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Oronsaye – Too little, too late

These are not good times for Nigeria’s economy. National productivity is declining, foreign reserves are virtually depleted, the Naira is becoming more worthless by the…

These are not good times for Nigeria’s economy. National productivity is declining, foreign reserves are virtually depleted, the Naira is becoming more worthless by the day and the nation faces imminent recession. Although government blames the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war for the economic collapse, the truth is that in the preceding years when the nation was awash with funds, spending wisely was never their priority. On April 16th, 2012, the Oronsaye Committee submitted a voluminous 800-page report recommending how hundreds of billions could be saved by merging 102 federal Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs). 

Ten years later, not only has no effort been made to harmonise, merge or rationalise (MDAs), but the Buhari administration, which now wants to belatedly implement parts of the report went ahead to create more unnecessary and wasteful agencies. For example, despite having Embassies or High Commissions in most countries and a Ministry of External Affairs they went ahead to create a meaningless “Diaspora Commission”. 

Their rush to implement the 2012 Oronsaye Report in 2022 is suspected to have less to do with a desire to make the government more efficient and provide better service delivery. It’s all about the fact that their consistent reckless borrowing, financial profligacy and incompetence have left the nation on the verge of bankruptcy. There is no disputing that Nigeria’s presidential system of government and proliferation of states hasn’t brought any development commensurate with its costs, hasn’t engendered national unity, and hasn’t brought relief from mass poverty. 

Imposed upon the nation by intellectually handicapped military regimes, which held the nation hostage and left it in ruins, the over-bloated and financially unsustainable system isn’t working. Economic experts have labeled it as one of the most uncreative, expensive, wasteful and unproductive in the world. This high cost of governance is really not due to the adopted political system, it’s more a result of the orientation of our political class. 

Having observed the manner in which military officers in governance looted the treasury and became billionaire “Elder Statesmen” the “New Breed” political class joined politics for financial and status reasons, resulting in poor and inept governance due to corruption, impunity and the jumbo pay of political office holders. Only a small part of the high cost of governance is related to due to duplicity of functions of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The single largest outrageous condemnable cost of poor governance is oil theft approximated at $500,000 daily in spite of the president keeping the portfolio of Minister for Petroleum to himself for the past seven years. 

The blame should be placed squarely at the feet of the National Assembly (NASS) whose subservience to the executive has entrenched poor governance. Many of the agencies Oronsaye suggested scrapping were created by laws passed by NASS members themselves who also tacitly approve a Presidency mired in wastefulness. Billions are budgeted annually for feeding and purchase of the same things in the Presidency!  Year after year, NASS approves “cut and paste” budgets secure in the knowledge that they will never be adhered to in the first place!  

Meanwhile, quite unjustifiably, nobody knows the exact amount legislators are paid for rendering their non-service to the nation. There is really no justification for paying them salary at all. They should be part-time and only paid when they sit for policy making. President Buhari said the civil service should attract the best and brightest who will fuel policies with fresh ideas. It’s difficult to fathom why anyone genuinely looking for fresh ideas routinely appoints the aged pensioners in their late sixties and seventies if not eighties into public office. 

The truth of the matter is that the nation’s impending financial collapse has been brought about by reckless borrowing and corruption rather than inflated wage bills, which ignore the fact that working conditions for civil servants are nothing to write home about and not conducive to attracting the “best and brightest!”. In relation to the wage bill, even though salaries of government workers are paid into their personal bank accounts, authorities have proved incapable of wiping out “ghost workers” from the nation’s payroll. As for their endless borrowing, the APC national chairman quite preposterously said the federal government “Can borrow from here to eternity”. 

With little logic to his argument, he pointed out that the US, UK, Germany, etc all borrow money. Perhaps, he is unaware that those countries borrow monies, which they have the capacity and future financial projections to repay unlike the Nigerian government that has no idea of where it, or indeed future generations will get the money to service the loan, let alone repay the principal! It’s also fallacious to claim that loans have been used to construct infrastructure. 

Every year, the government announces lofty projects and subsequently borrows billions, yet the majority of these projects end up uncompleted and abandoned. Only those who are not familiar with the manner in which our government operates will believe that merging MDAs will reduce the total cost of governance. It may perhaps reduce the salary bill but rest assured that money will only be squandered in other areas. The sad truth about any attempt to implement the Oronsaye Report in isolation ten years after it was submitted, won’t solve any problem, squander mania and a failed anti-corruption war means it’s simply too little too late!