaking during the consideration of the Legislative Agenda of the Ninth Assembly, the legislators identified scrapping of some MDAs, merging others priority issues to be looked into.
President of the Senate, in his remarks, lamented that most of the 719 agencies were getting annual budgetary allocations without anything tangible to show for it.
He assured that some of the MDAs will either be scrapped outrightly or merged with parent ministries to minimise cost and reduce annual recurrent expenditure of the Federal Government.
While mandating the Senate Committee on Establishments to take up the matter, Lawan noted that some of the agencies were created to meet certain demands in the past that are no longer relevant today.
He said: “I believe that many agencies of government are unnecessary. Some are just there receiving budgets and doing nothing. We have over 700 MDAs. We will either merge them or totally scrap them. They are just moribund.
“We don’t have the funds to spend like that. We need to get rid of them. Some of the agencies were created at a time and they’re not useful anymore. Our committee on Establishments will have to handle that. We will budget the budget for other sectors. We can’t continue to do the same thing.”
Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, in his remarks, urged his colleagues to consider scrapping some of the MDAs in order to reduce the country’s annual overhead cost.
He also urged the Senate to change the current system where annual recurrent expenditure makes up about 70 per cent of the yearly budget, while capital is left with meagre 30 per cent.
He said if the country must develop, more funds must be devoted to critical sectors like infrastructure, education, health and others that will have direct bearing on the economy.
Kalu said: “How can a country with almost 1,000 parastatals make progress? We should shutdown those parastatals. They are too many and yet we complain that there is no money for development.
“The paratstals should go back to the ministries. They should go back to the ministries because they are too many and we are here creating more. This is not how the economy would work.
“I would like to see the 9th Senate think about a lean government and big enterprises so that we can move forward otherwise, we shall just be here doing budget every year and we shall not yield any result.
“We must have a small government and big enterprises so the Nigerian people can enjoy their money. The budget allocation pattern must change.”
“Based on the budget, we cannot be having 30 per cent capital expenditure and 70 per cent recurrent. It is not workable; it’s the more reason most of our nation’s infrastructure are not working. It’s also the reason our security agencies lack funds to purchase ammunition and equipment.
“I want this current Senate to do what it can to reverse this trend because we cannot make progress with this kind of trend, it is not working.
“The capital must be 70 per cent and the recurrent should be 30 per cent if truly we want our system to work. If we continue with this trend, the N9 trillion budget, which we shall be deliberating on next week will make no meaningful impact on the people.
“Today, due to insecurity, the people are no longer interested in farming unlike how it used to be. Security should be also be a more primary concern on what we do everyday in this Senate.
“The 9th Senate should also pay more attention to Agriculture and not just Agriculture for producing food only.
“The software of any democracy in the world is the rule of law. As Nigerians, if we imbibe the character by aligning to the rule of law whereby both State, federal, agencies of government respect the orders and the rule of law, then we shall begin to make a head way as a nation.”
Labour/legislative showdown imminent
There may be a face-off between the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the legislators should the Senate go ahead to scrap some perceived redundant MDAs as threatened by the Senate President.
This is because the TUC has insisted that there are no redundant MDAs and that the government was at a loss on how to reduce public expenditure.
Comrade Ayodele Olorunfemi of the TUC said that it was a sign of desperation and lack of planning on the part of the government to ascertain that the country has bogus parastatals and agencies.
“No agency of government without an enabling law which defines its areas of operations and the benefits to the society.
“It is unfortunate that this government and its predecessor have been reactionary to developmental issues which the established agencies were designed to achieve.
“Unlike the Obasanjo era when government actions were based on planning and implementation, resistance was better managed, but what we are witnessing now is a replica of military approach to governance which must be resisted.
“Nigerians have been cowed, even to speak out is a serious problem. Speaking out is being dreaded by most Nigerians because of the fear of intimidation, arrest and all of that, but I can assure you that when Nigerians come out to say enough is enough they won’t be able to take it and we are getting to that point.
“This idea of reduction in the size of workers will be resisted because people are hungry. If you say okay you want to sanitize the system and you are able to identify the criminal elements within the system and you remove those ones nobody will complain.
