Written by the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper
A recent revelation that boards of directors of many agencies of the Federal Government have not been reconstituted since this administration began again, leaves a residue of sour taste in the mouth. It is another story of unacceptable procrastination in the seat of power. And so, whatever has been responsible for non-reconstitution of boards of the agencies that were dissolved nearly a year and half ago deserves to be looked into without further delay. Certainly, the statutory boards will enable the agencies to operate within the laws that established them. According to recent reports, some of the agencies that are currently operating without boards include the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). These are very important and highly sensitive organs of government that need not be toyed with, irrespective of situations and circumstances.
It will be recalled that in dissolving the boards of agencies, the managements of the agencies were directed to refer issues meant for the attention of their boards to the office of the president of the country. Given the understanding and appreciation of the tight schedule as well as the enormous responsibilities of the president, it is widely believed that the affected agencies’ operational efficiencies will suffer a great deal as they can’t always get presidential attention. Besides, given the importance of the responsibility of boards in the life, growth and development of organisations generally and government agencies in particular, new boards should be constituted immediately. Official dithering will only hurt the agencies in this regard.
Similarly, many believed that a quick re-constitution of the boards would also relieve the president the rigours of getting involved in micro-enterprise issues so that he could face the more important macro issues that need his attention in and outside the country.
There is a sense in which the line ministries that should assist the presidency should be held responsible for tardiness at issue here. From all accounts, all the institutions that should support a quick re-composition of the dissolved boards of the agencies have not acted with the required sense of urgency. Rather, experience on ground seems to suggest that government is not in a hurry to re-constitute the boards. We should not be reminded that after all, it took President Muhammadu Buhari several months after he was sworn-in to appoint ministers that would work with him. As it were, the laws that set up the agencies imposed serious responsibilities on the boards. Such burdens include ensuring effectiveness of general administration, formulation, consideration and approval of strategic plans, policies, annual budgets and accounts, appointments, promotions and discipline of senior management employees and general oversight of the agencies. These are responsibilities that should not be discounted.
In the main, the absence of the boards has operational and performance implications for the agencies, especially considering the legal burdens strictly imposed on them. Thus sadly, the agencies without boards have been suffering without optimum performance to the Nigerian people they are set up to serve.
Curiously, when the agencies, which have to consult with the office of the president perform below expectations, who should be blamed, the presidency or the absentee board members?
The truth we should face frontally is that apart from the agencies losing from the boards performing the duties conferred on them by law, especially oversight functions that provide a measure of checks and balances, they also lose the benefits of contributions of members of the boards based on their broad knowledge, experiences and expertise.
Thus, the poor performance of most government agencies should be attributed to the vacuum deliberately created by the government for failing to set up the boards. Furthermore, absence of the boards places additional burden on management board members who are not only forced to wear borrowed caps of the board members but have to work in trepidation in order not to overstep their bounds. This development adds to the many factors that will continue to weaken the presidential bureaucracy, as people perceive it. This too is not good in a democracy where jobs creation is a desideratum. In other words, there are many qualified people in the system that should be nominated for the jobs. It is bad politics to delay this.
What is more, failure to set up the boards may be interpreted in many ways: first, that government wants to appropriate the functions of the boards illegally and indefinitely. And the second guess is that government wants to make the agencies a lame duck. Perhaps, unknown to government, the current situation of boards of agencies not being re-constituted after a long time of their dissolution can be interpreted as an abuse of power and outright violation of the enabling laws of the agencies.
Therefore, without delay, officials of government who have a responsibility to recommend to the president on the boards’ appointments should do so immediately. Specifically, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) is the most critical, in this connection.
And the president’s men who should assist in expediting action on the reconstitution of agencies of government’s boards are enjoined to do so immediately so that this reproach will be removed from the presidency.