The President, Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, revealed that he has directed that the Orosanye White Paper Report be subjected to immediate review for the Federal Government to implement its general recommendation.
Buhari who revealed that the review is about to be completed said its implementation would bring some fundamental changes to the structure of the Civil Service.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said this when he received the Central Working Committee of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria at the State House, Abuja.
The statement is titled ‘Oronsaye report will lead to fundamental changes in our civil service, president Buhari assures.’
Submitted in 2011, the Oronsaye report has been a subject of controversy as it proposes, among other things, the merging and outright scrapping of over 263 government agencies.
It also proposed that the law establishing the National Salaries and Wages Commission be repealed and its functions taken over by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Responsibility Commission. This, it said, would save the government N2bn.
While noting that public service, as the engine room of government, should attract the “best and brightest’’ the President said, “I have directed that the Orosanye White Paper Report be subjected to immediate review to enable the Government take the most appropriate decision on its general recommendation.
“I am aware that the review is about to be completed. While some may complain about the length of time it has taken thus far, the outcome of the various review teams would lead to some fundamental changes in the structure of our Civil Service and as such it must be subjected to rigorous review and scrutiny before presentation and implementation.”
He explained that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will submit the harmonized white paper once it has been concluded.
The President noted that his regime remains focused on strengthening the service and ensuring it helps the government fulfill its objectives. He also appreciated civil servants for their role in realizing targets of the FG.
Responding to the committee’s request for the review of civil servants’ salaries, the President said while such a review is urgently needed due to global inflation, the FG is working within tight revenue constraints caused by the diversion of resources to urgent security threats nationwide.
“I wish to urge you to appreciate the revenue constraints being presently faced by the Government which is caused mainly by the activities of unscrupulous citizens through the theft of our crude oil, a major contributor to our revenue base.
“This is compounded by the global economic downturn as a result of the on-going Russian–Ukrainian war, which has led to price increases not just in the costs of goods and services globally, but also in the transportation of these goods and services across the globe.
“You are also aware of the enormous burden placed on our finances by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, let me note the significant investment we have had to make in security over the last seven years, which means other sectors of the economy have not been able to receive as much funding as we would have liked. Only when our country is secured, that we are able to proceed and take on other aspects of our economic challenges,’’ Buhari explained.
The President also told the ASCSN that its request for restoration of the payment of gratuity to public service employees was one of the landmark provisions addressed in the 2004 Pension Reform Act.
“Therefore, implementing your request for the payment of a bulk sum of gratuity to retired civil servants would negate the intent and provisions of the Act.
“It should be acknowledged that a change in the implementation of the Act would require an amendment by the National Assembly. But more importantly, the Pension Reform Act is a better designed and robust system that allows for safety of pensioners funds and its payment,” he said.
On the harmonization of salary in the Public Service, Buhari said a Committee was set up for that purpose, under the Minister of Finance which was still working.
Buhari said the Head of Service of the Federation had been directed to liaise with other relevant government agencies to see how the 2023 budget estimates can accommodate an increase in the budget of the Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board.
Further, he explained that investment in security assets had been at a huge cost, after several decades of negligence.
Buhari also expressed “unshaken” confidence in the Nigerian Armed forces saying “Recent reports have shown the message is now being heard and the dividends of our seven years of investments are now maturing.
“I implore our forces to continue with the current effort and determination until we rid our land of these miscreants.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said members of ASCSN had been supportive in actualizing programmes and policies of the administration, describing the leadership as mostly public servants that were vast in civil service procedure, “so when you negotiate with them it is easy and when you make the right point they know.’’
In his remarks earlier, the President of ASCSN, Dr Tommy Okon, noted that the regime had been “worker-friendly’’ with the implementation of far-reaching reforms.
He called for an increase in salaries of civil servants, following increasing cost of living, restoring full payment of gratuity at retirement, harmonization of public service salaries and allowances, and an increase in the budget of the National Housing Fund.