“But there are people in the public service who have criminal records, they are still being paid and at the end of the day, you carry out your exercise and those ones will still be retained because they know their ways, they know how to adjust their records. You have those ones in the system and then you drive away the innocent ones.
“I will give an instance, as we speak in NIMC alone, there are over 400 people who have been dismissed by the previous management for falsification of records and the government are still paying them salary and they keep on populating our database.”
The Labour leader said it appeared that the government was confused on what to do with the size of the public servants, noting that merging of MDAs was not the solution to reduce bloated government expenditures.
“They don’t know what they are doing and that is my worry. You have many experienced public servants retired and in active service, but government is reluctant to discuss this matter and ask where are the problems? The other time, ministries were merged by this government, what did we get from it?
“Now, you are looking at the parastatals that were established by law to carry out certain mandates, have you been able to evaluate the mandate of these MDAs created for the good of Nigerians and discover that they are not meeting up to standards?
“That is why Labour did not agree with some of the recommendations of the Oronsanye committee report”.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is not on the same page with legislators as regards scrapping of some MDAs.
Secretary-General of the Union, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja in an interview with Sunday Sun stated that brandishing figures of government agencies to portray them as being bloated sends very wrong signals to the public.
According to him, “we can’t help them run the country, but ordinarily, they are to properly manage the country that has been entrusted in their hands. This is why we believe that merging MDAs does not necessarily translate to job losses, except the government is saying that they were not doing any work and we know that there is no worker that does not have a work schedule.
“For us in the Labour movement, merging does not mean that the job done by that organization will vanish, there’s still work to be done, but maybe, it terms of headship, there will be some adjustments. Clearly, the functions, the roles performed by these agencies, would not disappear. So, clearly, there would still be work going on.”
Ugboaja added that it was not about numbers, but the scope of the work they do.
“Our people just like to drop all figures. Lazy politicians drop figures. The point is what work do they do? If there is work to be done, does the numbers matter? Do they know how many agencies people have in other climes? But right now, we have agencies that are handling space exploration, space research, space tourism, climate change and all.
“The point is, there is work to be done, it is not the number. So, for us in labour, we don’t talk about numbers. We are workers and we are not interested in deceit. The point is we do the work and when there is work to be done, the worker would be there to do the work.”
On the reports of the Oronsanye committee, which recommended the merger of some agencies because of their overlapping mandates, the NLC scribe said it would be wrong to assume that it would lead to job losses.
“For instance, as they will tell you that the EFCC, the police, the ICPC are doing the same work, look, if there is no work to be done, they won’t exist. You can very well say that EFCC is a department in the Police Force, but because there is work to be done.
“Everybody has his or her work cut out to do, what you call them does not matter. Our interest is the job to be done. If you then say Nigeria should not have schools, we will have an issue with you and if you say we should not have hospitals, we will have an issue, the point is that we have health centres where work is being done.”
Moribund agencies are drain on the economy –CUPP
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has said the plethora of moribund agencies in the country remains a strain on the nation’s economy.
The spokesman of the coalition, Ugochinyere Ikenga, describing the agencies as “come and chop” outlets, said it is disappointing that President Muhammadu Buhari did not keep his promise to scrap some of those agencies so as to reduce the cost of governance and enhance efficiency in public service.
His said: “The President has shown manifest incompetence. With all due respect to the President, he does not know what is happening. All those things he was saying when he was campaigning, it shows he was just reading a prepared speech. He did not know the content. If he knew the content, you would have seen him reduce the cost of running government. You would have seen him scrap most of those come and chop agencies. It is a government of come and chop where the leader is not in charge.
“Does President Buhari even know the number of agencies we have, the ones working and the ones not working. Is that not the priority of the president? The inability of the president to cut cost in the running of government has imposed serious stress on the economy.
“He doesn’t even need the Steve Orasanye Report. Going by Buhari’s promise before he came into office, he said he was going to cut off all those things PDP used in stealing. He said those agencies will be scrapped to make government more efficient. So, he doesn’t need the Steve Orasanye Report. The man himself said he stands for this thing”.
Economy watchers insist that the government should run a fit and trim public service, while earmarking more funds for capital projects and social intervention programmes.