Em­manuel Gbade Ojo

‘ There’s No Bet­ter Time To Im­ple­ment Oron­saye Re­port Than Now’

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It is not in all cases that re­struc­tur­ing and ra­tio­nal­iza­tion lead to job losses and down­siz­ing. Ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion may bring out the best of the work­force in terms of max­imi­sa­tion of labour. What­ever hap­pens, the re­port im­ple­men­ta­tion is the best for the coun­try with al­most 300 fed­eral agen­cies and paras­tatals, and with many of them per­form­ing sim­i­lar func­tions or just mere cen­tres of job- for- the- boys by politi­cians

Dr. Em­manuel Gbade Ojo is Head, Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence Depart­ment, Univer­sity of Ilorin, Kwara State and for­mer Chief of Staff to for­mer Oyo state gover­nor Abi­ola Aji­mobi. In this in­ter­view with ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE, he says this is the best time to im­ple­ment the Steve Oron­saye Com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tions on re­struc­tur­ing and ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion of Fed­eral Govern­ment agen­cies, paras­tatals and com­mis­sions. He stresses that aside from help­ing to cut cost of gov­er­nance, it is a cheap way of prun­ing dead­woods in anticipati­on of pos­i­tive im­pact on the econ­omy in the near fu­ture.

PRES­I­DENT

Muham­madu Buhari has given a nod to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of rec­om­men­da­tions of the Steve Oron­saye Com­mit­tee. What is the pur­pose of re­struc­tur­ing and ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion in pub­lic ser­vice?

Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan set up the Oron­saye Com­mit­tee specif­i­cally on Au­gust 18, 2011. It was a seven- mem­ber com­mit­tee to ad­vise govern­ment on re­struc­tur­ing and ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion of Fed­eral Govern­ment agen­cies, paras­tatals and com­mis­sions.

It is im­por­tant to state that ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion doesn’t mean re­trench­ment of work­ers. It doesn’t mean you want to down­size. Most Nige­ri­ans were scared when they heard that Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari signed the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

In Nige­ria and, in­deed, many African coun­tries, the pri­vate sec­tor should be ex­panded if the pub­lic sec­tor is shrink­ing. But if you are re­trench­ing, re­duc­ing work­ers and the pub­lic sec­tor too is shrink­ing, it will lead to so­cial dis­lo­ca­tion and a greater prob­lem of unem­ploy­ment. So, ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion does not pri­mar­ily mean down­siz­ing.

To­day, there are well over 200 Fed­eral Govern­ment agen­cies and paras­tatals. A num­ber of them are per­form­ing sim­i­lar and same func­tions, and it would be bet­ter to col­lapse those agen­cies. This is ba­si­cally about look­ing at what a worker was do­ing in his for­mer agency and how does the coun­try fix him in the new agency?

What can lead to down­siz­ing of work­ers from what I have read in the re­port is the rec­om­men­da­tion that some few agen­cies be fully com­mer­cialised. When you com­mer­cialise an agency, you have to lay off work­ers. The ori­en­ta­tion of staff in a tra­di­tional agency would not be suit­able for an agency that is com­mer­cial - money mak­ing, mak­ing profit, that is the bot­tom line.

But there is the ten­dency that the im­ple­men­ta­tion will lead to some job losses. Would this not cause in­dus­trial cri­sis in the coun­try as labour cen­tres may raise eye­brows?

It is not in all cases that re­struc­tur­ing and ra­tio­nal­iza­tion lead to job losses and down­siz­ing. I am aware that labour cen­tres may not be com­fort­able with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­port. Ra­tio­nal­iza­tion may ac­tu­ally bring out the best of the work­force in terms of max­i­miza­tion of labour or what we call job- man­ning. What­ever hap­pens, the re­port im­ple­men­ta­tion is the best for the coun­try with al­most 300 fed­eral agen­cies and paras­tatals per­form­ing sim­i­lar func­tions and some be­ing cen­tres of job- for- the­boys by politi­cians.

Where job losses are im­per­a­tive, the im­ple­men­ta­tion com­mit­tee may have to ask those that have put in sev­eral years to re­tire vol­un­tar­ily and be paid off. With the con­trib­u­tory pen­sion scheme of the fed­eral govern­ment, that would not be a real bur­den. The truth is that there is no way you re­struc­ture, ra­tio­nal­ize or merge paras­tatals that job losses will not oc­cur. The agen­cies are un­wieldy no doubt.

Again, what I know is that a num­ber of those agen­cies are short- staffed. As peo­ple are re­tir­ing, their po­si­tions are not im­me­di­ately filled. So, when you merge agen­cies that are per­form­ing sim­i­lar func­tions, you will dis­cover that few of them have va­can­cies. The boomerang ef­fect is that govern­ment may not ap­prove re­cruit­ment al­most im­me­di­ately. So, those look­ing for job will still be out there. Let us look out for those get­ting closer to re­tire­ment, those who have put in 20 years and more; ask them to re­tire vol­un­tar­ily rather than re­trench them, be­cause they are civil ser­vants work­ing with the ex­pec­ta­tion of pen­sion and gra­tu­ity.

