PRESIDENT-ELECT BUHARI, SOME BASIC POLICY TIPS (BPTS) FOR GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING MOVING FORWARD
The incoming national government of the All Progressives Congress ( APC ) under the presidency of Mohammadu Buhari could make our economy more productive, not only by addressing the high cost of civil service operations in Nigeria but by fully reforming the government to better serve the people.
During the Jonathan administration, the size, scope and role of the federal government became so big that it became a failed-based system in terms of its public actions and results, as it did not efficiently address the challenges faced by the Nigerian people, especially those who are less privileged in our society.
Government ministries and agencies are generally supposed to promote the safety and general welfare of the people but instead, as seen in recent times, it was more of about promoting individual pockets, and not society as a whole.
In a healthy political system, responsibility for government programs should rest more with state and local governments, followed by strong oversight from the federal government especially when money is flowing from the federal purse.
In Nigeria, needed changes and reforms, as well as streamlining of government services at the federal level, should focus on healthcare, education, criminal justice, transportation, communication, electricity, agriculture, etc., as these are services citizens expect from any functional government.
It is one thing to cut down on government institutions, but it is another to make sure, at the same time, that the streamlined ministries and agencies are strengthened in a way as to become effective systems.
If federal and state governments are going to operate in a balanced way, the incoming administration must fully practice what it called the presidential system of government; in other words, a system that encourages the fragmentation of power through the presence of checks and balances across each branch of government with some powers that allow for the intervention in the powers of the others.
In a true presidential system of government, shared responsibility and accountability between the federal and state governments in terms of public services are always paramount, with less decisions coming from the center, especially in terms of revenue allocation.
In a true presidential system of government, police/law enforcement-related functions, as they relate to the Nigerian people’s safety and other related needs, should be left in the hands of each state’s police system, side by side with a shortened federal police system whose main focus is on federal law enforcement-related matters.
Everywhere we see institutional duplicates such as the anti-graft structures like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Miscellaneous Crimes Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian police force and the Code of Conduct Bureau. These should merge into one or two systems at the federal level with each state maintaining its anti-graft functions within its own state police system. Now is the time to start creating State based police system.
In a true presidential system of government, quality healthcare systems should be more in the hands of State/local governments, private hospitals and nonprofit medical corporations followed by federal oversight and an accreditation system. Boards of federal medical centers should be replaced for good.
In a true presidential system of government, far greater emphasis would be placed upon universities to seek more non-governmental funding, professional bodies/councils would be privately supported and structures like Polytechnics and Colleges of Education would be mainly operated by state and corporate entities with their graduates becoming certified through state licensing examinations to assure competency and a standardized quality of services.
In a true presidential system of government, various forms of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as rightly suggested some years ago by the Stephen Oronsaye presidential committee, would be readjusted, realistically strengthened and modernized under the states’ authorities to make them more flexible to meet the needs of the citizens directly.
In a true presidential system of government, states would be empowered to fully support the disabled, children, adults and elderly persons with health insurance of their choice followed by some funding from the federal healthcare and monitoring institutions.
In a true presidential system of government, retirement and Social Security matters would be comprehensively reformed to reduce delays and end abuses.
In a true presidential system of government, the court and the prison systems would be regulated under states’ governments alongside of federal court/prison systems. There is a pressing need to revamp the types and levels of sanctions/sentencing for various crimes and convictions to allow for a fair and sensible administration of justice.
In a true presidential system of government, the sorry method of allowing the National Judicial Council (NJC) to appoint judges for the state and at the federal level would be eradicated to allow the President and State Governors to have the flexibility to choose or appoint any lawyer deemed qualified with full vetting from the Nigerian Bar Association. In fact, the NJC should be reconstructed to hear and investigate complaints by private citizens against judicial officials and/or court-related activities.
In a true presidential system of government, the idea of allowing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to use external lawyers to handle their cases would be considered a form of financial waste and extortion; instead government lawyers who are on the payroll of a federal or state government would engage in such tasks.
In a true presidential system of government, we would encourage public-private partnerships to help provide support for various needs and services including technology, energy, water, roads, and power, especially in the rural areas so that every Nigerian can fully take part in the economy.
In a true presidential system of government, transportation matters, as it relates to road, sea, air travel and carrier services, the Federal Ministry of Transportation, which regulates travel matters, would be responsible for the formulation and management of all carrier policies in Nigeria.
In the coming months and years, our approach to governance should be about improved responsiveness to the needs of the people, enhancement of our assets, enrichment of our human resources and a collective movement towards a more secure, safe and strong economy, and as well as a continuous elevation of the quality of life, thereby restoring public trust in our system of government.
***Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi is a Forensic/Clinical Psychologist, a Consultant in National Psychology, and a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association.