Oronsaye Report Implementation: Communications Regulatory Authority Of Nigeria Coming

…As Buhari Administration Readies To Implement Recommendations NCC, NBC, NIPOST Fusing?


By Clifford Agugoesi

If the body languages of Nigerian Leader, Muhammadu Buhari and his ideologues are anything to go by, then, the following agencies namely the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), National Broadcasting Commission(NBC) and Nigerian Postal Service(NIPOST), among others,  will  soon cease to exist as independent authorities in their current form, to give way to a new entity to be known and addressed as the Communications Regulatory Authority of Nigeria(CRAN), as the current administration has signaled its readiness to implement the Report of the Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies otherwise known as the Oronsaye Report. If this happens, as it is most likely, then, Buhari would be seen to be differing from the stance of the Jonathan Administration that favoured the agencies to remain independent entities under their various supervising ministries.

Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Inside these agencies, the stakeholders appear to be burstling with optimism their agencies  will remain as they are on the strength of the recommendation of the Committee. But Buhari is held to be a man who has a mind of his own and could drop a bombshell when least anticipated as he did during the change of the name of the Ministry of Communications Technology to Ministry of Communications and later, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Minister of Communications & Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami

Government White Paper, seen by Cyber Era, shows that the Oronsaye Report recommended the merger  of the trio to be brought together under a unified management structure as CRAN, but the Jonathan regime rejected the proposal. The Committee recommended further as follow(ii) at least three directorates be created under the proposed CRAN to perform the functions of broadcast, telecommunications and regulatory functions of postal services; (iii) the enabling laws of NCC and NBC be repealed and another enacted for the proposed Communications Regulatory Authority of Nigeria ; and (iv) that the enabling law of NIPOST be amended to reflect, among others, the transfer of its regulatory functions to the proposed CRAN, but all these were rejected by Jonathan.

Postmaster General, NIPOST, Dr. Ishmail Adebayo Adewusi

On the Universal Service Provision (USPF) under the NCC, the Committee recommended that the composition of the Board of the USPF be reviewed in order to create a balanced representation of all participants, but this was rejected by Jonathan. Again, industry big-wigs believe it is likely that Buhari will uphold the recommendation.  He has been severely criticised for making lop-sided appointments some of which allegedly ran foul of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,  since assuming the helms at the Presidency, and getting appointments right as he begins his second and last term in office, they believe, will endure his legacies as a statesman who listened when it mattered most.

NCC Boss, Prof. Umar Danbatta

The Oronsaye Committee recommended that the functions of the National Information Technology Development Agency(NITDA) be transferred to the Ministry of Technology(Science and Technology) as a Department and the repeal of the enabling law of NITDA, but Jonathan rejected both recommendations, directing that NITDA remained under the Ministry of Communications Technology(now Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy). Buhari is likely to retain NITDA as the regulator of Information Technology in Nigeria.  The reason is simple. The current MOCDE Minister is strongly believed to be a strong Buhari loyalist and his antecedent as a former DG of NITDA further gives credence to this line of thinking.  Buhari believes that Pantami did a good job in NITDA and would want the systems and processes and procedures implemented under his watch, are retained.  Watchers believe this was why a loyalist of Pantami’s in Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, replaced him at NITDA instead of Dr. Vincent  Olatunji whom many believed, should have been given the job based on his experience, loyalty and track record of competence.

DG, NITDA. Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi

For Galaxy Backbone, the Oronsaye Committee recommended that the agency be appropriately restructured to meet its set objectives. Government noted this recommendation as the restructuring of the agency was ongoing.  The report further recommended that Government  issued a directive to all MDAs to consult with Galaxy Backbone on all lCT-related issues.  The Jonathan administration noted this recommendation and further directed that the supervisory      Ministry should clearly define and delineate the status and functions of the Agency. Buhari is likely going to fuse Galaxy with other agencies and NITDA is most favoured as its mandate could well be accommodated under the broad mandate of the enlarged NITDA.

On the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Limited, the report recommended (i) Government sells off its shares in NigComSat. Government adopted this recommendation and directed that government would retain minority shares in NigComSat Limited   (ii) the functions of NigComSat that relate to space development be reverted to the National Space Research Development Agency (NASRDA). Government accepted this recommendation without modification. ; and    (iii) that budgetary allocations to the NigComSat ceases in the 2013 Fiscal Year. Government accepted this recommendation as soon as the privatization of NigComSat was rounded off. 

MD/CEO, NigComSat. Dr. Abimbola H. Alale

Some experts we spoke with stated that Buhari would do exactly what the Oronsaye report recommended. A global cybersecurity expert and Chairman of the African Union (AU)Cyber Security Expert Group Dr. Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, who pleaded the subject matter was not his forte, in an online interview with Cyber Era on the plight of agencies under the MOCDE, said: “Galaxy, NigComSat and NIPOST will go.  I don’t know much especially about NITDA and NCC.”  He did not elaborate.

A professor of communications engineering at the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, south west, Nigeria, Professor Francis E. Idachaba, puts it this way: “Well, I know that one of the policies the Minister Dr. Pantami began with was the harmonious working relationship between the different parastatals and agencies under his ministry and this was evidenced by the participation of all the agencies whenever each one had an event.  I am envisaging that all the agencies will come together to develop a Roadmap for their convergence according to the Oronsaye report and they will chart a suitable model for all the agencies going forward.”

Prof. Francis E. Idachaba

The 800-page report had recommended the scrapping and merging of 102 government agencies and parastatals. Specifically, it advised government to abolish 38 federal agencies, merge 52, and revert 14 agencies to departments in relevant ministries.

