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Editorial

Analysing the potential long-term effects of implementing Oronsaye report on Nigeria’s development trajectory

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In a much-needed move to address economic deprivation and hunger in Nigeria, President Bola Tinubu has finally given the green light for the full implementation of the long-forgotten Oronsaye report.

This report, named after the former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr Stephen Oronsaye, was compiled by the Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions, and Agencies.

Despite being submitted to the government 12 years ago, it had been left to gather dust until now. Back in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan recognised the urgency of the situation and established the presidential committee, with Oronsaye at its helm.

The comprehensive 800-page report, which was finally submitted in 2012, shed light on the staggering number of 541 Federal Government parastatals, commissions, and agencies, both statutory and non-statutory.

It recommended a significant reduction in the number of statutory agencies from 263 to 161, the scrapping of 38 agencies, the merger of 52, and the reclassification of 14 as departments within different ministries.

This decision to implement the Oronsaye report has brought a glimmer of hope to many Nigerians who have been grappling with economic hardships and food insecurity. By streamlining and rationalising the government’s bureaucratic machinery, the reduction in the number of agencies will undoubtedly lead to cost savings and increased efficiency.

This move is a crucial step towards addressing the rampant corruption and mismanagement that have plagued the country’s public sector for far too long.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the implementation of such reforms will not be without its challenges. Resistance from vested interests and bureaucratic hurdles may hinder the smooth execution of these changes.

Additionally, the government must ensure that the process is transparent and accountable, with a clear plan for the redistribution of resources and responsibilities.

Nonetheless, the decision to finally act on the Oronsaye report is a commendable one. It demonstrates a commitment to tackling the root causes of economic deprivation and hunger in Nigeria.

It is our hope that this long-overdue action will mark the beginning of a new era of efficiency and accountability in Nigeria’s public sector.

The implementation of the Oronsaye report should serve as a catalyst for further reforms, ensuring that the government’s resources are effectively utilized to uplift the lives of its citizens. Only through such bold and decisive actions can we hope to overcome the economic challenges that have plagued our nation for far too long.

In a previous investigation, it was discovered that the government had the potential to save a staggering N241billion if they had only implemented the recommendations.

This revelation came at a time when President Jonathan’s administration aimed to tackle the long-standing issues of inefficiency, duplication, and excessive bureaucracy within Nigeria’s federal civil service.

The report, which gained widespread recognition, presented a unique opportunity for the government to revamp its public service landscape. It was praised for its potential to enhance civil service efficiency, eliminate redundancy, and streamline governmental operations in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, despite expressing interest in implementing the report, the Muhammadu Buhari government failed to bring it to fruition.

However, the Tinubu government has recently announced plans to merge, subsume, scrap, and relocate various agencies, even providing insights into which ministries and agencies would be affected.

At first glance, the Tinubu government’s decision to revisit the report seems the bloated size of its ministries and the increasing number of appointments made by the president since taking office.

While the government aims to downsize agencies, it paradoxically continues to expand its pool of appointees.This situation calls for a creative approach to address the issue at hand. It is crucial for the government to not only focus on reducing agencies but also prioritise streamlining its ministries and curbing the excessive growth of appointments. Only then can we truly achieve a more efficient and effective public service system in Nigeria.

After more than nine months since his inauguration, the president continues to make appointments without considering the need to downsize certain agencies.

While we acknowledge that implementing the report is a step in the right direction, we can only hope that the government is sincere this time. The large cabinet, which goes against the recommendations of the report, does not inspire confidence in their seriousness.

This government must address the perception that positions given out are merely political favours for cronies and supporters. The evidence suggests that the government’s adoption of the Oronsaye report may just be a smokescreen.

In the past nine months, they have created more ministries and agencies than their predecessors, raising doubts about their commitment to streamlining government establishments.The government has been blaming inherited economic challenges for the state of the economy, yet they continue to create new ministries and agencies despite limited resources.

This contradictory behaviour is confusing to those who closely follow their actions. In times of economic downturn, it is expected that the government would downsize rather than create additional financial burdens.

They should also reconsider increasing the retirement ages of public servants.We hope that the government’s recent signal represents a genuine change of heart, leading to a significant reduction in the cost of governance. They should prioritise essential expenses and avoid unnecessary frivolities. It is crucial that they only incur costs that are important and justifiable.

We expect this government to have known that economic downturn ordinarily calls for downsizing and not the creation of additional financial burdens. In this wise, it needs to stop increasing the retirement ages of public servants.

We can only then hope that the current signal represents a genuine change of heart that would see the government drastically lowering the cost of governance by limiting funds for frivolities and ensuring that only important and justifiable costs are incurred.

Editorial

Increasing access to community healthcare

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Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) decried the increasing threat to the right to health of millions of people across the world. The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has stated that 140 countries recognise health as a human right. Unfortunately, these countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure that their citizens are entitled to access health services. According to the global health agency, about 4.5 billion people, over half of the world’s population, were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in her message underscored the fact that health is not only a fundamental human right, but also central to peace and security. According to her, addressing health inequities requires intentional efforts. Considerations of vulnerable groups must be addressed. Their needs ought to be purposefully integrated into health programmes at all levels to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

‘My health, my right,’ the global agency used the occasion to call for action to uphold the right to health amidst inaction, injustice and crises. The year’s theme, according to the organisers, was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

Moeti noted that many in the African region still need help with access to quality essential health services due largely to unfulfilled rights. She observed that this is further compounded by protracted and ongoing crises such as conflicts, climate change, food insecurity, disease outbreaks and epidemics.

Available figures show that the number of people aged 15 and over living with HIV is still high at an estimated 24.3 million in 2021 (3.4 percent of the total population) compared to 15.6 million in 2015. This underscores the continued transmission of HIV despite reductions in the incidence of people newly infected and the benefits of significantly expanded access to antiretrovirals. Moeti called on member states to uphold the progress towards fulfilling the right to health, agreed by all nations of the world in 1948 and enshrined in the WHO Constitution.

“The right to health is a universal right of all human beings, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status,” Moeti stated.

Nigeria, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, has reiterated the ministry’s commitment to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians. The minister is of the view that the right to health is not just the ideal, it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For millions of Nigerians, accessing quality healthcare is a challenge. However, the federal government has mapped out some initiatives to address the challenge. These include Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and the Nigeria Health Sector Renewal and Investment Initiative and strategic partnerships through which the health ministry is ensuring access to health of Nigerians in remote communities across the country.

Unfortunately, the right to health for all Nigerians has not been enshrined in our laws. Therefore, we call on the federal and state lawmakers to make laws that will ensure the right to health of all Nigerians. We need laws that will ensure Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians.

Such laws will ensure that every Nigerian has access to quality health at all times. These include having access to potable water, clean air, quality nutrition and quality housing, decent working environment and freedom from discrimination.

While the laws that will enforce the right to health of all Nigerians are being awaited, the government must improve access to health by ensuring that quality healthcare services are provided at the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the 774 local government areas.

If the primary healthcare centres are functional, the nation’s disease burden would have been reduced by over 70 per cent. The government should provide free health services at the PHC level. For Nigeria to increase access to quality health for millions of Nigerians and ensure UHC, the health funding must be significantly increased.

Pathetically, it has become an eyesore that millions of Nigerians living at the grassroots don’t have access to quality healthcare services. This is a wakeup call to the various state Governors and their Chairpersons to reinvest in the health sector, especially the community people.

Most of the health institutions and healthcare facilities are in a dilapidated stage at the rural communities and there is no motivation for health personnel in terms of incentives, knowledge acquisition such as training and retaining of staff, the equipment in various hospitals and clinics are outdated. The federal government in partnership with international donors should reenergise in the health system for the betterment of the masses.

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Editorial

Urgent action needed to stem rising violence in Nigeria

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In a recent high-level meeting convened by Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, alarming statistics were revealed: in just eight weeks, Nigeria has witnessed a staggering 537 cases of murder.

This revelation, coupled with 141 incidents of terrorism/secessionist attacks, 26 cases of armed robbery, 214 instances of kidnapping, and 39 cases of unlawful possession of firearms, paints a dire picture of our nation’s security landscape.

The gravity of these figures cannot be overstated. Each number represents a life lost, a family shattered, and a community in mourning. It is a stark reminder of the pervasive threat to the safety and well-being of every Nigerian citizen.

As a nation, we must confront this crisis with unwavering resolve and urgency. The current measures in place to address this surge in violence are woefully inadequate. It is evident that mere rhetoric and half-hearted efforts will not suffice in stemming the tide of bloodshed that plagues our country.

