May 10, 2016

What Nigeria's Public Sector needs

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Corporate Governance is a big deal in the private sector today, stakeholder and shareholder interests are constantly at daggers drawn, accountability and transparency are now mandatory values in corporate institutions and effectiveness in managing organisational wealth is considered paramount. These procedures are of immense importance to the financial growth of institutions and boost economies in the long run. However, one vital part of national economies is being ignored in this drive for better corporate governance, which is the public sector.

Public sector driven institutions i.e. institutions that provide services for the people must also be better regulated in order for them to provide the dividends of democracy to the citizenry. With critical examination of Corporate Governance in Nigeria, an African country which is rated 3rd world and largely underdeveloped with a population of about 160, 000,000 (one hundred and sixty million) people, these statements can never be more of a reality.  The Nigerian public sector is generally admitted by Nigerians themselves as definitely not functioning at optimum capacity, there are various lapses by government agencies which contribute to poor governance and in extension underdevelopment. It is both a truism that no nation develops beyond the capacity of its public service, and there is broad consensus amongst Nigerians that our public service is broken and dysfunctional. Corporate governance principles must not only be promoted in the private sector but also be applied to managing government institutions and parastatals.

Good public governance seeks to promote:
-     Accountability - being answerable for decisions and having meaningful mechanisms in place to ensure adherence to all applicable laws, regulations and standards.

-  Transparency / openness - having clear roles, responsibilities and procedures for making decisions and exercising power, and act with integrity.

-         Stewardship - enhancing the value of entrusted public assets.

-         Efficiency - applying the best use of resources to further the aims of the organization.

-         Leadership - promoting an entity-wide commitment to good governance starting from the top (Wadie, 2013).

The role of corporate governance in the public sector of a nation cannot be over emphasized as it deals with the management of the country’s resources and how they may be transformed into social and economic benefits for the citizenry both in the long and short term.  This involves making laws, empowering security and financial agencies, supporting small scale business industries or SMEs, providing adequate infrastructure such as adequate transportation means, providing employment, equipping health facilities and ensuring that the rule of law is supreme etc. Generally, this is only achievable when government is held accountable and there is transparency in governance.

Currently in Nigeria, there are various laws and rules which aim to promote and strengthen corporate governance, most of these codes are however private sector focused. Various government organisations have been mandated to implement laws and codes which will strengthen good corporate governance ethics, these produced several codes regulating good governance in the Nigerian public sector including:

·        Code of conduct for public officers
·        Securities and Exchange Commission
·        Central Bank of Nigeria
·        Corporate Affairs Commission
·        National Pension Commission
·        National Insurance Commission

There are a number of factors affecting the promotion of good governance in Nigeria, they include but are not limited to: Corruption; Lack of accountability; Ethnic and Tribal sentiments; Leadership and high cost of governance; Weak social justice system;

That there is inordinate delay in the administration of justice in Nigeria is a pedestrian statement. What is however difficult to understand is how Nigerians have been able to live with this phenomenon for several decades without proffering a lasting solution. Very often, we see ordinary cases of unlawful termination of employment or even those for the enforcement of fundamental rights lasting between three to five years or even more (OKOGBULE, 2013).

The right to effective and speedy trial is enshrined in the constitution as a fundamental human right. Article 36 (paragraph 1) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that: “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality”.
However, the law does not specify what a reasonable time means, the Supreme Court in the case of Gozie Okeke v. The State (2003) 15 NWLR pt. 842 p. 25 in its judgment stated that “the word “reasonable” in its ordinary meaning means moderate, tolerable or not excessive. What is reasonable in relation to the question whether an accused has a fair trial within a reasonable time depends on the circumstances of each particular case, including the place or country where the trial took place, the resources and infrastructures available to the appropriate organs in the country”. As the court and prison system is underfunded, under-manned and over populated, without adequate facilities, it is safe to say that one may be trapped in a Nigerian centre for many months.

In order for Nigeria to reach its true potential, the current Government must introduce codes and policies meant to strengthen corporate governance in the public sector.

Adedunmade Onibokun

Adedunmade is the Managing Partner of Adedunmade Onibokun and Co, a firm of Barristers and Solicitors in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Adedunmade Onibokun. (2012). CODE OF CONDUCT FOR PUBLIC OFFICERS. Available: Last accessed 4th July, 2013.

Audu Jacob (2007), The role of external forces on the corporate governance in Nigeria, a paper presented at the 2nd international conference of the school of management and social sciences, Babcock University.

Nasir El-Rufai. (2011). Reforming Our Dysfunctional Public Service.Available: Last accessed 13th September, 2013 .

NLERUM S. OKOGBULE. (2013). Access To Justice And Human Rights Protection In Nigeria: Problemns And Prospects. Available: Last accessed 30th Oct, 2013.

Salisu Suleiman. (2009). Nigeria: Why the Public Sector is inefficient. Available: Last accessed 25th Oct, 2013

Rami Wadie. (2013). Corporate governance in the public sector. Available: Last accessed 5th July, 2013.



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