By Joe Abah | On 26th February 2024, the Federal Government announced, with great fanfare, that President Bola Tinubu had ordered the implementation of the Oronsaye Panel Report.

 Although many news outlets reported that the president had ordered “the full implementation of the Oronsaye Report”1, what the Special Adviser to the President on Policy and Coordination, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, announced was that:

“Our administration has taken a very bold step towards the implementation of aspects2 of the Oronsaye Panel Report which speak to mergers, subsuming, scrapping and relocation of parastatals, agencies and commissions of the Federal Government. This is in line with the need to reduce the cost of governance and ensure that we have streamlined efficiency across the governance value chain.”

She then went on to announce that two organisations will be scrapped; 30 agencies will be merged with each other; nine agencies will be subsumed under existing agencies; and four agencies will be relocated from their current ministries to different ministries. Although the Oronsaye Report of 2012 was aimed at reducing the number of agencies, the Budget Office of the Federation announced that, as of 2021, the Federal Government owned 943 ministries, departments and agencies and 541 corporations.3 It is, therefore, clear that what the government announced in February 2024 was in no way the “full implementation of the Oronsaye Report.”

Stephen Oronsaye

Some of the agencies affected by government’s announcement last month did not even exist at the time of the Oronsaye Report, e.g., Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and Nigerian Army University, Biu. So, while many aspects of the February 2024 announcement speak to the Oronsaye Report, it can be difficult to find a direct read-across in some cases. Save for the announcement to the press on 26th February, the analysis upon which the decisions were made has not been made public.

On 7th March 2024, the Federal Government inaugurated a 10-member committee to implement, in 12 weeks, the decisions on mergers, abolitions, subsummations and relocations announced in February. Given that majority of the agencies affected are set up by acts of the National Assembly and would require legislative amendment, a 12-week timeframe appears very optimistic. Of particular interest is the case of the Public Complaints Commission that is meant to be subsumed under the National Human Rights Commission. Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution says that nothing in the constitution shall invalidate the Public Complaints Commission Act. The Public Complaints Commission Act itself says that there shall be a Public Complaints Commission. It will be interesting to see how the subsummation will be done without significant disruption to both organisations.

The Many Lives of the Oronsaye Report

First, some background. The ‘Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies’, whose output is popularly known as the Oronsaye Report, was inaugurated on 18August 2011 with the following Terms of Reference:

  • To study and review all previous reports/records on the restructuring of Federal Government parastatals and advise on whether they are still relevant.
  • To examine the enabling acts of all the Federal agencies, parastatals and commissions and classify them into various sectors.
  • To examine critically the mandates of the existing Federal agencies, parastatals and commissions and determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions and make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap them to eliminate such overlaps, duplication or redundancies; and
  • To advise on any other matter(s) that is(are) incidental to the foregoing which may be relevant to the desire of government to prune down the cost of governance.

The committee submitted its report in April 2012. In summary, the committee identified 541 government agencies, parastatals and commissions and recommended the reduction of statutory agencies from 263 to 161. It further recommended the abolition of 38 agencies, the merger of 52 agencies and the reversal of 14 departments to ministries. Additionally, it called for the management audit of 89 agencies and the discontinuation of funding to several organisations.

Curiously, it is very difficult to find the actual Oronsaye Report anywhere. Any online search for it is likely to return the 2014 government whitepaper in response to the report and various commentaries on the report, but not the 659-page Oronsaye Report. Interestingly, the Oronsaye Report itself bemoaned the difficulty of obtaining the reports of past restructuring and rationalisation efforts, such as the Joda Report of 1999; the government whitepaper in response to the Joda Report in 2000; and the Ayida Reports of 1995 and 1997.

For such important documents, record-keeping by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should be much better. Once concluded, the reports should also be available online. Under my leadership of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), we ensured that the government ‘White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies’ that was issued in response to the Oronsaye Report was digitised and made available online.4

In the 12 years since the Oronsaye Report was completed, successive governments have periodically announced their intention to implement the report and have set up various committees to update it and bring it up to speed with prevailing realities.  However, beyond the announcements and the committees, not much else happens after.