Furthermore, cooperation and collaboration between the government, security forces, and communities are paramount in the fight against crime and insurgency. Only through a united front can we hope to achieve lasting peace and stability in our nation.

As a society, we cannot afford to be complacent in the face of such staggering violence. The lives of our fellow citizens are at.

Kayode Egbetokun, recently unveiled the stark reality of our nation’s security predicament – a harrowing tally of 537 murder cases, 141 acts of terrorism/secessionist violence, and a myriad of other criminal atrocities.

Yet, amidst the chaos, glimmers of hope emerge – 3,685 suspects apprehended, 401 kidnapped victims rescued. These are the valiant efforts of our law enforcement, battling against a rising tide of criminality that threatens to engulf our nation.

But behind these statistics lies a deeper malaise – the scourge of economic hardship driving desperate souls into the arms of crime. In the crucible of survival, patriotism wanes, and criminality becomes an industry unto itself.

As the specter of insecurity looms large, the response from our governments remains tragically predictable – hollow promises, ineffectual rhetoric. The blood of innocents flows freely, cries for help drowned out by the deafening silence of those tasked with our protection.

It is a damning indictment of our society’s fabric when the guardians of law and order are themselves shackled by inadequacy.

With a mere 300,000 officers to police a population of 200 million, our forces are stretched thin, unable to meet the demands of a nation in turmoil.

The expectations are clear – to enforce justice, safeguard lives, and stem the tide of criminality. Yet, the reality falls short. The wheels of justice grind slowly, convictions dwindle, and offenders roam free.

In this crucible of despair, the call for divine intervention rings loud. But it is not divine providence we seek, but rather a concerted effort from our leaders to confront the scourge of insecurity head-on.

For it is only through effective policing that the foundation of our nation can be secured. The safety of our citizens is non-negotiable, and it is incumbent upon our governments to rise to the challenge. The time for platitudes is over.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has highlighted a concerning trend of cases where offenders are not convicted due to gaps between the Ministry of Justice and the police. This failure to prosecute perpetrators undermines national security by allowing them to evade accountability for their actions.

The lack of consequences for criminal behavior fosters a culture of impunity and reinforces the belief that crime is a profitable endeavor. This is evident in the brazen acts of banditry, criminality among herdsmen, Boko Haram insurgency, and other criminal activities across Nigeria.

To address this issue, governments at all levels must prioritize the deployment of skilled and professional legal practitioners in the criminal justice system.

Additionally, we propose that governments at all levels should allow private legal practitioners who are inclined towards criminal prosecution to collaborate with the state in prosecuting criminal cases.

This collaboration could take the form of private consultancy, engagement on a private basis, or through pro bono services. We believe that this approach could potentially help alleviate the burden on the state by reducing the backlog of criminal cases pending in courts, particularly those related to awaiting trial and others.

The time for action is now. Law enforcement agencies must be empowered with the necessary resources and support to effectively combat crime and ensure the safety of all Nigerians. Additionally, there must be a concerted effort to address the root causes of violence, including poverty, unemployment, and social inequality.

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Editorial

Tackling Nigeria’s high food prices: Strategies for mitigating soaring inflation

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Amidst the vibrant composition of global commerce, Nigeria stands as a nation grappling with formidable challenges that threaten to stifle its economic aspirations.

The latest findings from Africa’s Pulse, a prestigious biannual survey conducted by a prominent global lending institution, cast a spotlight on Nigeria’s enduring struggle with exorbitant trade costs.

With trade expenses in Nigeria towering four to five times higher than those in the United States, the report paints a portrait of a nation hamstrung by systemic barriers to economic growth and development.

The primary culprits behind these exorbitant trade costs are identified as steep transportation expenses, inadequate road infrastructure, and pervasive insecurity. Addressing these entrenched issues demands urgent and concerted efforts from President Bola Tinubu, his economic team, and security authorities.

It’s worth noting that many of these challenges were inherited by Tinubu’s administration.

Insecurity, for instance, has long plagued the nation, with farmers abandoning their fields due to the threats posed by various forms of violence, including terrorism, banditry, and clashes with herdsmen.

The toll of this insecurity is staggering, with tens of thousands losing their lives and many more falling victim to kidnappings and displacement.

