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Presidency set for major reforms

Oronsaye

SGF”s office to lose control of agencies

Govt may stop sponsorship of pilgrims

FEC gets copies of Oronsaye’s report today

TWO contentious issues: The powers of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) over parastatals and the Federal Government’s sponsorship of Christian and Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Lands, may soon be resolved.

The Goodluck Jonathan administration, which is allegedly well-disposed to the recommendations of Stephen Oronsaye’s report, is set to implement, among others, these two salient aspects of the document.

It was learnt that in line with the recommendations of the panel, the President is set to divest the SGF’s office of some of its functions and transfer them to a soon-to-be created Ministry of Special Duties.

Also, the government, which has reportedly expressed disgust over the huge public funds it expends yearly on pilgrims, has resolved to stop further allocations for the conduct of the personal spiritual exercise.

According to Presidency sources, the government is opposed to spending public funds on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem in Israel because between 2007 and 2011, it expended N6.449 billion on the scheme.

The Oronsaye panel, which generously captured the expenditures on pilgrims in the report, urged the government to disengage from sponsoring pilgrims to the two Middle-East countries because of the economic implications and politics of the exercise. The above figure excludes what the 36 states spent on pilgrims during the period under review.

It was learnt that members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) would today receive copies of the report of the Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies submitted to the President last Monday.

Before the panel handed in the report, The Guardian had exclusively published part of its details a few weeks ago, where it listed that the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and the National Communications Commission (NCC) could be merged to reflect global standard and save cost.

The report, which is causing disquiet in the federal bureaucracy for its radical recommendations, is still a closely-guarded document. A source said members of the committee were yet to be given final copies of the recommendations.

But that will be effected today after the FEC members receive theirs, but this is still contingent upon return of the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was expected back from Washington DC last night where she had attended 2012 Spring Meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Guardian learnt that there were more radical proposals in the document but some would be given priority attention.

Among those to get prompt action include two recommendations that the 1995 Ayida Panel Report on Public Service Reform had settled under the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Feelers from Aso Rock indicated that the Jonathan administration would restructure the bureaucracy of the Presidency using the office of the SGF at the starting point.

Oronsaye had recommended that for the SGF’s office to be operationally-effective, it must be restructured to divest it of functions it shares with other agencies.

The panel had recommended the reduction of federal agencies from the current 263 to 161 and abolition of 38 others as well as merger of 52 and reversion of 14 to departments under existing ministries out of the existing 541 statutory and non-statutory agencies.

A Presidency’s source disclosed that Oronsaye proposed a functional Special Duties Ministry to take over some omnibus functions, which had made the SGF’s office unwieldy.

The planned ministry will also absorb the SGF’s current supervisory role over agencies and commissions such as the Lottery Office, National Identity Management Commission, Nigeria National Merit Award, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and others.

The office of the SGF parades about seven departments headed by permanent secretaries, including Special Services Office, Cabinet Secretariat, General Services Office, Ecological Fund Office, Political and Economic Affairs Office, and Special Duties.

The source said: “These functions may be taken away from the office of the SGF as they cause a lot of distractions because of economic interests from these agencies… If we accept these recommendations, the SGF’s office will concentrate on policy co-ordination and analysis, not how these agencies are run anymore…”

Besides, it is said that the Presidency is interested in the report because even as the panel puts it, the 1995 Ayida Panel Report on reform had recommended that the SGF’s office should be reformed for “operational effectiveness” to the extent of removing functions that can bog it down.

Similarly, the Ayida panel had recommended that the government should gradually disengage from sponsoring pilgrimage since Nigeria is a secular state. The panel had urged the government to restrict itself to only consular services for pilgrims.

The panel argued that countries with high Muslim concentration such as Malaysia and Turkey do not sponsor pilgrims.

It also declared that Israel does not recognise pilgrims but tourists in its shores because there is no scriptural injunction that pilgrims should visit Israel.

It was learnt that for Muslims, the panel proposed three conditions: That those going to Mecca should have the means, be healthy and should be able to care for those they are leaving behind at home while on pilgrimage.

Already, organised Labour has threatened to prevent the sack of workers as a result of the implementation of the Oronsaye report.

The Ayida panel report, which came after the Dotun Philip’s, recommended the reversion to the nomenclature of permanent secretaries and separation of the office of the Head of Service from the SGF’s.

The Abacha administration then implemented that but stayed action on the sponsorship of pilgrims and civil servants taking up of chieftaincy titles and re-organisation of the SGF’s office.

-Guardian

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Posted by on Apr 24 2012. Filed under Goodluck Jonathan (2010-present), Presidency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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