The focus of this policy note is on how the announcement of February 2024 could be implemented. In considering the issues, we would avoid debates about whether one agency was a suitable match for another agency in terms of merger; whether different agencies from the ones announced should have been scrapped or merged; whether other aspects of the Oronsaye Report should have been implemented; or whether the 54 organisations affected by the announcement are sufficient to make any difference (given that, as at 2021, we had 943 ministries, departments and agencies and 541 corporations) or whether any movement at all in this direction is a commendable start. Reasonable people can hold different opinions about these and the current debate in the public space about them is healthy.

Instead of considering these debates here, valid as they are, this note will provide a guide on how to effectively actualise the expressed intentions of the current government. We have chosen this approach, given that, in 2014, the government had published and gazetted a white paper that came to the following unimplemented decisions:

(i) Two new agencies should be created, and one existing agency will require a law to give it legal backing.

(ii) Four agencies and a presidential committee should be abolished.

(iii) Seventeen agencies should be merged to eight.

(iv) The enabling acts of 17 organisations should be amended to incorporate relevant decisions of government.

(v) Twelve organisations should be restructured/reorganised at the board or management levels.

(vi) Two agencies should be transferred to become part of other organisations.

(vii) Nine agencies and 12 River Basin Authorities should be commercialised or privatised over the next five years.

(viii) Seventeen organisations should have periodic staff/management audits.

(ix) Nineteen organisations should cease to receive direct funding from government at various times between 2014 and 2018.

Apart from the fact that many more new agencies were created after 2014, the government did not implement its own gazetted white paper. There have been at least three reviews of the Oronsaye Report and two further draft whitepapers since the 2014 whitepaper. Apart from the scrapping of the National Poverty Education Programme (NAPEP), implementation has been non-existent. But after the scrapping of NAPEP, government has created a National Social Investment Programme and a new Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to oversee the government’s social investment agenda.

Factors to Consider in Merging and Subsuming Agencies

The merger of ministries is very common in the public sector. Ministries are not set up by law and can be reconfigured at will by the president. Even then, the merger of ministries is often done haphazardly. The announcements are made before any deep thought is given to how to operationalise the announcement. Often, when two ministries are merged, the permanent secretaries remain, and each retain a set of directors, deputy directors and other civil servants. For instance, when the Ministry of Power was merged with the Ministry of Works and Housing, there was a Permanent Secretary for Power and a Permanent Secretary for Works and Housing. As the permanent secretary is the ‘Accounting Officer’ of the ministry and the chief adviser to the minister, it was unclear which of the two permanent secretaries had ultimate authority over budgets, expenditure and staffing.

Conversely, there was initially a Minister of Transport and a Minister of Aviation (Transport) within the same ministry before the Ministry of Aviation was eventually made a standalone ministry during President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term. At the time, it was argued that, unlike others, the Minister of Aviation (Transport) was never announced as a Minister of State and was therefore a full-fledged minister. Both ministers were served by the same permanent secretary who described his situation at the time as that of a woman who had two husbands that did not necessarily get on with each other.

However, with the merger of ministries, governments tend to muddle through until the next reconfiguration. The civil servants remain and there is no talk of job losses. Often, mandates are not formally clarified and approved by the Federal Executive Council and people act more on instincts than with clearly redefined mandates. Save for changes in stationery and websites, not much actually changes.

On the other hand, the merger of agencies is not very common, particularly as most agencies are set up by enabling legislative acts. To merge them, you would need to repeal the laws of the agencies you are merging and enact a new law. In some cases, there may even be a need for constitutional amendment, which is a much difficult undertaking. Mergers are more common in the private sector and there is very little guidance on how to merge public sector parastatals, agencies and commissions. To address this gap, the BPSR under my leadership published two guides: ‘How to Merge and Wind Down Agencies and Parastatals’, published in May 2014; and ‘Guiding Principles for Merging and Restructuring Ministries, Departments and Agencies’5, published in October 2015. This policy note will draw from these two guides without getting into the weeds of what is quite a complicated and technical process.