Coupled with Nigeria’s daunting infrastructure deficit, estimated at a staggering $100 billion annually over three decades, the consequences are dire, particularly reflected in soaring food prices.

Currently, food inflation stands at a staggering 37.2 percent, a sharp contrast to the modest 2.20 percent recorded in the United States during March.

Addressing these systemic challenges demands decisive action and innovative solutions to enhance Nigeria’s competitiveness on the global stage and unlock its full economic potential.

While grappling with longstanding trade challenges, President Bola Tinubu’s policies have inadvertently exacerbated the situation. Initiatives such as the removal of petrol subsidies and the floating of the naira, introduced shortly after his inauguration, have catapulted business costs, prices, and inflation to unprecedented heights.

The recent decision to eliminate subsidies for Band A electricity consumers further compounds the issue, with consumers facing a staggering increase from N68 to N225 per kilowatt hour, despite expectations of consistent power supply.

These policy shifts have cascading effects, significantly inflating the cost of production for both domestic and imported goods. Diesel prices, crucial for manufacturing due to unreliable electricity, have surged to an average of N1,600 per litre in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the impending rise in petrol prices, post-subsidy removal, threatens to push costs even higher, amplifying the financial strain on businesses and consumers alike.

Compounding these challenges is the absence of a robust railway system to alleviate transportation burdens. Hindered by political constraints centralized at the federal level, the railway network remains underdeveloped, leaving a critical gap in Nigeria’s infrastructure landscape.

As the nation grapples with these complex dynamics, finding sustainable solutions demands a holistic approach that addresses both policy missteps and systemic deficiencies. Only through decisive action and strategic investment can Nigeria hope to chart a course towards economic resilience and prosperity.

In the intricate dance of trade dynamics in Nigeria, imported essentials like food, medicines, raw materials, petroleum products, and machinery have taken center stage, their prices soaring to astronomical heights. This relentless surge has dealt a heavy blow to countless organizations and small-to-medium enterprises, pushing many to the brink of closure.

At the heart of this economic opera lies the exorbitant lending rate, standing at a staggering 24.75 percent—a sharp contrast to the more modest 3.76 percent average witnessed in the Euro Area during the same period. This glaring imbalance in interest rates further amplifies the financial strain on businesses, stifling growth and innovation.

Yet, the cacophony of challenges doesn’t end there. Multiple taxation, sluggish port operations, and the stranglehold of government oversight on state-owned enterprises contribute to the symphony of woes plaguing Nigeria’s trade landscape.

Seaports have become bottlenecked corridors, with imported goods languishing in limbo as demurrage fees accumulate—a burden ultimately borne by consumers. Meanwhile, the choreography of trade is disrupted by a chorus of non-state actors, who levy tolls and extort fees from hapless owners seeking to unload their cargo.

In this tangled web of fiscal complexities, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, Taiwo Oyedele, has counted a staggering 200 taxes, a bewildering array that stifles economic vibrancy.

While the government officially collects 62 taxes—divided among federal, state, and local government authorities—another 108 informal or ‘nuisance’ taxes are levied daily by non-state entities, further entangling businesses in a web of financial burdens.

Oyedele center stage, poised to orchestrate a transformational shift towards simplicity and efficiency. With determination coursing through its veins, the committee sets its sights on streamlining the labyrinth of taxes, aiming to reduce the cacophony to a melodious single-digit harmony.

Yet, the fiscal symphony is not without its dissonance. State governments, echoing the Federal Government’s VAT collection efforts, persist in extracting consumption taxes from the same businesses—a redundant cacophony that stifles economic vibrancy.

Meanwhile, the haunting refrain of poorly managed State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) casts a shadow over Nigeria’s economic landscape. Despite being Africa’s largest crude exporter, Nigeria finds itself importing petroleum and steel products—a paradox born of SOEs mired in a state of dormancy.

To strike a harmonious chord and alleviate the burdens weighing down Nigeria’s trade, President Tinubu must take decisive action. Accelerating efforts to streamline taxation, privatizing SOEs, and embarking on a fervent quest to rebuild infrastructure stand as imperative measures on the path to economic revitalization.

Furthermore, the melody of progress demands a deepening of electricity supply and a symphonic collaboration with sub-national governments to realize the vision of state police—a harmonious fusion of security and governance.

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