Do your jobs, regulatory agencies
On June 27, 2021, this newspaper carried a report on the failure of regulatory agencies to perform the duties for which they were set up. The report was based on an investigation carried out by the paper. From the story, it was obvious that these agencies, through their actions and inactions, have led to or encouraged unfair practices, higher prices for consumers, damages and even deaths in some cases.
In Nigeria, whether it is in the communications, electricity, banking, aviation, petroleum or other sectors, the regulatory agencies are underperforming if they are to be judged by the specific provisions of their mandates, and their non-performance is part of what makes government unpopular in terms of service delivery.
Nigeria’s regulatory agencies include the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Insurance Deposit Corporation (NIDC), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
In the report by Daily Trust, the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation noted that the low service delivery might be attributed to failure of informed analysis of a situation; inappropriate supervision; jurisdictional overlap among different bodies; political failure and inadequate resources for a regulator to sufficiently address a problem. All these mentioned can indeed hamper performance, but what are the regulatory agencies doing to move past the bottlenecks to deliver on their mandates, because their non-performance is harming the country in several ways, including loss of lives and resources.
Regulatory agencies are supposed to ensure that goods sold at the markets meet the required standard, that public facilities are properly maintained, that Nigerians access quality service, among others, but so far, that has not been the case.
It is not news that many Nigerians have died due to consumption of expired food items that found their way into the market. Even drugs and other products are not left out.
For example, in the power sector, there are arbitrary charges and unmetered buildings despite persistent directive by the government to electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to meter all houses. In the communications sector, issues of drop calls, poor quality of network and data depletion are prevalent. Take a trip to the fuel stations across the country, customers face hoarding, diversion, adulteration and under-dispensing.
At the nation’s airports, flight delays by airlines are a recurring decimal and the airlines do not bother about the welfare of their passengers as they wait. Customers/consumers are generally taken for granted in Nigeria, and this is simply because the people providing services are not being made to account for their actions. Punishment is not meted out, so the circle continues. Of what use really are the regulatory agencies which are being catered for by tax payers’ money if they cannot protect the rights of those citizens.
If manufacturers or service providers know that there is punishment for cutting corners or short-changing a customer, they will do better. The regulatory agencies must sit up and earn their keep. They must protect and promote the interests and welfare of consumers.
There is no reason why expired goods should flood our markets. The situation is so bad that neigbouring countries take advantage of the situation to bring in goods that cannot be consumed in their countries. It is indeed a shame.
Lawmakers who are supposed to carry out oversight functions should do more. They are part of the Nigerian population, therefore, cannot claim not to have noticed these failings on the part of the regulatory agencies. They should take the matter up with them.
Nigerians should also be more assertive in demanding for their rights. Citizens do not have to take whatever is dished out to them in terms of service. They should demand to get value for money spent.
Furthermore, we urge the federal government to ensure that appointments to these agencies are based on merit and heads of nonperforming agencies should be removed.
Nigeria will indeed be a better country, with greater governance index if these regulatory agencies do their jobs, and the time to start is now.