Dr. Joe Abah’s scope of study for POEs too narrow for conclusion reached – Bunmi Famosaya for Discussants’ Remarks

April 2, 2013

Iju Public Affairs Forum

Conclusion of the March 21, 2013 Session of the Iju Public Affairs Forum

“Pockets of Effectiveness” in Nigerian Public Service & Lessons for Accelerating National Development by Dr. Joe Abah

Preamble

I must start by commending the author on his well delivered lecture, which addresses a critical issue of national concern. Indeed, the text of the lecture has brought out not only the outcome of a good and incisive research, but it has also revealed the brilliance and the rich experience of Dr Joe Abah.

Discussants’ Comments

I commend the author on his well-researched and professionally delivered lecture. Having said this, however, I need to say one or two things either by way of critical observations or contribution to the thematic debate.

A.        Some Specific Issues

1.         Definitional Analysis

First, is my observation on the definitional analysis of the author. The essence of making clarifications is to clear some issues that may impede or blur the understanding of the readers. It is on this note that the lecture appeared to have suffered some gaps that need to be filled. For instance, in his definition of “Pockets of Effectiveness”, he talks about “good leadership”. He needs to tell us what makes or constitutes “good leadership”? We request him to elucidate more on this concept. At the same time, I believe the audience would want to know what he means by “weak governance states”. What factors make a strong governance state and a weak governance state?

2.         Scope of the Study

Next is the scope of the study. The author told us ab initio that the lecture is based on his experience as a public servant at the federal level. It is desirable to ask if his own personal experience alone is sufficient to draw a general inference/opinion on public agencies at all levels in both the public and private domains. And again, only one ministry in Lagos State, was identified as meeting the qualification for POEs. Does it mean that all other ministries in the remaining 35 states are grossly inefficient and not performing? Similarly, the local government level of governance is excluded from the Unit of Analysis (UOA) of the study. Does it mean also that all the 774 local governments in the Federation have failed in their delivery mandate without exception? Can we also genuinely say that Nigeria Customs is not performing? This is considering the increasingly-enormous revenue in the neighborhood of trillions of Naira the Department generates for the nation yearly.

My candid opinion is that the scope of the study can be improved upon as very many agencies were excluded from the performance assessment test of the study. In the first instance, Lagos State has excelled beyond the achievements of the Ministry of Environment identified by the author. The State has genuinely excelled in other areas including impressive improvement in the transportation system through the landmark initiative of Yellow Lanes and the introduction of BRT buses. The State is also at the verge of operating mass transit Bullet Train System across the Mainland Lagos to Nigeria’s border post at Badagry .

Ondo State is excelling on the Green Environment Policy to combat Climate Change adverse effects. Ekiti State is not left behind in the efforts to improve transportation system in the State through the construction of very solid and sustainable roads across the state. The State is also making giant strides in the area of internal revenue generation through its Internal Revenue Board. Revenue generation by the State has improved significantly from about N100 million per month some five years ago to over N500 million per month in the last two years. This development arose from the increasing efficiency of the Revenue Board. The Ekiti State Ministry of Health is not left behind as average life expectancy in Ekiti ranks the best in Nigeria at 55 years. In the same manner, states like Edo, Rivers and Cross Rivers have made giant strides in certain sectors of the respective states.

Again, the author needs to tell us what spectacular accomplishments were made by The Punch Newspaper and the Fahimta Microfinance Bank, Kaduna that qualified them for the status of POEs. Both are private sector enterprises. It is necessary to know this so that other organizations could benefit from their feats.

B.        POEs and Political Will

It is very important to take cognizance of the fact that whether an agency will be effective or not is a determinant resolve of the political leadership. This tendency is influenced by a number of factors, which include:

3.         Efforts at Making a Name through an Institutional Legacy

Most Nigerian leaders at all levels of governance do things solely for the purpose of just making a name for themselves. This is in the sense that they may want the establishment of a particular agency to be credited to them. For instance, the Ondo State University (now Ekiti State University) was founded by Chief Adekunle Ajasin as then Governor of old Ondo State. The Liberty Stadium was founded under the Premiership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo or still, more than a dozen NTA stations were established in 2003 by the Obasanjo administration. The Federal University, Oye-Ekiti was founded by President Goodluck Jonathan alongside others in eight other states. At inception, therefore, the founding political leaders may do everything possible to make the institutions start on a good footing by funding them for their initial development, and consequently instigating the effective performance of such institutions. This line of thinking cannot be divorced from the strong support given to EFCC and NAFDAC by the Obasanjo administration, which founded the two bodies.

