THE BUHARI ADMINISTRATION AND POLICY CHANGE
The President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) administration was elected on 29th May, 2015 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the main campaign message of change. The party campaigned to bring about change in all facets of life in Nigeria. Prior to its election, the People's Democratic Party had ruled for sixteen years. One clear area where change is needed is in the arena of policy making, execution and evaluation.
The policy process occupies a central position in the functioning of modern day government. Public policies are developed by officials within institutions of government to address problems confronting citizens. It is through policies that government translate its political vision into programmes and actions to deliver the desired change. Policy can take different forms including non-intervention, regulation, licensing, grant and direct service delivery.
The policy process involves the identification of the problems confronting society and agenda setting; formulation; adoption; implantation; implementation and evaluation. Some scholars have suggested that the process of policy formulation and the strategies of implantation affect the success of policy and programmes. It has been recognized that the policy process is highly political and involves the exercise of power, conflict, negotiation, bargaining and compromise.
In Nigeria, the Federal Government has enormous policy making powers in at least 98 areas with 68 of the areas being exclusive powers. Unfortunately, in Nigeria's recent history, not much emphasis has been put on policy making, execution and evaluation. Instead, there has been huge attention of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on contract rather than policies. It has been estimated that up to 90 percent of FEC decisions are about contracts. The end result is that as at 2011, there were 11,886 abandoned projects. The neglect of policy making, execution and evaluation produced a situation where there is low institutional capacity to develop, execute and evaluate sound policies.
However, the importance of sound policies in service delivery and socio-economic development cannot be over emphasized. Development theory and practice indicates that all the countries that have made significant progress in the last 30 years have relied on the willingness and ability to make sound policies. Examples include China, Chile, Brazil, India, Mauritius, Malaysia and Botswana.
The policy sector in Nigeria is in crisis and needs change. Most of the policies are outdated. In the water sector, the last approved water policy was in 2004. In the health sector, the last approved health policy was in 2004. The current national education policy was approved in 2004. All these policies are more than a decade old when most policies should be reviewed after five years.
From the above, it is quite obvious that policy making, execution and evaluation in Nigeria needs change. In recognition of this, the APC during the campaigns promised to bring about changes in policy making in Nigeria. In line with this commitment, the Policy, Research and Strategy directorate of the APC organized a policy dialogue from 20th -21st May, 2015 on how to move from vision to reality and implement an agenda of change in Nigeria. The policy dialogue identified priorities for the PMB administration including the need to set the baseline quickly; identify strategic priorities; communicate transparently and consistently; and rebuild institutions. Clearly, one area of focus to make all these to happen is to develop, execute and evaluate sound policies that are evidence based, innovative, inclusive, forward looking and responsive. In order to do this, the PMB administration need to embark on some measures. In this regard, it is important to note that the Federal Public Administration Reform Programme (FEPAR) has researched and documented practical, low cost measures that the FGN can utilize to develop and implement sound policies. First and foremost, the FGN needs to adopt and roll out a policy co-ordination and management framework that formally sets out the mandates, roles, relationships and accountabilities of central agencies and MDAs in policy development as well as policy co-ordination structures and policy development processes and guidelines. For this to happen, it is recommended that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) should introduce annual retreats for agenda and priority setting and for strengthening the links between plans and budgets. It should also involve establishment of FEC standing and ad hoc committees and ensuring that all decision items of FEC go through the formal processes of policy development, review, approval, implementation and monitoring. In this regard, the think tank of the Presidency, the Independent Policy Group (IPG) will be of great value.
Secondly, the government need to create a Nigerian “data revolution” following on the momentum of the Post-2015 “data revolution” to initiate a major change in how development data is collected, used and accessed to inform policy at all levels. The post-2015 development agenda at the United Nations was led by a Nigerian, Hajia Amina Mohammed, OFR and the lessons learnt can be assessed easily by the Federal Government. Closely related to this is the need to ensure that Nigeria transits from the current MDG framework to the broader post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and engage the federal/state/ local governments, the private sector, and civil society in renewing Nigeria's national development priorities in the context of the newly adopted SDGs. The formulation of an overarching national development strategy is imperative in this regard.
Thirdly, there is the need to institute a central coordination mechanism involving the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), National Planning Commission (NPC), National Economic Council (NEC) and Federal Ministry of Finance to track policy implementation and policy issues on sectoral basis across the three tiers of government for feedback to FEC and NEC.
Fourthly, there is the need for continued support to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and National Population Council to generate large scale data in order to give evidence base for informed policy making.
Finally, there is the need for reform and strengthening of the OSGF and MDAs to develop sound policies and reposition them for policy advisory, analysis, review and co-ordination.
There is no doubt that policy change is a necessity in the Nigeria of today. We hope that the PMB administration will learn the right lessons and initiate the necessary actions to bring about this desired change.
***Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He is the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD) and holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration.