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A transformation agenda for accelerating national development

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Being excerpts from the inaugural lecture of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), delivered by Professor Ladipo Adamolekun.

The “Transformation Agenda” that I present  comprises five “Fundamentals”, three “Transformation Result Areas” (TRAs) and some implementation issues. In Part One, I briefly discuss the five selected fundamentals: electoral legitimacy, peace and security, government policy stability, rule of law, and anti-corruption.

Part Two is focused on the three TRAs: (i) rehabilitating education; (ii) fixing poor infrastructure; and (iii) achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  In Part Three, I discuss four implementation issues: (i) the centrality of the Civil Service; (ii) intergovernmental dimensions; (iii) the role of non-state actors (NSAs); and (iv) the critical importance of monitoring and evaluation.

Five  Fundamentals
1. Electoral legitimacy
The significance of electoral legitimacy is that the government that emerges through free, fair and credible elections is expected to be accountable to the citizens that have entrusted the exercise of political authority to it.

In turn, the citizens who, through their votes, have determined who governs them (this includes using their votes to remove non-performing governments) are also expected to demand accountability from their rulers. The combination of rulers who are accountable to their citizens and citizens that demand accountability from their rulers is generally considered conducive for achieving well-performing governments.

In 2010, President Jonathan assured Nigerians as well as Nigeria’s external friends that he will break the jinx of flawed elections in the country.

He has delivered on his promise, to an appreciable extent.  Notwithstanding the fact that Nigeria’s transformation toward an electoral democracy is an unfinished agenda (the honest, focused and committed chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC – has himself admitted that there are still some flaws to correct in the electoral process), one can confidently assert that Jonathan, after inauguration, would assure Nigerians that, consistent with the electoral legitimacy conferred on him through the citizens’ votes, he would be accountable to them during his tenure.  And if the citizens, on  their part, determine that they will continuously demand accountability from him, the country will be in the fortunate position of having one of the key ingredients for accelerating national development between 2011 and 2015.

2. Peace and Security
Assuring peace and security within the territorial area of a state is an incontrovertible pre-condition for development and it is also the case that there can be no peace without development. In the Nigerian context, the oil-rich Niger Delta is the supreme illustration of these two assertions.  Without peace and security in the Niger Delta, oil and gas that contribute about 32 per cent of the country’s GDP and about 80 per cent of government revenues will be at risk.  And without development in the area, that is, serious implementation of projects and programmes for reducing poverty and introduction and implementation of socio-economic activities that can help move the citizens in the area towards prosperity, sustainable peace and security cannot be achieved.

The on-going implementation of the Niger Delta Amnesty programme, introduced by the Yar’Adua administration, is a step in the right direction.  However, there is need to revisit the implementation arrangements for managing both the Amnesty Programme and promoting development in the Niger Delta. Specifically, I would argue that the Ministry of Niger Delta created in 2008 significantly duplicates the work of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and it should be folded into the NDDC.  What is required is the strengthening of the NDDC and ensuring that competent and top-flight experts and professionals are recruited with appropriate remunerations to turn the commission into a well-performing organisation.

The other dimension to the challenge of peace and security in Nigeria is the threat posed by a combination of ethnic-religious conflicts and inter- and intra-elite struggles for political power and the vast opportunities for accumulating wealth through unearned generous salaries and mind-boggling renting-seeking activities. While political power struggle was a factor in the post-election violence in Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano and Niger, religious fanaticism is the chief explanatory factor for the violence unleashed by Boko Haram since the late 2000s.  (Boko Haram literally means Western and/or non-Islamic education is a sin).  And in Jos, the combination of all three factors – ethnic, religious and political power struggles – account for the unending killings in the once-peaceful and serene city.

Failure to implement the recommendations of the succession of commissions of inquiry set up to probe the politico-ethnic-religious conflicts in Jos since the early 2000s has undermined the usefulness of this instrument for tackling the problem.

In these circumstances, tackling the root causes of the politico-ethnic-religious conflicts in the country appears to be the most viable route to finding lasting solutions. Is there a role here for the Sovereign National Conference that some opinion leaders have advocated since the early 1990s? This is a challenge that the president needs to address as a priority.

3. Government Policy Stability
It would be correct to assert that stability in economic policy, especially macro-economic stability, during the 2000s reinforced by the clarity and consistency in broad economic and social policies since the launch and implementation of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), is a major explanation for the strong economic growth recorded by the country since 2001.

