By Abdul Magaji
The impunity of interfering with functions and powers of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by some powerful forces in government is gaining momentum by the day. But this is rather causing more harm than good to the political and socio-economic fabrics of the nation.
Ideally and lawfully, MDAs are established by law to deliver essential services to Nigerians and therefore are not expected to be dancing to the tunes of some elements who impose decisions for their own selfish agenda.
This trend is ocassioned by absence of a systematic and disciplined approach to ensuring that the government runs smoothly for all Nigerians, whether in the area of employment or contract procurement.
Granting MDAs autonomy does not mean working in isolation. It is not doing whatever you like whenever you like. It is not working without a net. In an autonomous organisation.
Where it is within the jurisdiction of an agency of government to perform its role, it should be allowed to do so without any form of hindrance, coersion or interference.
For instance, if the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental affairs is to perform some oversight functions over a particular agency within its powers, it should be allowed to do so. The so-called bigwigs in government must allow MDAs to function maximally for the overall interest of the nation.
It is imperative to state that there are consequences for interfering in the functions and powers of various MDAs. Some of such consequences are that it leads to poor outcomes or low productivity and retards development.
For instance, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is an agency of government which has its functions and powers as provided under paragraph 32(a-e) of part I of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The law empowers it to monitor the accruals to and disbursement of revenue from the federation account, advise the federal and state governments on fiscal efficiency and methods by which their revenue can be increased.
Review, from time to time the revenue allocation formulae and principles in operation to ensure conformity with changing realities; provided that any revenue formula which had been accepted by an Act of the National Assembly shall remain in force for a period of not less than five years from the date of commencement of the Act.
Others are to determine the remuneration appropriate for political officeholders including the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, ministers, commissioners, special advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in sections 84 and 124 of the constitution.
The commission is also mandated to discharge such other functions as are conferred on it by the Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly.
Unfortunately, key political appointees of the federal government interfere and impose decisions on MDAs, a development that has rendered some of them ineffective.
There has been a history of institutional rivalry among government agencies and sometimes rivalry between ministries and agencies and even parastatals under the ministries.
There have also been situations where agencies of government that consider themselves superior to others influence the enactment of laws in order to appropriate the powers and functions of the less influential agencies to themselves.
Regrettably, the interference is without recourse to the laws establishing the institutions. Apart from infringing on the powers of the governing boards, it is also against corporate governance principles.
A case where RMAFC defeated the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning and FIRS, as defendants on July 29, 2022, should serve as deterrent to other political appointees and top government agencies.
RMAFC had sued the above three defendants for encroaching on its powers and functions and sought 6 reliefs at a Federal High Count in Abuja, in suit no: FHC/Abuja/CS/38,/2022.
The presiding judge, Hon. Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo in his judgement said, “I have read intoto the provisions of sections 68 (5) vis a vis the constitutional provisions as it pertains to the plaintiff. It is my well considered view that this provision do not render the plaintiff a subsidiary of the 3rd defendant (FIRS).
“The plaintiff has asked 6 main reliefs and 4 alternative reliefs. I shall therefore grant and hereby grant reliefs 1,2,3,4 and 6 as prayed by the plaintiff. These are the main prayers. The alternative reliefs are hereby discountenanced. This is the judgment of the court.”
From one agency to the other, reports of ministers and other presidential aides pushing heads of federal departments and agencies around is incongruous.
Not only does this brazen attitude contravene public service rules, it also whittles down the powers of the chief executives to effectively discharge their responsibilities.
The result is that public service had become characterised by excessive partisanship, corruption, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.
Thus, interfering with the functions and powers of Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission by the Finance Act of 2021in favour of Federal Inland Revenue Service is a clear case of disregard to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution which gives RMAFC the power to demand and obtain relevant data, information or returns from government agencies.
Top officials of the federal government must reconcile with themselves that their major responsibility is to effectively and efficiently dedicate their time to the service of our dear country and not to interfere in the functions and powers government agencies unnecessarily.
Mr Magaji, a lawyer, writes from Abuja
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily