It is envisaged that the planned implementation of Stephen Oronsaye Committee’s report by the federal government will lead to a gale of sack across Ministries and Departmental Agencies (MDAs). Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf and Frank Ikpefan in this report examine the issues.
After many years of procastination the much hyped civil service reforms which has been on hold, may have become inevitable with the decision of the federal government to finally implement the recommendation of the Stephen Oronsaye Committee report, almost eight years after.
Justification for Oronsaye report
It would be recalled that the Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, otherwise called the Oransaye Committee, was set up by the President Jonathan-led administration, three months after it mounted the saddle on August 18, 2011.
According to 800-page Oronsaye Report, the whole essence is to reduce the cost of governance with the elimination of duplicated functions by several departments and agencies, the government should go ahead to revalidate recommendations.
For instance, in the executive summary of the committee’s report, it was discovered that 50 out of the 541 parastatals identified by the committee have no enabling laws, just as the committee reported the challenges of supervision in the monitoring of the parastatals/agencies, which was compounded by the fact that ministries were weakened by the excision of their departments and attendant applicable functions.
The report noted that the arbitrary increase in the number of parastatals and agencies is the main cause of identified overlaps and duplication of functions/roles and the fact that the splitting of the parastatals has not improved their performance and service delivery.
A fait accompli
The planned implementation has become inevitable given the critical need to address the burgeoning cost of governance in the face of emerging economic crisis, occasioned by the global pandemic.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed attested to this fact recently when she revealed that already the president’s approval has been forwarded to the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Though the federal government has assured that the envisaged rationalisation would not affect personnel, some of the affected agencies would need enabling legislation to consummate the harmonisation, just as stakeholders continue to urge restraint in the hurry to shrink the establishments.
Agencies that fall within this bracket include the Fiscal Responsibility Commission; National Poverty Eradication Programme; Utilities Charges Commission (UCC); National Economic Intelligence Committee; Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC); National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
Speaking in an interview with our correspondent, Joyce Odogwu, a public affairs analyst said the Oronsaye committee report though long overdue need to be implemented in phases.
This according to her, would minimise the fallouts.
Merger: Aviation industry worst nightmare
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that some of the MDAs may have begun to get their staff ready for the inevitable.
At the aviation industry for instance, the Minister, Hadi Sirika had requested the agencies within the ministry to relocate their corporate headquarters to the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Abuja in the next 45 days, a development, which came as a huge surprise.
With this directive, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) are expected to relocate within the given time frame.
In a letter dated 4th May 2020 from the Ministry FMA/PMD/7061/T/4 signed on behalf of the Minister of Aviation, the director, Human Resource Management Muhammad Shehu hinged the decision on the current global economic situation and the need to reduce the cost of governance.
The letter titled: Relocation of Aviation Agencies to Abuja read: “I am directed to remind you of a Presidential directive issued in 2012 requesting all agencies under the Ministry of Aviation to relocate their corporate headquarters to the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja ) for efficient and effective coordination and enhanced service delivery and note that eight years after the directive, the agencies are yet to comply.
“Accordingly, considering the current situation and the economic impact worldwide as well as the need to reduce the cost of governance and manage scarce resources in a sustainable way, it has become imperative and further to the Minister’s directive (Copy attached) to request that you facilitate and complete the relocation of your corporate headquarters within the next forty five (45) days in line with this earlier directive.”
An endorsed copy received by FAAN’s Laison Office in Abuja on May 06, 2020 directed all directors to coordinate effective mobilisation to achieve the directive on time on its meeting agenda for the week after.
In a related development, unions in the sector have written a petition to Sirika urging him to promptly intervene in the recommendations of the Oronsaye Report proposing the merger of NAMA, NCAA and NIMET into the Federal Civil Aviation Administration.
In a jointly signed letter, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association ( ATSSSAN ) and Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals ( ANAP), they appealed to the minster to prevent the destruction of the air transport industry with the execution of the Oronsaye Report portends for the industry.
In the petition dated 13th May 2020, they described as anachronistic the recommendations that dared to merge service provider agencies with their regulators.
The unions described as sickening any plans to merge NAMA and NIMET with NCAA.
Can Buhari still earn worker’s trust?
On May 1, on the occasion of the Workers’ Day celebration, President Muhammadu Buhari had spoke to the fears of impending doom being envisaged by workers thus: “I understand the anxiety, which has plagued the minds of workers over the possibility of job losses due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and lockdown, especially in the private sector.
