The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has said that there is no going back in the reduction of the number of agencies and departments in the federal civil service.
The Federal cabinet drew this conclusion following its review of the draft white paper on the Stephen Oronsaye-led Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies.
Briefing state house correspondents after the conclusion of the three week deliberation on the white paper on Orasanya report, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku said that research institutes under the Federal Ministry of Science And Technology and River Basin Development Authorities may be affected by the current rationalisation exercise.
According to Mr Maku some of the functions performed by the research institutions can be coordinated by the existing Nigerian universities for optimum performance.
He said, “There are so many research agencies under the ministry of science and technology and when you look at the agencies, some of the functions they perform could indeed be coordinated by universities.
“Council believes that research must utilize our universities and also research must be linked to the private sector. So we agreed that there is a need to rationalize some of the agencies and also see which of those research agencies could be better placed under the auspices of existing universities to perform better,” he said.
The Minister said the council also believes that “research that is disconnected from industry does not produce results.
“So we believe research centres should also concentrate on new ideas, new technologies, new researches, the application of result of research also should be driven by industry and in order for this to come to fruition, council set up a council committee which is to be chaired by the minister of national planning to again look at the section of the report that has to do with research agencies, institutes and research centres spread across the country,” he said.
Mr Maku said the reason for the planning minister’s committee is to “bring a report that will rationalize them (research centres) and ensure that they become more effective and that they are driven by results and the results of the research they undertake are also utilized by industry or get commercialized for the benefit of the country”.
The Information Minister said FEC also reviewed how the River Basins across Nigeria could be used to produce food for Nigerians.
“We are of the opinion that river basins across the country have been there, some since the 1970 and if we are to use the river basins to produce food for this country, especially now that we are in an era of new agricultural programme that is receiving the attention of the world, we need to align our water policies which are driven by the ministry of water resources with the new agricultural transformation agenda.
“There will be room in the future for greater participation of the private sector of the private sector in the utilization of the various river basins to drive mechanised agriculture. We want to ensure that there is private sector participation,” he said.
Mr. Maku said a committee was also set up to look at the commercialisation of the National Arts Theatre in Lagos.
“There is a proposal to retain it, not privatize it but give it a face lift” he said.
The minister said the main objective of the review is that the time has come to cut expenditure for government.
He said the full information on the affected agencies will be made known when the reviewed white paper is cleaned up and put together in a summary form adding that in the coming months there will be a lot of decisive actions on it.
He said as part of the review, council also deliberated on the building of befitting National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, orientation camps across the country. He said council was urging states to build befitting camps in their states.
At the FEC meeting, Mr. Maku said the President also directed that projects in every sector should be spread across the country.
“The President has directed ministers to ensure that there is a fair spread of projects across all parts of the country, he will also have to see that we have a template that ensures that projects implementation particularly from the federal government are spread across the country,” he said.
The minister admitted that “there is no way that all parts of the country will have equal spread of projects in every sector because there are specific locations for some projects maybe because of economies of scale and factors of production.”
“But at the same time,” he said, “the president believes that for key social services and projects, there should be a fair spread of projects across the country.”
“We are going to look at the template again and all ministers to be sure that we serve the country in such a way to ensure equity and spread of federal government services across the federation,” Mr Maku said.
He said there was no specific complaints on project spread, but the president believes that part of the mid- term report to Nigerians should include a review of what “we have done so far, where those projects have been located, which other places in need of a little more attention in view of what has been done already”.