Tinubu’s Bold Moves to Implement Oronsanye’s Report

After being criticised for running what many perceive as the most expensive cabinet at a period the citizens are being advised to tighten their belts and endure hardship, President Bola Tinubu has made audacious moves to drastically cut the costs of governance by approving the implementation of the Oronsaye Report, Ejiofor Alike reports

One of the major ironies or contradictions in the administration of President Bola Tinubu is that while he is running what analysts believe is a bloated cabinet structure with its attendant exorbitant costs, he is appealing to Nigerians to tighten their belts and endure hardship.

Tinubu had in August 2023 set the record for the highest number of ministers in the Fourth Republic with 48, amid concerns around the high cost of governance.

The president’s ministers topped the 42 appointed by his predecessor, former President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2019 by five additional ministers.

Buhari had named 36 ministers in his first term, while the number increased to 42 during his second term.

At the beginning of his first term in 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan had appointed 33 ministers for his cabinet, including the nine he inherited from the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration.

On his part, Yar’Adua named a 39-member cabinet of 32 men and seven women in 2007.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had initially appointed 42 ministers in 1999 but later reduced the number of ministries and ministers to 27 and 40, respectively, before he left office in 2007.

But despite the clamour for the federal government to reduce the cost of governance in view of the present economic hardship, Tinubu surpassed Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari, and named 48 ministers, setting a new record since 1999.

While many believe that Tinubu increased the number of ministers to create jobs for his loyalists, the president had justified his cabinet of 48 ministers, saying the number reflected the diversity of roles required to run an efficient government.

“If you combine too many ministries because you want to save money, you will have a future of non-performance and no results,” Tinubu said when he received a delegation of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by its President, Daniel Okoh, at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

Tinubu had stated that he acknowledged criticisms over his heavily-staffed cabinet.

He, however, insisted that merging portfolios would only heap some officials with more burdens than they can bear.

Justifying his bloated cabinet structure, he said: “I have had a number of criticisms, including the rationale behind the size of my cabinet. If you want efficient, mobile, and resourceful people, we have to give people a load they can carry.

“If you combine too many ministries because you want to save money, you will have a future of non-performance and no results,” Tinubu reportedly explained.

Though he later approved “cost-cutting” measures that involved slashing, by 60 per cent, official entourage on local and international travels, many argue that his long convoys and the extravagant lifestyles of the members of the National Assembly and other political appointees do not reflect the present economic realities.

Nigerians had condemned the inclusion of Tinubu’s sons – Seyi and Yinka – among the delegation that travelled with the president on a state visit to Doha, Qatar, describing it as another evidence of profligacy in the running of his administration.

But reacting to the backlash from Nigerians, the Senior Special Assistant on Digital/New Media to the President, O’Tega Ogra argued that children of world leaders accompany their parents for such visits, insisting that the Obamas, Clintons and others took their children on such trips.

Many have however reminded the presidential aide that the robust economy of the United States can sustain such trips, unlike Nigeria’s ailing economy, which is characterised by hunger, poverty and mass protests over hardship.

However, in what many believe is an audacious move to calm rising tempers and reassure the citizens that Tinubu’s administration is also in belt-tightening mode, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved the implementation of the Oronsaye Report.

The Oronsaye report prepared by a committee headed by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, principally recommended strategies for cutting down the cost of governance.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, while briefing reporters at the end of a recent FEC meeting at the State House, Abuja, said the adoption of the report, which was submitted to federal government in 2012, meant that some agencies, commissions, and departments of government would be scrapped or merged, while some would be moved to new ministries for better performance.

Equally briefing journalists, Special Adviser to the President on Policy and Coordination, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, said Tinubu had set up a committee headed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, to ensure that the approved mergers were concluded within 12 weeks.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration took the bold step to prepare the laudable report as part of his reform agenda but demonstrated the lack of political will to implement the report.

Oronsaye’s committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions, was set up by Jonathan in 2011, and its report submitted on April 16, 2012.

A White Paper was issued on the committee report in March 2014, followed by an implementation committee that was inaugurated in May 2014.

However, the White Paper rejected most of the recommendations. But even the accepted recommendations were also not implemented. 

As Idris had noted during the press briefing: “Now, a paper was turned in in 2012, but the implementation got stalled. Again, in 2021, almost seven years after that, the former President Muhammadu Buhari also initiated a process to consider the 2014 white paper on the Oronsaye Report. Again, the implementation of that also got stalled.”

The implementation of the report would have ensured the scrapping and merging of 220 out of the existing 541 government agencies at the time the report was prepared.

Tinubu’s bold step to implement the report will be his administration’s most audacious and laudable step to reduce the cost of governance.

In order to ensure that the implementation of the report would not inflict further hardship on the people, Idris had allayed fear of mass retrenchment in the implementation of the report.

The minister gave the assurance last Wednesday at the fourth edition of the Ministerial Press Briefing Series.

He said the 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. 

Idris said the implementation of the report was a clear demonstration of President Tinubu’s unwavering commitment to fiscal prudence and responsible governance by championing a comprehensive review of the government ‘s commissions, agencies, and parastatals.

It is expected that Tinubu’s administration will walk the talk by also reviewing downwards the budgets meant for the personal comfort of the president, federal lawmakers and other political office holders to reflect the current economic realities.

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