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Oronsaye report and Tinubu's bold step in belling the cat

No doubt, with the submissions by stakeholders, implementing the Oronsaye report, is desirable for the country, even with its possible attendant implications and effects.

Mohammed’s appointment is slated for an initial term of four years. [Bola Ahmed Tinubu/X]

Simply put, “Who will bell the cat?”, the idiom translates to being brave enough to do something that will be for the good and benefit of all, but it is considered, dangerous or difficult to achieve.

According to Wikipedia, the fable that gives rise to the idiom “concerns a group of mice who debate plans to nullify the threat of a marauding cat.

“One of them proposes placing a bell around its neck so that they are warned of its approach.

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“The plan is applauded by the others until one mouse asks, who will volunteer to place the bell on the cat. All of them make excuses.”

Everybody seems to agree that we’ve got to bell the cat, but no one wants to step forward and volunteer to lead.

The Federal Government during former President Goodluck Jonathan, took a wise decision to run the nation`s governance in such a way as to ease some of the financial burden in the country.

To achieve this, Jonathan’s government formed a committee headed by Steven Oronsaye, a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.

The committee came up with the idea of merging some of the parastatal agencies into Ministry Departments and Agencies to reduce the costs of governance in the country.

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The idea was to scrap and merge 220 out of the then-existing 541 government agencies.

The committee was seen, not only as a palliative measure that serves as the foundation for reducing the cost of governance but to also ensure the effective means of reforming the nation's civil service.

The report which was first issued in 2012 received the Federal Executive Council`s approval for review, restructure and recommendations for the implementation of the White Paper for rationalisation of some agencies.

But unfortunately, Jonathan`s government could not go beyond the stage of presentation of the White Paper until the administration came to an end.

Again, coming on board, former President Muhammadu Buhari`s administration set up another committee to look into the significance of the Oronsaye report, still aiming at restructuring/rationalising the agencies.

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Buhari set up another three sub-committees headed by former Heads of Service of the Federation – Bukar Aji, Amal Pepple and Ebele Okeke.

He promised to implement the report, citing dwindling resources, and rising costs of governance as major reasons to merge some of the agencies.

The committees were given different tasks to review the Oronsaye report led by Goni Aji, review of agencies established from 2014 to 2021 led by Amal Pepple and publish the White Paper on the reports of the first two committees, chaired by Ebele Okeke.

Inaugurating the committees, Buhari who was represented by Boss Mustapha, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation said:

“I have directed that the Orosanye White Paper Report be subjected to immediate review to enable the government to take the most appropriate decision on its general recommendation.

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“I am aware that the review is about to be completed. While some may complain about the length of time it has taken thus far.

“The outcome of the various review teams would lead to some fundamental changes in the structure of our civil service and as such it must be subjected to rigorous review and scrutiny before presentation and implementation.’’

He assured that his administration remained focused on strengthening the service and ensuring it helped the government fulfil its objectives.

Meanwhile, Ebele Okeke in her response noted that it was pertinent to liaise with the leadership of the National Assembly to achieve the desired result, adding that most of the agencies created were products of bills from them.

Coming on board, President Bola Tinubu also put into consideration the significance of the reports to achieve part of his administration`s agenda in reforming the civil service sector.

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It will be recalled that the President on Feb. 26 ordered the full implementation of the Oronsaye report.⁣

On March 7, He inaugurated an 11-member committee to implement the approved recommendations of the report.

The president was represented at the inaugural ceremony by Senator George Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Tinubu explained that the implementation of the White Paper on the report would involve the merger, relocation, subsuming or scrapping of some of the parastatals, agencies, and commissions.

He said that the exercise was meant to reduce the cost of governance and streamline efficiency across the governance value chain.

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Tinubu said the committee would review the current mandates of the affected parastatals, agencies and commissions to understand their existing functions, responsibilities and objectives.

The committee was given 12 weeks within which to submit its report.

“The committee would also identify redundancies and overlaps or conflicting objectives among the mandates of different organisational units.

“Other guidelines are to define strategic objectives to ensure the revised mandates align with the strategic objectives and priorities of the government.

“It is also expected to engage key stakeholders and gather inputs and feedback on the proposed revisions to the mandates, among others.”

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Approval for the implementation of the Oronsaye report is coming 12 years after the panel submitted its report and multiple attempts were made at implementing its recommendations.

Commenting, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said the move was meant, not only to reduce the cost of governance but to free up monies for reinvestment into developmental projects.

According to him, the Nigerian government could save over N241 billion if the report is duly implemented.

“The goal is to fine-tune and to restructure government operations as a whole and to reduce the cost of governance because some of these agencies are performing very similar functions.

“So the government thought it wise that there is the need – since this committee had already been set up, the white paper has already been produced, to take a bold decision to revisit that.”

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In reaction to the move, some Nigerian workers and stakeholders from other sectors lauded Tinubu`s concern to finally decide to implement the report 12 years after.

They appealed to the Federal Government to be fair in the implementation of the report to protect workers from losing their jobs.

Zainab Ahmed, a civil servant, said the implementation of the report, aimed at restructuring the federal government’s departments and agencies, was a step in the right direction.

According to Ahmed, the implementation of the report will save the country, billions of Naira in budget allocations to some agencies with overlapping functions.

“It is the right step at reducing the cost of governance. The downsizing of the departments and agencies is expected to save Nigeria a lot of money.

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“But, my appeal to the government is to ensure that workers in the affected agencies are not thrown into the labour market,” she said.

Similarly, the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NSCU), through its President Asogwa Gupada, also appealed to the Federal Government to handle the process of the implementation of the report to ensure that it would not lead to job loss.

The stakeholders emphasised that while the decision by the president came at the right time the country was grappling with a biting economy, and it must not be used to inflict pain on workers by relieving them of their jobs.

No doubt, with the submissions by stakeholders, implementing the Oronsaye report, is desirable for the country, even with its possible attendant implications and effects.

They all agreed that a decrease in the cost of governance and enhanced efficiency throughout the governance value chain is inevitable.

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Meanwhile, the 12 weeks given to the implementation committee inaugurated by President Tinubu on March 7, will be due on May 30.

Therefore, with just a few days to the conclusion of work by the implementation committee, the subsequent steps by President Tinubu will determine whether he will not give excuses, but be “the bold mouse to bell the cat”.

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