  • Governance Arrangements for the Mergers

Mergers are complex restructuring processes that require time, expertise and planning. Although the government has announced a 10-member implementation committee for this initiative, that body can only look at things superficially. If any progress at all is to be made in the 12 weeks that the committee has been allotted for its assignment, it will be important to put in place a merger committee for each agency that is to be merged. That merger committee will develop a plan for the merger, with a realistic timeframe and budget for implementation. It will be able to get into the details of what is required and then report to the 10-member committee for policy decisions. One of the things that the 10-member committee must provide guidance on is what the purpose of the merger is. Is it to improve service delivery, to raise productivity or just to cut costs? If it is to cut costs, what costs will it cut? Is it feasible that there will really be no job losses as the Minister of Information announced?

Mergers cost money and there is a need to develop a budget and ensure the release of funds. For instance, it was announced that the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastricture (NASENI), located in Abuja, is to be merged with the National Centre for Agriculutral Mechanisation (NCAM), located in Ilorin, Kwara State, and the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), located in Enugu. How does one even begin to take an independent inventory of assets or a confirmation of staffing numbers without an allowance for travel between the three organisations? It is not clear whether budgetary provision was made for this limited implementation of the Oronsaye Report. If no budgetary provision was made, it may be necessary to seek a virement to repurpose the 2024 budget of each agency to be merged or to submit a supplementary budget. Alternatively, it is possible to approach donors.

  • Audit of Assets

It is very important to immediately carry out an independent inventory of assets in each agency to be merged. Without this, there is real risk of significant asset flight. Even if each agency is asked to produce a list of assets (buildings, vehicles, computers, bank balances, etc) and liabilities on its own, it would need to be independently verified. Otherwise, there is a very real possibility that an entire building or a number of luxury vehicles would simply disappear. It is unlikely that the 10-member committee will be able to conduct this audit by itself. It may have to commission a set of public servants (say, from the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation) or engage external accounting firms to do it. Either way, it will cost money and it take some time.

  • Staff Audits

Similar to an audit of assets, it is important to carry out a staff audit in each agency to be merged. Not all agencies are on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) through which salaries are paid. There is a need to ensure that personnel figures have not been inflated and that people drawing salaries actually exist. Apart from permanent employees, some agencies have hundreds of contract staff and interns that are not on IPPIS. It would be prudent to understand the actual staffing position of each agency to inform decision-making. Undertaking the staff and management audits will take time and cost money.

  • Revision of Mandates, Management Arrangements and Organisational Structures

There is a need to review the mandates of all agencies to be merged and develop a consolidated mandate for the new agency that will emerge from the merger. There is also a need to look at the management arrangements and to come up with appropriate human resource levels and a fit-for-purpose organisational structure.

  • Staff Utilisation

When organisations are to be merged, there is a need to consider how to handle duplications in functions and what to do with excess personnel. If we use the proposed merger of NASENI, NCAM and PRODA as an example, you will have three agency Chief Executives, three Directors of Finance, three Directors of Human Resources and possibly hundredsof people performing similar roles. With the announcement by the Minister of Information that nobody will lose their jobs as a result of the mergers, how will this siutation be managed? NASENI alone has 11 development institutes, each headed by a Managing Director that reports to an Executive Vice Chairman.

The largest expense of any organisation is its personnel costs, accounting for up to 70% of total costs.6 If the purpose of the mergers is to cut costs, retaining all the staff will ensure that the effort will be an exercise in futility. It is important to consider relieving some of the chief executives of their jobs. It is possible to organise a competition for people in directorate roles, so that the best Director of Finance (for instance) from the agencies to be merged emerges as the Director of Finance for the new entity that will emerge from the merger.

For other staff, it would be necessary to carry out a skills inventory of each staff to see where they could be deployed within the merged entity or whether they have skills that could be helpful in the rest of the public service. Again, this will take a little while and needs to be carefully managed.

