Before we implement oronsaye report on public sector streamlining (II)

Stephen Oronsaye

Continued from last week


I am making a last-ditch effort to ensure we tread softly before we unleash more hardship and unemployment on Nigerians while we attempt to implement the above mentioned report. I have proffered two reasons last week and more today.

3. ORONSAYE REPORT’S MANY ERRORS – I happen to have worked in a team on the original Oronsaye Report. It was flawed in part. No report can be perfect. Whereas I hope the government works with latter reviews of the same report, it is imperative to quickly point out that the assumptions upon which Oronsaye Report was based circa 2009/10 have broadly shifted today. There is a need for great caution. I recall two events when I worked in that team. When we arrived at National Bureau for Statistics, they had 2,100 staff listed in the report. The Oronsaye Committee questioned why they needed 2,100 staff and recommended the number be pruned massively. I objected. Nigeria has a growing population with vast landmass. We have 774 local governments and almost 10,000 wards made up of perhaps 100,000 villages, towns, cities, settlements etc in this country. What is our real-time statistical coverage of this country? Do we not still rely on foreigners to tell us what is going on in our country? Yes, we can deploy technology, but until we can design or afford precision technology in this area, there is nothing wrong in getting more statisticians to try and cover this country in order to obtain real-time primary data. We could use thousands more at the NBS who will coordinate ad-hoc interns.  The UK Office of Statistics has 3,500 staff, in a country of 60million people who are used for centuries, to supplying government with required information for policy planning. Look at us here. The second incidence had to do with the decision of my team members that the EHORECON (Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria) be scrapped. I reminded them that that is the ‘wole-wole’ (sanitary inspectors) of old; perhaps the most powerful parastatal at a point. Today, they no longer inspect settlements randomly; they now organize exams and issue certificates. Yes, we love our certificates in Nigeria. I am of the opinion that the old SANITARY INSPECTORS be brought back today. We have too many slums and are now living worse than beasts in some places. We could use 100,000 of them, or more.

4. NEED TO EMPHASISE SOME CRITICAL SECTORS – So when I say we needn’t sack people en masse, what do I propose we do with the numbers? There are critical sectors we now need to emphasize. Hopefully senators, reps and top public servants will not continue to hijack our budget for buying their usual frivolities. The focus should now be on the environment as I have discussed above, as well as the health sector (we haven’t yet repositioned our primary health centres even as we are engaged in snazzy activities in Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere on this COVID matter), education (we need teachers for the 13.5million children we must now take off the streets), agriculture and agro-processing, social services, internal and external security (sans the ghost soldiers and ghost policemen) and mass mobilization (we need MAMSER back to help retrain and reorientate our youth and to help take messages to our villages about government plans). If we focus on these sectors we will realise we can easily absorb and retrain those who will have to exit the public service at this time, and even employ a lot more of our youths – university or polytechnic degree is not required for most of these jobs (except for supervisors).

5. DISPARITIES IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE – Will the government take this opportunity to address the disparities, the skewness and imbalances in the service? Today’s government’s first activity in 2015 was to abolish the 8-year tenure instituted under Yar’Adua by the same Oronsaye. At some point we heard it had been reinstituted. No one is sure, but I know of some politically unconnected top officers who have been sent packing under the 8-years rule, and others who have remained 12 – 16 years on in roles that could be better served by younger, smarter people. The idea behind the 8-years rule is to create room for growth and a sense of belonging to younger people in the service. I believe in it. There is also the subject of the vast disparity in the remuneration of what they call ‘core service’ and those working in some lucky parastatals. Since the idea is about cutting costs or achieving efficiency, this is a time to determine what to do about this anomaly. Why would a Director in the ‘core service’ earn what a mere Trainee is earning in some parastatal? What do we do? Boost core service salary or reduce what parastatals take home? How do we expect people in core service not to be corrupt when they seem to have been forgotten in a different world?

6. TOP-HEAVINESS AND DIASPORAN DISLOCATIONS – There is also the increasing top-heaviness of some parastatals and in fact the entire service. Many were employed based on political considerations and before you know it there are directors and general managers all over the place, many with little or nothing to do. These people are entitled to N50million Toyota Prados or N80million Toyota Landcruisers, items which is liberally sprinkled all over our national budgets despite the rule in the procurement laws that nobody must request for any particular brand. These people are so powerful that nothing can stop them getting their entitlements. Many have several of these appurtenances of office purchased for them with taxpayers money. Nigeria was simply a mad country as we do things that will make sane people’s skins crawl. This is where the money gets spent, not the tiny salaries of fresh graduates who may get the boot if we blindly implement the Oronsaye Report. The small people must be protected, just as the CBN is protecting small staff from philistinic banks who would rather waste them just so that their Managing Directors continue maintaining their world-class private jets and earning their billion naira salaries. It must also be said, that these luxuries enjoyed by top public ‘servants’ is the excuse that elected politicians – such as National Assembly members – hand upon to justify their own demand for luxury. We the people must move against the madness. What do we do to the many underhand allowances and clever benefits paid in our public service depending on who is involved, the political power they wield and how much cash they collect on behalf of the country? What about the almighty corruption, embezzlement and mismanagement?  Also some of the dislocations happen when diasporans are headhunted and insist of government matching their dollar-denominated pay structure. Granted. But for some reason, we cannot say their involvement has turned the system around. It is incredibly hard to change this country.

7. AN ERA OF ASCETISM. ARE WE READY? – We are heading into an era of ascetism, minimalism, frugality and I wonder if we are ready. I very much doubt. People don’t change that easily. Nigerians aren’t really changing. Our political leaders will be the last to change except if they see something drastic threatening them. Granted that many of them cannot be reunited with their loot and properties abroad at the moment but the moment the coast begins to clear they will jet out and revert to status quo. They have enough stashed abroad already. so if we are implementing Oronsaye Report we must understand that the vulnerable has nothing to fall back on. Nigerians will love to see visible sacrifices on the part of the people they now consider as oppressors.

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