FG Asked Not to Relent in Regularising Agencies’ Activities for Effective Performance

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The federal government has been advised not to relent in its effort at regularising activities of its agencies to take out duplicity of roles and boost efficiency.

The advice was given yesterday, during the resumption to duty of the newly appointed Director General of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Dr. Innocent Bariate.

Speaking at the event, Director, Inspection and Enforcement of NESREA, Abdulsalam Isa, while itemising the challenges of the agency, which include workers welfare, low budget, amongst others, complained about the encroachment of the Ministry of Environment into the mandate of the agency.

He lamented that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was also duplicating some of the agency’s functions.

He said: “Presently, NESREA is confronted by multiple challenges that have hindered compliance monitoring and enforcement activities in recent times.

“These include: Lack of adequate funding which has made the agency to operate at a low capacity or inefficiency. Often times, accessing funds from government coffers is tough and is a major obstacle to effective regulation of facilities.

“As a result, consistent visits and follow-ups are often lacking, leading to inadequate compliance monitoring and insufficient enforcement of standards.”

He added that: “To attain global standards, the agency’s financial quota needs a degree of increment/expansion that will shift the preponderance (superiority in weight, power, importance or strength) from short term funding to long-term funding for the agency’s growth and development.

“Recognising the importance of compliance monitoring/enforcement and awareness creation as drivers of the existence of the agency, there is the need to strategically and consciously secure funds for work.”

He decried that: “There are functions which were domiciled with the agency that have been deliberately encroached on by the FMEnv, thereby causing rifts between the two parties. This has incapacitated the agency in the discharge of its duties.

“Also, just like most other government agencies, NESREA is faced with attempts by sister Agencies (example NAFDAC) to duplicate its functions, even when the NESREA Act clearly defines the boundaries of each Agency.

“It may interest you to note that since inception, the agency has established six Zonal Offices; 35 State Field Offices and two Reference Laboratories across the nation to assist in tackling the various environmental challenges in all States of the Federation; however, the Agency regrettably has no field office in the FCT.

“The present office accommodation that houses the Headquarters is of great concern, considering the number of staff and available basic amenities in the building as well as proximity to other basic amenities such as transport stations, banks etc. Sir, serious attention is required in this area to ensure a conducive work environment for staff.

“Staff salary and welfare is grossly insufficient considering the extremely high cost of living in the country.

“Despite the hazards and challenges of the job, staff salaries have not seen a corresponding increase in recent years, and have remained stagnant since the last review in 2010, with no adjustments made to reflect the rising cost of living or the growing demands of the job.

“The agency’s salaries and allowances are nothing compared to other Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) worldwide and, even to similar Agencies like National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). So far, the Agency has made efforts to ensure a better salary and condition of service.

“Though at its final stage of implementation, the agency is yet to achieve any result due to political bottlenecks. This effort therefore requires urgent follow-up before implementation of the new minimum wage.”

On his part, the new Director General, Innocent Bariate, said NESREA would need to work in unity to be able to achieve the agency’s mandate.

Innocent, who stressed the importance of unity, said, “I am coming with a plain mind and would want to assure you all that we will work together.”

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