“In this regard, the government will ensure that no employer would retrench or lay off workers without going through due process of social dialogue, which includes consultations with workers and with the competent authorities – the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.”
He added that he had earlier put in place a Presidential Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) with the objective of developing a credible sustainability plan for repositioning the Nigerian economy and after COVID-19 crisis.
“The ESC is required to specifically explore ways and means of growing our non-oil sector – all in a bid to minimise the adverse effects of the current crisis and to also protect existing jobs and even create new jobs to help absorb the teeming army of the unemployed even before the crises,” he said.
But to many, what Buhari only translate to mere platitudes and nothing else as they affirmed that the planned implementation of the Oronsaye committee report is certain this time around.
Civil service union warns against lay-offs
The Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) has warned the Federal Government against the implementation of the Oronsaye Committee Report, saying that it would lead to the lay-off of thousands of workers in the public sector.
It would be recalled that President Buhari, in response to COVID-19 realities, had approved the implementation of the report submitted by the Stephen Oransaye Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The 800-page report known as the Oronsaye report, had recommended the abolition and merger of 102 government agencies and parastatals, among others, to drastically cut the cost of governance.
But the National Administrative Council of the union said it condemned the proposed implementation of the report at a time the country was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement by its General Secretary, Yahaya Ndako, the union said: “The National Administrative Council condemned in its entirety the proposed implementation of the report at this critical time, which is driven towards victimising and laying off thousands of working people in the public sector into the pool of industry of unemployment.
“The timing of this process by the government without due consideration of the outbreak of COVID-19 will be adding to the prevailing hardship and, amounting to the Federal Government birthing another new virus that spells doom for our nation.
“We regret greatly to inform concerned parties and the government that the said report is obsolete and need a holistic review with the involvement of relevant stakeholders, including the labour movement practitioners, civil societies, upper and lower legislative chambers and the Federal Ministry of Labour.”
The union appealed to President Buhari to “kindly have a rethink on the implementation of this satanic Oronsaye Committee Report for the purpose of sustaining the existing industrial relation peace enjoyed between the labour movement and the office of the President.”
Fear over MDAs mergers
Expectedly, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria has condemned moves by the Federal Government to merge some Ministries, Departments and Agencies, warning it could trigger industrial and social unrest.
The oil price crash induced by the deadly coronavirus pandemic has continued to take a toll on the national economy, leaving the Federal Government to opt for cost-saving measures, which focused on the MDAs.
President Muhammadu Buhari last month approved the implementation of a report submitted by the committee headed by Steve Oronsaye on restructuring and rationalisation of federal parastatals, commissions and agencies.
In a statement by its Secretary-General, Alade Lawal, the ASCSN questioned the decision to implement the report when COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in the country.
The statement said: “The reality is that if some MDAs are merged and others scrapped, thousands of civil servants will surely lose their jobs. We cannot understand the logic behind government’s decision at this material time when Nigerians are losing their loved ones while thousands of others are being afflicted by coronavirus.”
According to the union, since Nigeria has been rated among the poorest countries implementing the report will lead to social crisis.
The ASCSN said: “The governments of the various countries including those in Africa are providing financial stimulus even to private sector players to stimulate their economies while citizens are being paid some money to enable them to survive the vagaries of COVID-19. We are not doing that. All we are interested in is to heap more suffering and misery on the people.
“With billions of naira donated by some wealthy Nigerians and international donors, the least we expect the government to do is to use such funds to upgrade medical facilities and inject others into welfare packages for Nigerians. Instead of doing that the government is preoccupied with devising strategies to sack thousands of workers in the name of restructuring the MDAs. This is very unfortunate and unacceptable.
“The question is what moral high ground will the government be relying on to persuade the private sector not to retrench workers, using COVID-19 as an excuse.”
The union believes Buhari is being misled by some government officials to implement the report.
ASCSN said: “If government proceeds to carry out this punitive policy against Nigerian workers, its name will certainly be recorded in the wrong side of history when the story of the COVID-19 pandemic is written.
“This is why we implore the government to retrace its steps now and do the right thing realising that the main reason why it exists in the first instance is to guarantee the welfare of citizens by increasing their pleasure and decreasing their pain.”
The group urged labour unions, civil society groups, religious leaders, traditional rulers and others to prevail on the government to “halt to the ill-advised policy in the interest of industrial peace and harmony.”
Although, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, during an interview with The Nation had assured that the government doesn’t plan to cut jobs, the fears being envisaged by the workers is ironcast as many of them are worried that the planned implementation of the Oronsaye committee report is a done deal.