Federal Secretariat Abuja
Dozens of federal agencies, parastatals and commissions are still without boards about 30 months after President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved them, Daily Trust on Sunday’s investigation has shown.
The absence of these boards is affecting the agencies operations, as they are unable to perform some of their statutory functions.
These boards are responsible for setting out broad operational and administrative guidelines for various agencies.
They are also to provide policy guidelines, monitoring of institutional projects, programmes and ensuring that the parastatals’ mandates are realized.
In the health sector, for instance, almost all the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health, have been without boards since their dissolution more than two years ago.
These agencies include the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN); National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), among others.
The MDCN is statutorily mandated to train, register and discipline medical practitioners as well as regulate medical practice in the country.
This development is raising serious concern among medical circles as the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria last week urged President Buhari to reconstitute the MDCN board.
The President of the College, Dr. Ademola Olaitan, during the college briefing on its forthcoming award of diploma certificates and the 35th convocation, said the prolonged absence of the board would affect standards in the health sector.
“This very important body has operated without a board since the last one was dissolved over two years ago. We are aware of the fact that membership is almost by representation, except the post of the chairman,” he said.
Dr Olaitan said, “The reconstitution of the board will allow the Council to perform its statutory functions, which is crucial to the smooth running of the health sector.”
The Medical and Dental Practitioners which sets up the MDCN charges the council with the following responsibilities:
a. determining the standards of knowledge and skill to be attained by persons seeking to become members of the medical or dental profession and reviewing those standards from time to time as circumstances may permit.
b. securing in accordance with provisions of this Law the establishment and maintenance of registers of persons entitled to practice as members of the medical or dental profession and the publication from time to time of lists of those persons;
c. reviewing and preparing from time to time, a statement as to the code of conduct which the Council considers desirable for the practice of the professions in Nigeria; and,
d. performing the other functions conferred on the Council by this Law.
By provision (c) above, the council is empowered to make rules of professional conduct and is also empowered to establish the Medical and Dental Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal and Medical Practitioners Investigating Panel for the enforcement of these Rules of Conduct.
These Rules of Conduct are made to enable doctors and dentists in Nigeria maintain universally acceptable professional standards of practice and conduct. They serve as standards in relationship of medical and dental practitioners with the profession, their colleagues, patients, members of allied professions and the public.
Experts said without the board in place, literally no medical practitioner will be sanctioned for any wrong doing.
Again, the NHIS which is embroiled in a leadership crisis between the Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole and the Executive Secretary, Professor Usman Yusuf, is without a board.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which is supposed to control and regulate the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and packaged water, including all drinks, is equally embroiled in a leadership crisis and it has been without a board.
Chief executive officers of the affected agencies were directed to refer all matters requiring the attention of their boards to the president, through the permanent secretaries of their supervising ministries until boards are appointed.
In the power sector, most of the agencies’ board are yet be reconstituted except for the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
There are no board members yet for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) but it has an Interim Managing Director, Mr Usman Gur Mohammed, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.
All duties and responsibilities of the board members are being handled by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, in the meantime.
The Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) and the Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) are also yet to have their boards constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari, though they have Managing Directors.
Both agencies had the former Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as Chairperson under the Jonathan government.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA), Engr. Peter Ewesor, was reappointed recently with its management team in place. However the board members who should be about nine in number are yet to be appointed.
Also, the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) is yet to have a board. However, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), who should be the Vice Chairman of the board, has constituted a new management team made up of six Deputy Comptrollers General (DCG).
The board members, according to the Customs Excise and Management Act (CEMA) should consist of 11 members, including the Minister of Finance as the Chairperson, and representative from select ministries like Transportation, Industry and Finance.
The previous board which was dissolved in 2015 was headed by the Minister of Finance as the chairman, the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC) as deputy, the DCGs as members, representatives from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Transport, Finance, and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Other members of the board are the chairman of FIRS board, the legal adviser of NCS and a secretary to the board. The board is also expected to have two standing committees and a secretariat that monitors the implementation of its mandate.
Another revenue generating agency without a board is the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). The absence of the board in the past two years is generating accusation of wide spread abuse in the service, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.
The FIRS was embroiled in recruitments scandal where it was alleged that only favoured candidates got placements.
Also, contracts that require board approval are said to be awarded without such approval. The FIRS chairman reports to the Minister of Finance directly in the absence of the board.
Sources at the FIRS told Daily Trust on Sunday in confidence that the chairman, Babatunde Fowler, has employed in excess of 200 staff without board approval.
“The law says before you employ, you must advertise, conduct a test, and conduct interviews, taking into account the principle of federal character. In any case, before you even employ, the board must approve your existing vacancies. He took advantage of the absence of a board for FIRS and approached the finance minister who approved that he should hire,” the source said.
The FIRS Act 2007 empowers the board to provide the general policy guidelines relating to the functions of the service; manage and superintend the policies of the service on matters relating to the administration of the revenue assessment, collection and accounting system under this act or any enactment or law; review and approve the strategic plans of the Service.
The board also employs and determines the terms and conditions of service, including disciplinary measures of the employees of the service; stipulate remuneration, allowances, benefits and pensions of staff and employees in consultation with the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission; and do such other things which in its opinion are necessary to ensure the efficient/performance of the functions of the service under this act.
Other agencies without boards include the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC). The board is vested with the responsibility of superintending over the affairs of the corporation; to be responsible for the overall policy and administration of the corporation; and to make, alter and revoke rules and regulations for carrying on the business of the corporation under the NDIC Act.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), despite the economic challenges the country went through in the last two years, is still without a board.
This also applies to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). The vacuum created is capable of triggering lawlessness, underhand dealings, and heightened corruption in many of the affected agencies.