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Abayomi Akinbo: Can the Oronsaye Report Deliver Cost Savings in Today’s Nigeria?



By Abayomi Akinbo

The Tinubu administration’s decision to dust off the Oronsaye Report as a cost-cutting measure in the face of economic challenges was greeted by mixed reactions. While some view it as a commendable step, others wonder if the report represents the current cut level required to drastically reduce governance cost and bring efficiency to the use of public resources. Regardless of stance, any effort to reduce the cost of governance is welcome, so the administration deserves commendation for starting the process of implementing the over-a-decade-old Oronsaye Report.

The announcement by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, of the government’s intention to implement the Oronsaye Report set it apart from previous announcements by Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. A brief history recap of the report will help us understand how the Tinubu Administration’s announcement sets it apart from its predecessors.

The Stephen Oronsaye report was initiated by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012 and finalised in 2014. Led by the former Head of Service of the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye, the report aimed to review the structure of the Federal Government of Nigeria, emphasising streamlining and cost reduction. While not fully implemented during its initial years of release, the report resurfaced in 2022 with President Buhari’s commitment. 

The report identified 263 government agencies, parastatals, and commissions and recommended a reduction to 161; abolishing 38 agencies, merging 52, and reverting 14 to departments within ministries; and estimated potential savings of over N862 billion between 2012 and 2015.

Since the report’s release in 2014, scepticism remained about the government’s commitment to cut the cost of governance, especially with the continuous expansion of recurrent expenditure and the creation of new agencies by the National Assembly. Many civil society organisations have also sharply disagreed with the various govt white papers that rejected many of the recommendations in the report. 

Those pushing for the full implementation of the recommendations argue that it would enhance efficiency, reduce corruption, and yield financial savings. Conversely, critics, largely within government and labour movements, express concerns about potential job losses and the weakening of service delivery.

Adding to the concern about the number of agencies created since the publication of the report is the question of the actual number of MDAs. While the Federal Civil Service Commission lists 1,316 MDAs (See, there is doubt about the correctness of the figure. So, it is evident that considerations for implementing the 2014 Oronsaye Report should be based on the current realities of the Nigerian public sector.

Between 2014 and now, the governance landscape has changed, taking a turn for the worse, in terms of the cost of governance and quality of service. Any step towards resolution must consider a few things.

Firstly, the Oronsaye Report’s effectiveness in today’s Nigerian context requires careful consideration. While it proposes merging and streamlining MDAs, numerous new agencies with additional personnel have been established since its submission in 2014. This requires a broader approach from the Government that surpasses the scope of the report arising since 2014. So, how much is the government looking to save from the implementation of the report?

Secondly, to achieve cost reduction and enhance service delivery, this administration’s policy reform requires critical considerations for mergers. The mergers must align with the national development plan, ensuring the merged entities contribute meaningfully to its goals. Overlapping or cross-cutting mandates between agencies are ideal for mergers, as they can streamline operations and strengthen service delivery. Conversely, merging agencies with distinct mandates can create administrative burdens and hinder efficiency.

For example, the proposed merger between the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) brings two agencies with unrelated mandates together. A better alternative will leave NHRC as it is and merge PCC with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. 

It must be emphasised that if the aim is to reduce recurrent expenditure, refocus available funding on developmental projects, and improve efficiency, the government must remove duplicity in agency operations. The administration must also look into scenarios where different agencies perform similar functions, like having multiple biometrics registrations when a single database suffices and can reduce the strain on the public and the public purse.

In the same vein, there is a need to look at Nigeria’s regional development commissions like the Niger Delta Development Commission, the North East Development Commission, and those currently being formed. The social contract between government and citizens is to ensure equitable development. However, we must recognise that there are already existing channels through which state and federal governments can facilitate development in these regions. At the same time, the rationale behind these commissions may seem well-intentioned. Still, their creation exposes a troubling contradiction that the government, which claims to seek efficiency, still funds initiatives with minimal tangible impact.

Furthermore, while merging MDAs can potentially lead to job losses in the civil service, reducing cost and inefficiency is crucial to strengthening public service and maximising value for money for Nigerian citizens. This concern is valid, and we can learn from some countries that have faced similar or related issues. 

For instance, in the ‘90s, Canada confronted some fiscal hurdles marked by excessive government debt and deficits by implementing austerity measures and cost-cutting strategies to curb government spending and enhance fiscal resilience. The effort included implementing voluntary workforce adjustment programs, such as early retirement and severance packages, to downsize the public sector workforce and streamline government operations.

The government must focus on creating an environment that enables private-sector-led job creation. Alongside cost-cutting measures, the government could stimulate economic growth that helps create new jobs in the private sector. This could include investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), improving infrastructure, and creating a business-friendly environment to attract investment. A genuine ease of doing business, not the current one-step forward, ten-step backward process.

When South Korea embarked on reforms to enhance government efficiency in the ‘60s by merging and reorganising ministries, trimming administrative overhead, and decentralising decision-making processes, It also prioritised fostering innovation and bolstering growth in pivotal private sectors such as technology in its efforts. It implemented policies to cultivate a conducive environment for the private sector, particularly for tech startups, such as streamlining regulations, facilitating access to funding, and minimising bureaucratic obstacles. The Nigerian government must look at its policies around fiscal transparency, tech innovation, entertainment, freedom, and cryptocurrency if it is serious about enabling a good business environment.

Finally, the current administration structure has the largest cabinet of 48 Ministers since 1999. Coupled with this are the many Special Advisers and Special Assistants who also have their personal and technical assistants. Furthermore, having a large delegation for attendance at global events starkly contrasts the government’s calls for fiscal austerity. Such practices undermine the credibility of the administration’s claims of commitment to reducing the cost of governance. Governance is not about maintaining inflated office structures and funding redundancies on one hand while screaming to others that they have to sacrifice for the greater good. President Tinubu’s removal of redundancies would demonstrate a commitment to efficient and effective public service.


Abayomi Akinbo is an international development professional with expertise in fiscal openness, public financial management, and participatory governance. He is passionate about fostering public dialogue and improving service delivery through active citizen engagement in policymaking. Abayomi holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Portsmouth, U.K., and has acquired additional qualifications such as a certificate in Evidence in Public Policy from the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, U.K., a Public Management certificate from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Result-Based Impact Reporting from the West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana. He is a 2016 US Consulate Walter Carrington Youth and a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship alumnus. 


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