Barring any major reversals, decent GDP growth rate is projected for 2011-2015.  However, at the level of specific economic and social policy actions, there have been varying degrees of inconsistencies and contradictions, including notable policy reversals.  The following are three examples of policy reversals between June 2007 and June 2008: one in the economic sector (specifically, privatisation policy) and two in the education sector.

Privatisation: Although privatisation is one of the main planks of the economic policy reforms in NEEDS, the Yar’Adua administration cancelled some of the privatisation transactions carried out between 2004 and 2007 including: Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries, sale of SAT 3, take-over of NICON Insurance and sale of NITEL to TRANSCOP and some concession agreements.

Considering the reported gains from the 100 or so privatisations that took place between 1999 and 2007 (the telecommunication sector yielded the most visible gains), the policy reversals send wrong signals to both domestic and foreign investors.  The alternative to ad hoc policy reversals could have been a comprehensive review of government’s privatisation policy with a view to making it work better for Nigerians through, among other measures, greater attention to transparency and the strengthening of regulatory administration and enforcement capacity to ensure fair competition and protection for consumers. This is a task that is yet to be tackled.

Education Sector: Two inherited policies in the education sector that were reversed are: (i) public-private-partnership (PPP) arrangement in the management of 102 Federal Government Colleges (Unity Schools) and (ii) merger of polytechnics and colleges of education with universities. It is reasonable to assume that the decent growth rate achieved between 2001 and 2010 and projected for 2011-2015 will convince President Jonathan to continue to maintain macro-economic stability during his tenure.  Regarding other socio-economic policies (for example, privatization policy and social policies focused on education and health), abrupt policy reversals should be avoided whilst necessary policy adjustments should be carried out only after adequate analytic work and consultations with key stakeholders.

4. Rule of Law
Rule of law, underpinned by an independent court system, implies a predictable legal framework that helps to ensure settlement of conflicts between the state and individuals on the one hand and among individuals or groups on the other. It also helps to ensure respect for property rights and contracts.

For Nigeria to succeed in drawing on the contributions of the judiciary to accelerating national development in the next four years, it would be necessary for the president to tackle the constraints to its independence and efficiency. Two obvious areas of interventions are: (i) basing all appointments to the Appeal Court and Supreme Court primarily on merit, competence and integrity, with consideration for “federal character” as secondary, and (ii) naming and shaming judges that are found to have abused their offices for private gains and ensuring their prompt removal.

5. Anti-corruption
Nigeria is widely cited in the development literature as an example of a country where institutionalised and systemic corruption has continuously undermined socio-economic development over several decades.

In the circumstance, the anti-corruption agenda introduced by the Obasanjo administration in 1999 was a necessary response to tackling the problem of corruption.

To accelerate the reversal of the negative impact of the consequences of corruption on socio-economic development in the country, the president can lead by example through the following actions: (i) declare and make public his assets and those of his wife within three months after his inauguration; (ii) mandate all ministers to do the same; and (iii) commission an immediate performance audit of the ICPC and the EFCC, to be followed by a revamping of the two institutions with a view to making them more transparent, efficient, and effective in leading the fight against corruption.

THREE TRANSFORMATION RESULT AREAS

1. Rehabilitating Education
The decline and decay in the country’s education sector at the inception of civilian rule in 1999 has sadly persisted.

Given the strong evidence on the centrality of education for development at the levels of individuals, communities, sub-national groups, and entire nations, the persistent decline and decay in the sector needs to be reversed; this must not continue. President Jonathan might wish to champion the rehabilitation and transformation of the sector during the next four years.

2. Fixing Poor Infrastructure
The trunk (federal) roads in the South-West on which I have travelled frequently since late 2004 are worse today than they were in October/November 2004.  Electricity supply is more epileptic in Lagos and Ondo states today than was the case in late 2004.

Yet, between1999 and December 2010, the huge budgetary allocations to roads and electricity are enough to provide better roads and more regular electricity supply across all the states of the federation.

Until there is significant improvement in electricity supply, a wide range of economic activities, including activities based on information and communication technology (ICT), will continue to be at the mercy of generators.