Those that were not successful in any competition, or whose skills do not match the mandate of the new organisation, and for whom there are no suitable vacancies in the rest of the public service, can be given enhanced packages to go. If no budgetary provision was made for this, it may be possible to approach some development partners for support or propose a supplementary budget. This will not be quick or easy. Job losses are an emotive issue. The trade unions will pay very close attention to what is done and how. Members of the National Assembly in whose constituencies the agencies are located will be very nervous and will probably have the sympathy of their colleagues.

  • New Legislations

Merging two or more organisations that were set up by law into one will require repealing existing acts and putting in place a new establishment act. In developing the new legislation, it will be important to ensure that it is aligned to the ambitions of government and the public now and in the future. For instance, the organisation that emerges from the merger of NASENI, NCAM and PRODA could focus on innovations that promote green energy for homes and to irrigate farms. The process of repeal and enactment will go through the normal legislative process, including first and second readings, committee work, public hearings, passage and harmonisation by the two chambers of the National Assembly, and assent by the president. Needless to say that this will take some time.

  • Post Merger Implementation Tasks

We have dwelt more extensively on the pre-implementation tasks because they are the most important and complex but are the ones that are most often ignored. There are many other tasks that are worth mentioning but these can happen as the merger is being done or even when it is completed. For instance, there is a need to look at systems, processes, IT and records integration, staff integration, salary integration (which may undermine the desire to cut costs if the merged entities have different salary structures), integration of organisational cultures, management of stakeholders, knowledge management and public communication.

  • Subsummations, Relocations and Scrapping

It was announced that some agencies were to be subsumed under other agencies while some were to be relocated to new ministries, and that a number of agencies would be scrapped. For agencies to be subsumed, most of the pre- and post-implementation tasks set out previously will similarly apply: audit of assets; staff audits; revisions of mandates, management arrangements and organisational structures; and considerations on staff utilisation. There may also be a need to amend legislation, particularly around governance arrangements. For instance, NASENI and PRODA are agencies of the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, while NCAM is an agency under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Whatever power is given to the supervising minister in the existing establishment acts must be transferred to the supervising minister to be named in the new establishment act.

Agencies that are slated for scrapping will need to have their establishment acts repealed and arrangements would need to be made for how to deal with their assests, liabilities and personnel.

Key Recommendations and Conclusion

To ensure that the planned implementation of some parts of the Oronsaye Report does not cause more problems than it tries to address, we make the following recommendations:

  • Government should realise that mergers are complex endeavours that require time, expertise, planning and resources.
  • Mergers cost money and there is a need to provide a budget for the exercise.
  • In addition to the 10-member committee announced by the government, it would be important to set up merger committees for each agency that is to be merged.
  • There is a need to sensitise the public about what is realistically achievable in the 12 weeks that the 10-member committee has been given.
  • It would be prudent to allow a minimum of six months if things are to be done properly.
  • There should be an immediate independent audit of assets, as well as staff audits, of all the agencies affected.
  • There should be a review of mandates, management arrangements and organisational strcutures to ensure that the new organisations that emerge are appropriately sized and fit-for-purpose.
  • There is a need to rationalise staffing. This should be done sequentially, starting with redeploying people to other parts of the public service where their skills may be needed. However, it would be better to be upfront with the public and the trade unions that some people would have to go. Efforts should be made to offer enhanced packages for people to go, first on volunatry basis.
  • The process for subsuming agencies under other agencies, relocating them to new ministries or abolishing them should use the same principles, including audit of assets, staff audits and rationalisation of staff.
  • The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should improve on its record keeping, particularly for important reports like the Joda, Ayida and Oronsaye reports and ensure that they are posted online for ease of access.

In conclusion, the announcement by the Federal Government that the Federal Executive Council had decided to implement aspects of the Oronsaye Report is welcome. However, the process for merging government agencies is complex and has resource implications. Fortunately, there is helpful guidance that was prepared by BPSR nearly 10 years ago, which is still relevant and applicable. There is a need to ensure that things are done properly so that the effect of the medicine does not end up being worse than the ailment.

*Dr. Abah, the Country Director of DAI, was the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR).


  2. Author’s emphasis