The Presidential Committee comprised the following members-   (a) Stephen Oronsaye, CFR  Chairman   (b) Japh CT Nwosu  Member   (c) Rabiu D. Abubakar  Member   (d) N. Salman Mann, mni  Member   (e) Hamza A. Tahir, mni  Member   (f) Adetunj i Adesunkanmi  Member   (g) Umar A. Mohammed  Member/Secretary. 

The Terms of Reference of the Presidential Committee were as follows:  (a) study and review all previous reports and records on the restructuring of Federal  Parastatals and advise on whether they were still relevant;  (b) examine the enablingActs of all the Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions  and classify them into various sectors;  (c) examine critically, the mandate 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 some to eliminate  such overlaps, duplications or redundancies; and  .  (d) advise on any other matter incidental to the foregoing which might be relevant to  the desire of Government to prune down the cost of governance.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed told Channels TV on Wednesday, April 29  that the president’s approval has been forwarded to the head of civil service and secretary to the government of the federation, respectively.

“The president has approved that this administration should implement the Oronsaye report,” Ahmed said.

“It has reviewed the whole of the size of government and has made very significant recommendations in terms of reducing the number of agencies and that would mean merging some agencies.

“This is a report that has been in place for a long time and there hasn’t been implementation but the president has approved that this should be implemented and we have conveyed Mr. President’s approval to the arms of government that are responsible for this and that will be the office of the secretary of government and the head of civil service of the federation.”

At the time, the seven-man committee said the “rationalization of agencies, parastatals and commissions would have human dimensions and cost implications” and recommended that the government should focus on empowering the MDAs “to do more for less”.

At the time when the report was submitted, there were 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies (statutory and non-statutory) in the country and the report recommended a reduction in the number of statutory agencies from 263 to 161.

Currently,  the number of federal agencies has increased and it is estimated to be close to 1,000. A report on the rationalization and restructuring of federal ministries, departments and agencies undertaken by Dr. Tonye Clinton Jaja, Dr. Samuel Oguche and Dr. Barrister Usman Ibrahim  stated: “In Nigeria, as evident from the 2011 Steve Orosanye Report, the failure to undertake regulatory impact assessment(RIA) and legislative impact analysis(LIA)/rudimentary cost-benefit analysis of proposed legislation (especially for those category establishing MDAs often with functions duplicating those of existing MDAs of legislation that seeks to establish statutory corporations or federal government MDAs) is one of the major reasons for proliferation of legislation.

“It is noteworthy that in the year 2011, the Senate included Order 77(3) in its Standing Order.  This provision made it a mandatory requirement for any Senator who sponsors a Bill to submit an accompanying document named Compendium of Financial Implications of any proposed legislation.

“However, as a proof that the said Order 77(3) is not sufficient to curb the proliferation of MDAs, it was reported in July 2017 that the National Assembly is proposing to create twenty five(25) new agencies. Apparently, one reason for this situation is that the Standing Order applies only to the Senate and not to the House of Representatives.  Another possible reason is that the Standing Order is a procedural rule without force of law as legislation.”

Both the NCC and NIPOST are currently under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy while the NBC is under the Ministry of Information and Culture. The fusing of the NCC, NBC and NIPOST, when effected, will fall in line with what obtains in many jurisdictions across the globe, where, because of the blurring of the borderline between telecommunications and broadcasting, many governments have fused the telecommunications, media and technology sectors into what is simply called the TMT sector or ICT sector, but regulated by a unified regulator such as the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) in the United States and the Office of Communications(Ofcom) in the United Kingdom, among others.

Former Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson

Jonathan is believed to have spared NIPOST at his time because he bought into the idea that postal services, though challenged by information and communication technology, has a bright business proposition which could benefit immensely from ICT that both defied and could potentially define it.  However, the merger of the NCC and the NBC was delayed largely by the absence of legislation. Jonathan’s Minister of Communications Technology, who was also on the White Paper Committee, Dr. Omobola Johnson, said at an ICT industry event in Lagos absence of legislation should blame. “The interest of the industry is to go for a converged regulator. In the meantime, NCC, NBC et cetera will continue to function the way they are until a new legislation is in place.”  Merging the NCC and the NBC, especially, will make it easy for the regulator to allocate frequency spectrums vacated by broadcasters to mobile network operators who would deploy them in provisioning services and enable consumers seamlessly enjoy the so-called spectrum dividend!

It is not that a converged regulator would be totally devoid of bottlenecks.  Because, the argument has long been made that it could increase maintenance headaches and diminish the efficiency of compact operations.  Johnson had noted that while convergence was desirable, documentation was bogey for a converged policy.

Within labour circles, however, concerns have been expressed a converged regulatory regime though inevitable and welcome,  could lead to job losses.  If history is anything to go by, again, those who are apprehensive not a few would lose their jobs, have a strong point.  While Buhari’s Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige has done well on his job and repeatedly assured workers had no reason to be afraid of their jobs, especially, during the Coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic era, it is not clear whether his speech reflected the stance of his principal, as our leaders have a penchant for equivocation.  Labour leaders are sticking with “job losses are not acceptable,” in the eternal spirit of aluta continua, victoria acerta, but objective analysts of the situation are advising that matters be discussed between parties so decisions attract the buy-in of stakeholders.  -With additional reporting by Kingsley I. Ilechukwu, Josephine Akaerr and Ifeoma Asika.

Minister of Labour & Productivity Dr. Chris Ngige
NLC President, Waba
Dr. Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola
MD/CEO Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Muhammed Abubakar

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