The government has also sought World Bank assistance to fix the problem of poor roads – a $300million loan facility.  While this intervention would help achieve improvement in respect of some roads, the extensive road maintenance work that needs urgent attention can only be fixed through domestic efforts. I would propose that the challenge of fixing the bad roads in the country should be examined within the National Economic Council with a view to turning FERMA into an intergovernmental agency to assure a true federal/state partnership in this area.

3. Achieving MDGs
Today, Nigeria is not among the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that are commonly cited as likely to achieve the MDGs by 2015.  Achieving the MDGs is considered a TRA because the government is formally committed to it, along with 200 or so other countries, at the level of the United Nations, and also because the goals are consistent with the development goals that are spelled out in Nigeria Vision 20-2020 (NV20-2020).  Indeed, the MDGs have been folded into the implementation plans of NV20-2020.

IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES

Centrality of the Civil Service
For the president to deliver concrete results in respect of the three Transformation Result Areas – rehabilitating education, fixing poor infrastructure, and achieving the MDGs – the weak implementation capacity of the federal civil service that successive administrations have complained about since 1999 must be tackled rapidly.

The obvious starting point would be for the president to approve the immediate launching of the implementation of the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR), crafted around four pillars, one of which is focused on Civil Service Administration Reform (CSAR).  (The three other pillars are: an enabling institutional and governance environment; an enabling socio-economic environment; and public financial management reform). Strikingly, the public service vision articulated in the NSPSR is “a world-class public service delivering government policies and programmes with professionalism, excellence, and passion” (italics added).

Intergovernmental Dimensions
Four main factors are responsible for the poor management of intergovernmental relations in the delivery of services to the public in the Nigerian federal system.  First, there are the strong centralized and unitary features carried over from the military era and transplanted into the 1999 constitution.  The second factor is the lack of respect for the assignment of functions provided in the constitution: the federal government hijacks some functions assigned to states while the states, in turn, hijack some of the functions assigned to local governments.

The third factor that is closely linked to the second is the unfair and inequitable revenue allocation formula that is more or less a carry-over of the arbitrary formula inherited from the military which is skewed in favour of the federal government.

Without going into the details of the controversies on this subject, I would like to suggest that a review of the revenue sharing formula in a manner consistent with the assignment of functions in the 1999 constitution should be concluded within the first six months of the new administration’s tenure.  In addition, delivery of services in each of the three TRAs through partnership arrangements among levels of government (federal/state, state/local and federal/state/local) should be expanded from the current low to modest levels.

Role of Non-State Actors
The role of non-state actors (NSAs) – private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) , civil society organisations (CSOs), youth groups, and community-based organisations in varying combinations – in implementing government development policies has assumed increased salience in both developed and developing countries during the last few decades.

In particular, many countries (including Nigeria) have committed to implementing a significant number of development projects and programmes through public-private-partnerships (PPPs), notably in infrastructure and in the social sector. Most often, the aim of governments is to attract finance and technical/management expertise and share risks.  In the Nigerian case, NSAs’ involvement in the delivery of services in partnership with governments is still on a small scale with the exception of the oil and gas industry where the joint ventures of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the oil majors (including Shell, Chevron and Total) that could pass as PPPs would qualify as being on a big scale.

For the in-coming administration to use NSAs (especially the PPP approach) more effectively in the short- to medium-term, it will need to fast-track the implementation of AfDB-supported project for building capacity for PPPs.  The administration will also need to commit to creating an enabling environment for PPPs, beginning with full respect of the contractual terms of the existing PPS, accompanied by strong arrangements for the monitoring and evaluation of PPP operations.

Critical Importance of Monitoring and Evaluation
NV20-2020 correctly assigns great importance to the role of monitoring and evaluation in ensuring successful implementation of the projects and programmes in the vision document, especially during the 2011-2015 period.

Indeed, it would be more productive for the Jonathan administration to pilot the use of the M&E process articulated in the vision document in respect of the development projects and programmes to be implemented in the three TRAs (education, infrastructure and MDGs).

Conclusion
By 2015, would the scorecard of President Jonathan have earned him the title of a transformational leader? An engaged scholar is not a prophet (of Joshua’s hue or in step with any of the other numerous self-proclaimed prophets) and I will, therefore, not attempt to answer this question.  However, I would expect the criteria for determining the president’s scorecard in 2015 to include elements relating to the five fundamentals and Transformation Result Areas identified and discussed.
Full text of lecture to be published from tomorrow in Vanguard.

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