4.         Political Leadership Interest in the Sustainability of the Predecessor’s Programmes

The sustainability, and by extension, the effectiveness of the programmes of the preceding government depends on the level of interest by the succeeding new administration in the inherited programmes. A previous opposition party taking over from a hitherto ruling party may not be warm towards continuing the programmes of its rival predecessor party. Even when a new leader emerges from the same ruling party, he/she may not see the inherited programmes as his/her priorities, and therefore discard them while some agencies may lose relevance. Where some agencies are retained by the new administration, the publicly acknowledged erstwhile performing leadership of such agencies may be relieved of his/her posts and thereby leading to the waned performance of the concerned agency. We have a lot of such cases in Ekiti State. The Otunba Adebayo Housing Estate, the Fayose Housing Estates and roads in Ekiti State were all abandoned by succeeding administrations. Paradoxically, what stands Governor Fayemi out today as a performing Governor in the State is his decision to complete the on-going and abandoned projects of his predecessors, the execution of which he is pursuing vigorously.

This is the situation with some agencies at both the Federal and State levels. A very prominent reference is the EFCC and NAFDAC. The laudable performance of the two agencies was attributed to the personal interest shown by the founding President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. To a large extent, the agencies were well funded and given very capable and competent leadership at the helm of their affairs.  However, at the exit of President Obasanjo, the leadership of EFCC was changed and consequently the fortunes of the Commission started declining.

5.         Political Leadership and Deliberate Duplication of Agencies

Oftentimes, political leaders duplicate some agencies which perform similar or almost similar functions. For instance, what is the difference between ICPC and EFCC? What are the special duties being performed by the ICPC and EFCC that the Nigeria Police cannot do? Are the operatives of EFCC and ICPC not drawn from the Nigeria Police?

The question therefore is that why the duplication of similar agencies? Why is the Nigeria Police not empowered in terms of improved skill, moral psychology (motivation) and funding  to be able to perform the functions of ICPC and EFCC? It is the believe that President Obasanjo deliberately created EFCC & ICPC in order to whittle down the powers of the Police in corruption management. Then, what is the essence of EFCC when ICPC had been earlier created? Why were the two not equally funded and staffed and equipped by the same administration?

C         Some Recommendations

I strongly believe that effectiveness and efficiency are not limited to any particular agency. All agencies have the potential for good performance if exposed to or given the same stimuli to perform. Therefore, I recommend the following as ways of enhancing and sustaining efficient and effective performance of all public agencies in Nigeria:

  1.       i.        Providing equal attention to all agencies in terms of adequate funding, competent staff and operational equipment.
  2.      ii.        Infrastructural investment in relation to provision of infrastructural and social amenities essential for productivity and effective, service delivery performance. In this regard, workplaces must be adequately electrified, supplied with water, provided with comfortable furniture, relaxation centres/restaurants, etc. for workers.
  3.     iii.        Satisfactory motivation of workers through comfortable working conditions, acceptable wage system and credible pension system. All these would ensure aversions to instant industrial strikes by workers.
  4.    iv.        Scrapping or merging agencies of similar functions. Duplication of agencies which perform similar or the same functions merely creates undue rivalry and redundancy of employees. Such agencies can be merged together or one of them scrapped altogether.
  5.     v.        Combating corruption has become a very chronic ailment in Nigerian politics and government, and which therefore needs a very strong medication to manage it. Some Nigerian leaders have deliberately turned some MDAs to gold-mines for their own selfish ends. The essential purpose of providing public goods and services for the benefit of citizens has become over-ridden by the selfish interest of political leaders at the helm of affairs of many agencies. Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending stiffer and deterrent penalties for those found guilty of political corruption.

Bunmi Famosaya, mni, Head of Civil Service of Ekiti State is an “Old Boy” of Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti.

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