Most of the agen­cies were cre­ated by Acts of Par­lia­ment. Will the pro­cesses of merg­ing them not be cum­ber­some?

It can’t be cum­ber­some. It will take time. Read­ing the re­port, a num­ber of those agen­cies will re­quire tak­ing back to the Na­tional Assem­bly to amend the laws that es­tab­lished them, re­peal some laws and con­se­quently come up with a new law that will merge. In the next one year, the im­ple­men­ta­tion may not be com­pleted.

Do you see this ad­min­is­tra­tion be­ing able to suc­cess­fully im­ple­ment the Oron­saye re­port?

The process may look a bit cum­ber­some. That is why the Na­tional Assem­bly has been bro­ken down into com­mit­tees. So, dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees will be asked to work on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Com­mit­tee, es­pe­cially those ones that have been ac­cepted by the govern­ment. In the next two years, Buhari will still be Pres­i­dent and they are likely to have per­fected those things if they are se­ri­ous about it.

How­ever, I don’t think the im­ple­men­ta­tion should be a prob­lem but the po­lit­i­cal will. Where there is will, there must be a way. Agreed that the per­for­mance of govern­ment at all lev­els is ap­palling when it comes to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­ports of com­mit­tees set up by it. In this case, I want to as­sume that govern­ment may want to demon­strate a kind of se­ri­ous­ness. More so, with a num­ber of In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Funds ( IMF) con­di­tion­al­i­ties be­fore they could se­cure the re­cent loan, who says the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­port may not be part of the con­di­tion­al­i­ties?

Will ca­reer civil ser­vants and politi­cians al­low the process to see the light of day?

Ca­reer civil ser­vants can’t ob­struct the im­ple­men­ta­tion if govern­ment is com­mit­ted to it. Politi­cians may only lobby that the govern­ment should not re­trench much if the af­fected comes more from an eth­nic group. But if the im­ple­men­ta­tion com­mit­tee is fair, no doubt, it will sail through.

Don’t you think that huge sev­er­ance pack­ages may pose a chal­lenge to the re­port’s im­ple­men­ta­tion?

Aside from po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees in those agen­cies that may be merged, the is­sue of huge sev­er­ance al­lowance does not come in. It is cheaper to do away with the dead­woods now and ex­pect pos­i­tive re­sult in the fu­ture. The in­tended gains of the re­form could be both short­term and long- term. As I said ear­lier, for the civil ser­vants that may be af­fected, con­trib­u­tory pen­sion scheme may take good care of that.

A lot of out­landish rec­om­men­da­tions have been pointed out. What are the wild rec­om­men­da­tions you ob­served in the re­port?

A flip through the re­port shows that there are a num­ber of wild rec­om­men­da­tions, which may shock Nige­ri­ans. Good enough, in the wis­dom of those in govern­ment they have re­jected a num­ber of them. For in­stance, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mended that Fed­eral Char­ac­ter Com­mis­sion should be ab­ro­gated! In a coun­try with well over 350 eth­nic groups and ba­bel of voices – plu­ral and deeply di­vided – the com­mis­sion is needed. Though as things stand now, it isn’t re­ally achiev­ing much by su­per­vis­ing re­cruit­ment into fed­eral agen­cies to achieve na­tional in­te­gra­tion. This is a coun­try where even top elites are guilty of eth­nic jin­go­ism.

An­other wild rec­om­men­da­tion has to do with full com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of Na­tional Busi­ness and Tech­ni­cal Ex­am­i­na­tion Board ( NABTEB) and Na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil ( NECO), among oth­ers. The truth is that agen­cies con­duct­ing pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tions should not be com­mer­cialised con­sid­er­ing cur­rent lit­er­acy level and per­va­sive cul­ture of poverty. NABTEB that is meant to han­dle pro­fes­sional ex­am­i­na­tions for trained ar­ti­sans ought not to be com­mer­cialised. It is good that the govern­ment re­jected that rec­om­men­da­tion.

Among oth­ers, the com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended that Fed­eral Road Safety Corps ( FRSC) should be merged with the Nige­ria Po­lice. This is un­ac­cept­able. Road Safety Corps will do bet­ter as it is rather than when merged with the Po­lice, which had its Mo­tor Traf­fic Di­vi­sion in­ef­fec­tive, ne­ces­si­tat­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of the FRSC ab ini­tio.

