Oronsaye Report: FG Allays Fears of Job Losses as Peter Obi Hails Tinubu

Oronsaye Report: FG Allays Fears of Job Losses as Peter Obi Hails Tinubu

•LP presidential candidate says ‘opposition does not warrant blind, thoughtless criticism’ 

•Falana advises govt to merge two arms of National Assembly, reduce number of ministers, special advisers, others, instead of downsizing civil servants

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and Sunday Ehigiator in Lagos

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, has allayed fears of any form of mass retrenchment in the implementation of the Oronsaye Report, which seeks to streamline government agencies and parastatals.

The assurance by the minister who spoke yesterday,  at the fourth edition of the Ministerial Press Briefing Series in Abuja, came just as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, backed the move by President Bola Tinubu to implement the Oronsaye Report, saying, “being in opposition does not warrant blind and thoughtless criticism”

However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, yesterday, advised the federal government to merge the two houses of the National Assembly while the number of Ministers, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants significantly reduced, instead of downsizing civil servants while implementing the Oronsaye Report.

Continuing, Idris, said government had no intention of retrenching workers or throwing people into the labour market, but to reduce cost and also improve efficiency in service delivery.

He said the implementation of the report, which had been on the shelf for about 12 years, was a clear demonstration of Tinubu’s unwavering commitment to fiscal prudence and responsible governance by championing a comprehensive review of the government‘s commissions, agencies and parastatals.

He noted that the approval for the implementation of the Orosanye Report, which followed a very careful review, was to ensure that essential services were not compromised and that the needs of the citizens were adequately catered for while putting the interests of the nation first and foremost.

“Through the implementation of the Oronsaye’s Report, President Tinubu aims to achieve significant cost savings by eliminating duplication of functions, streamlining administrative processes and optimising resource allocation.

“This proactive approach will enable the government to operate more efficiently while maintaining the quality and delivery of services to the Nigerian people,” he said.

He stressed that the measures were not undertaken in isolation but as part of a broader strategy to reform and modernise government institutions by leveraging technology, promoting innovation, and fostering a culture of performance and accountability across all sectors.

The minister, who said the benefits of the reforms spearheaded by the president were already emerging in various sectors, stressed that reports from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that Nigeria witnessed a GDP growth of 3.46 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2023 as against 2.54 per cent recorded in the third quarter of 2023.

 He asserted that the NBS report also stated that capital importation rose to 66 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2023, reversing a 36 per cent decline in the third quarter.

Idris, stated that petrol importation had been reduced by 50 per cent since the removal of fuel subsidy, while the Nigerian Exchange Limited’s All Share Index crossed the 100,000 mark – its highest ever.

He described the achievements so far recorded in the economy as not merely a stroke of luck, but mainly due to the pragmatic reforms initiated by the President, which inspired investor confidence in the Nigerian economy.

According to the minister, the President had also given a directive for the design of a Social Security Unemployment Programme to cater for the unemployed graduates as well as the setting up of a Social Consumer Credit Scheme to boost the purchasing power of Nigerians, as they make adjustments in view of the temporary economic hardship.

Meanwhile, Peter Obi, has supported the move by the Tinubu-led administration to implement the Oronsaye Report.

In a statement posted on his X handle yesterday, Obi said he had always been an advocate of the three critical components of the Oronsaye Report.

These he listed to include, “drastically cutting the cost of governance; eliminating the overlapping of responsibilities to ensure that responsibilities are appropriately domiciled; and increasing efficiency and effectiveness, which will increase productivity.”

According to him, “I would like to refer everyone to my Manifesto and my response to similar questions during my campaigns.

“On October 5, 2022, at Harvard University, I was asked: ‘Will you implement the Oronsaye Report?’ and I responded in the affirmative.

“I went further to explain that implementing the report is one of the best ways to make governance efficient, cost-effective, and productive.

“Being in opposition does not warrant blind and thoughtless criticism. Whenever the government takes the right decision, we should agree and if need be, propose related or even better ideas to move the nation forward.

“Although the implementation of the report is long overdue, its implementation is a welcome development so long as the decision is informed by these principles.

“Beyond implementing the Oronsaye Report, the government should go further and cut the cost of governance across board.

“Having found it imperative to implement the Report, the government should now do away with the bogus and needless wastages of our scarce resources on frivolous issues, and deploy such funds to the critical areas of education, health and pulling people out of poverty.

“However, we must not rush to implement the Oronsaye Report just because those that will be directly affected are mostly civil servants. A very deep understanding of the workings of the federal bureaucracy will be required to effectively implement the Report.”

The former Anambra State Governor added: “Grasping the symmetries between the federal and the other tiers of government will be imperative as Federal agencies have branches and outreaches in all the 36 states.

“We the political leaders should be ready to back up such implementation with our sacrifices from comfort and selfishness, for the overall development of the nation.

“In implementing this report, conscious effort must be made to cushion the effects of such a major overhaul on the workers, to avoid driving more people into hardship, in these very challenging times.

“Also Nigerians are yet to be informed about the extant White Paper pertinent to the report’s implementation. Moreover, you cannot ask those who are likely to be affected by the downsizing to manage the process.

“Government must also show clearly the amount of resources to be saved in the implied shrinking of government. It should also indicate clearly where and how the saved resources are to be redeployed.

“More importantly, the implementation needs to be accompanied by a template to avoid a future bloating of government. By doing the right things and implementing the right policies, we will build the New Nigeria of our dreams,” he noted.

Also weighing in on the matter, Falana, noted that contrary to the belief in official circles, the 12-year old Steve Oronsaye Report would not substantially reduce enormous costs of governance in the country as it does not reflect the current situation in the public service.

According to the human rights activist who said this in his solidarity speech at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) rally held in Lagos on Tuesday, no doubt, the implementation of some of the recommendations of the panel would take appreciable time as the merger of certain bodies required constitutional amendments or repeal of a number of statutes.

“The 800-page report of the Steve Oronsaye Panel recommended the reduction of statutory agencies from 263 to 161, scrapping 38 agencies, merging 52, and reverting 14 to departments in different ministries,

“Since the Goodluck Jonathan administration produced a White Paper on the Steve Oronsaye Report in 2014, the Federal Government has created more ministries, departments and agencies. Whereas the Report recommended the reduction of 263 agencies to 151, the number of ministries, departments and agencies has increased to 1316.

“Even the current administration has increased the number of ministries and created new agencies. To that extent, the Steve Oronsaye Report is completely outdated,” Falana argued.

According to the SAN, in implementing the Oronsaye Report the federal government “should ensure that the crisis of insecurity is not compounded through the retrenchment of hundreds of thousands of workers.”

“Instead of downsizing the public service the federal government should ensure that the two houses of the National Assembly are merged while the number of Ministers, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants is significantly reduced,” he added.

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