SENTIMENTS will overtake reasons on decisions about which federal agencies will be spared in government’s bid to cut rising cost of its operations. People are more interested in which agencies remain, rather than the rationale for the exercise.
Lobbyists are awake. Agencies will survive not based on their contributions, but on their ability to convince decision makers of their importance. From the debates on the matter, it is obvious that agencies would be saved more for their significance in funnelling patronage into the political system than service to Nigerians.
The tilts of the concerns are showing. While many appear worried about the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission, ICPC, and Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, they are just three of 378 agencies recommended for scrapping or merger with others to prune them from 541 to 163.
Politics, more than service to ordinary Nigerians would decide which agencies remain. Suggestions about cutting the cost of governing Nigeria have been ignored because every government understands these agencies are platforms for funnelling patronage to political protégés who serve on their boards.
Laws the National Assembly make also create more agencies. If the matter is not tackled at both ends, newer and more useless agencies would soon take the place of those that are scrapped.
Every agency comes with a full load of bureaucracy, board and staff who have to be paid, its facilities maintained and its high ranking officials would be entitled to perks like trips abroad for medical needs and shopping.
Multiplication of these wastes across 541 agencies reduces annual budgets to serving the recurrent needs of government. It is the reason that for years, capital expenditure has been a minuscule part of the budget. Savings from pruning agencies would boost capital expenditure which will create more jobs.
Our unwieldy federal structure encourages wastes. A federal university in 36 States instantly translates to 36 federal university councils. When each State gets a federal medical centre, 36 boards to run the centres are created. These two decisions result in 72 agencies. Constitutional amendments that cede more powers to the States can tackle this aspect more sustainably.
Government requires a lot of political will to act on this report. Though it dealt with agencies, government should also tackle the number of political appointees – Ministers and Special Advisers. It is understandable if the President appoints 36 Ministers to meet a constitutional requirement, but it is imprudent to exceed that number and top it with a horde of aides.
The President said he will prune agencies in two months – that is in June. We will hold him by his promise.