An­other wild rec­om­men­da­tion is in the health sec­tor. We have 19 teach­ing hos­pi­tals. To now say the Board mem­bers of such hos­pi­tals should be health work­ers alone, is not a good rec­om­men­da­tion. If you have a board, like 19 peo­ple in the Board of Univer­sity Col­lege Hospi­tal ( UCH), for ex­am­ple, they can’t all be med­i­cal doc­tors. There are peo­ple that are hospi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tors. The wife of Bar­rack Obama, for­mer Pres­i­dent of Amer­ica is a hospi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tor. Peo­ple from dif­fer­ent fields should be on the Board so that the es­tab­lish­ment can ben­e­fit from their knowl­edge.

An­other thing is the Nige­rian In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs ( NIIA) be­ing asked to swal­low the In­sti­tute for Peace and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion in Abuja. Fine, they are re­seach in­sti­tutes. But if govern­ment be­lieves they have been do­ing the same thing and there­fore want them merged, no prob­lem.

The one that has to do with the me­dia, which govern­ment re­jected is that Fed­eral Ra­dio Cor­po­ra­tion of Nige­ria ( FRCN) and Voice of Nige­ria ( VON) should be merged but govern­ment re­jected that. Why should govern­ment re­ject that if they want to re­duce man­power and bring about ef­fi­ciency? VON should be an arm of FRCN be­cause VON broad­casts in­ter­na­tion­ally while FRCN broad­casts lo­cally. But if you look at the Nige­ria Tele­vi­sion Au­thor­ity ( NTA), it is the same NTA that broad­casts lo­cally; the same NTA has NTA In­ter­na­tional as a wing. So, what does it cost govern­ment to ac­cept that rec­om­men­da­tion?

An­other wild rec­om­men­da­tion of that com­mit­tee is the in­ten­tion to cre­ate the Min­istry of Spe­cial Du­ties. What­ever func­tions the min­istry will per­form should be sub­sumed un­der an ex­ist­ing min­istry. So, when govern­ment is im­ple­ment­ing the re­port of the Com­mit­tee, govern­ment needs to be wary of those ones that could lead to prob­lems. For in­stance, the In­de­pen­dent Cor­rupt Prac­tices and Other Re­lated Of­fences Com­mis­sion ( ICPC), Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion ( EFCC), Code of Con­duct Bu­reau ( CCB) and Pub­lic Com­plaint Com­mis­sion ( PCC) were sug­gested to be merged, and govern­ment said no. Why do you need to merge ICPC, EFCC and Code of Con­duct Bu­reau? Their func­tions are sim­i­lar but quite dif­fer­ent.

Govern­ment re­jected the rec­om­men­da­tion that PCC should be scrapped. I am happy with that. The elite and mid­dle- class should know that the lower class is suf­fer­ing in this coun­try. They are be­ing op­pressed. When they are be­ing op­pressed, they should be able to run to an agency that can bail them out. That is one area where the Min­is­ter of Labour and Em­ploy­ment is do­ing noth­ing. I score him and the min­istry zero.

Most of the com­pa­nies we have in this coun­try floated by for­eign­ers are labour ex­ploiters. They will re­cruit Nige­ri­ans to work 12 to 14 hours, from 6am to 6pm and 6pm to 6am. In two to three years, they are re­trenched so that they won’t be en­ti­tled to any­thing. Ma­chines in­jure a num­ber of them and they don’t know where to run to. Govern­ment is pre­tend­ing as if that is not hap­pen­ing. The labour law that should be worked on and en­forced is not be­ing done. Nige­ria has be­come a huge labour slave tank where no­body cares about fun­da­men­tal rights of work­ers.

So, PCC should be there so that when peo­ple are op­pressed and marginal­ized and can’t af­ford the cost of lit­i­ga­tion, which is very high in this coun­try, they can go to the pub­lic com­plaint com­mis­sion to bail them out. I’m us­ing this op­por­tu­nity to ap­peal to mem­bers of PCC to go for more public­ity so that Nige­ri­ans will know that it is re­ally in ex­is­tence and that they can feel its im­pacts.

In essence and most im­por­tantly, I want to ad­vise govern­ment that look­ing at the com­po­si­tion of mem­bers of the Oron­saye Com­mit­tee that pre­pared the white pa­per for the govern­ment, there is no scholar. That is a ma­jor weak­ness of that re­port. If a coun­try is as big as this, with the num­ber of uni­ver­si­ties and pro­fes­sional in­sti­tutes and there is no scholar in­volved, we can’t but point out that weak­ness. The re­search in­puts of aca­demics, which the re­port ought to ben­e­fit from is be­ing de­nied. There are pro­fes­sors of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and pro­fes­sors of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence who spe­cialise in ad­min­is­tra­tion and man­age­ment. There are pro­fes­sors of Man­age­ment and oth­ers in this coun­try. If they were to be in­volved, the story would have been dif­fer­ent.

Ojo

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