My Common Man’s Common Sense With Olalekan Anifowoshe: Who Will Regulate The Nigerian Failed Regulators?

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“A system with non-existent, inept or corrupt regulators, is a system designed for a few and will survive until the majority initiate a revolution that will consume the few”  ~ Common Man.

Last weekend I got on the BRT, I was headed for Prof’s home in Okokomaiko area. It was his birthday. Yes, someone did give birth to Prof and he wasn’t assembled in the disbanded Peugeot plant. The event was quite agreeable to a common man’s stomach as Prof’s children laid out extensive food and drinks. God bless them.

Back to the bus ride; this particular driver must have been high on something and was certainly ignorant of the most basic traffic rules of Zebra crossings, Light indication prior to lane changes and a few more. As this was not a first experience for me, and I suspect that it won’t be the last, I began to consider the reasons that we have such drivers giving the responsibility of driving publicly owned vehicles and conveying the common man all over the city. Yes indeed, the rumours that BRT drivers are predominantly ex- Molue drivers drafted into this employment as part of the government’s (erroneous I must add) decision to phase out the Molues from Lagos roads, may be true, but is this a tenable excuse for the ignorance and wanton callousness displayed by these drivers and the drivers of the LAGBUS on city roads?  I held on these thoughts and naturally, after a pleasantly filled ‘belle’ and comfortably seated with bottles of ‘Odeku’ which, despite of an absent PHCN, kept appearing at a very body friendly temperature, this issue naturally became the topic we focused on to pass a very memorable evening.

Without a doubt, the conduct of these drivers is ultimately the responsibility of the state government. However, there is a sequential train of endemic and systemic failures fuelled by ineptitude and corruption in our nation.

Government is defined as; “the group of people with the authority to govern a country or state”. The act of governing is defined as; “the control and administration of public policy in a political unit”.

These definitions ensure that the common sense conclusion is that the executive arm of government is the final regulator within each local council, state and country, as the overall responsibility of controls and administration lies with them. We will return to this later.

Without a doubt, Nigeria as a country has failed to achieve its potentials to become a great economy with the common man being the loser for it. A common sense analysis of the situation shows that the failure is existent in the majority of, if not all, the sectors into which every society is naturally and intelligently divided into. We discussed extensively some of the key regulators within our system, with emphasis on their regulatory requirements and how they have failed, are failing and will continue to fail the common man. Here are some;

Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON)  

By far, this is the most inept and corrupt regulator currently available in the country. With responsibilities to ensure that goods and services that are imported into the country meet certain standard specifications, this is the agency responsible for the ending availability of fake products within the country. Auto parts, finished goods, heavy equipment, cars, motorcycles, stationery, electronics and the list goes on and on, including the quality and standard of services imported into the country. The unbelievable extent of the ineptitude and corruption within this agency is of such monumental proportions that a majority of Nigerians are not even aware that such an agency exists that has the responsibility to ensure such standards are met.

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)

“My pikin” teething mixture, Imported frozen Turkey preserved with Formaldehyde which is normally used to embalm corpses, the uncountable instances of fake drugs, contaminated drugs, contaminated food, etc. It took someone with a personal experience of loss of a relative as a resultant effect of the ineptitude and corruption prevalent within this agency, in the person of Dora Akinyuli, taking over at the helm, committed to and actually sanitizing the agency and by extension, positively affecting the food and drug sector within the country. Nigerians witnessed, as a consequence of her campaigns against drug counterfeiters and smugglers, an assassination attempt on her life. Her tenure experienced the regulation of the standards of stores (pharmacy and Chemists) where drugs are sold, making it compulsory that the drugs stores must have Pharmacists dispensing the drugs. The common man celebrated and breathed easier as instance after instance of the news of drug counterfeiters and counterfeiting labs were released frequently. Sadly, since the exit of Mrs. Akinyuli from NAFDAC, corruption has again seeped into the agency, but as she was wise to understand that system structures are as important as the people who run them, the updated system structures she put in place has ensured that, though standards have dropped since her exit, we will not return to the pre-Dora days.

Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC)

Office place sexual abuse, modern slavery, infringement of the rights of workers to join unions, proliferation of casual and contract workers, indiscriminate and wrongful termination, unpaid wages, wage imbalance. These are the regulatory responsibility which the NLC was established to ensure through the Ministry of Labor and Productivity.

Instances of employers inducing a corrupt NLC to turn a blind eye to their ill treatment and continued exploitation of the working class common man, have been so frequent that even workers whose rights to join unions are being infringed upon, do not even see the need to persist in their fight to restore this right, as they do not wish to start paying Union contributions to a Union that always fails to find justice for the working common man every time the issues are against a corporate organization with deep pockets and ready to play ball management.

Ministry of Petroleum Resources

Through the DPR, PPPRA and its other agencies, is the regulator of the petroleum sector. From a seemingly permanent failure of every TAM on the refineries, to subsidy, to price adherence all over the country, to knowing, monitoring and tracking all inventories to know the extent of smuggling, to ensuring remittance of crude earnings to government, to continuous and periodic appraisal of companies within the sector to ascertain their suitability and ensure adherence to the rules and regulations. Decades of failure and the continued failings within this regulator has been the most costly, in monitory terms, to the country and the common man in particular.  With the 7th largest producer of crude still having to import petrol, diesel and kero, the failure of this regulator persists and sadly, the current federal government by the president’s refusal to replace the Minister, has shown Nigerians that he does not desire to stop this failing and to restore effectiveness to the activities of this ministry.

Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC)

Overseeing the advent of GSM networks within the country, the NCC by its actions and utterances have been consistent in letting the common man know that it is a cohort of the networks, instead of their regulator. The failings within this agency ensures that though we have the 8th largest market in the world via population and the most virgin market of the 10 most populated countries in the world, the common man in Nigeria still pays amongst the highest call tariff in the world for very substandard product qualities. From the initial N25,000 per simm and N48 per min ute call tariff, to the call tariffs available today, Nigerians are still being exploited by the networks, with the NCC giving excuses on behalf of the networks instead of regulating them to the benefit of Nigerians. After years of subscribers not being compensated for dropped calls and prepaid services which fail, with the NCC paying lip service and doing nothing, the current Minister for Technology; Mrs. Johnson, in realization of her ministry being the supervisor of the regulator, issued a statement assuring Nigerians that the networks will be compelled to refund all monies from dropped calls to subscribers. This will be a start in the right direction. The common man awaits the fulfilling of this promise.

National Judicial Council (NJC)

Created by Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the regulatory responsibility of this council is to appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over members and staff of the judiciary. Whether by undue influence from government at all levels, depending on the extant issue, the council by failing to exercise its regulatory responsibilities, especially as regards the dismissing, disciplining and sanctioning of corrupt and/or inept judicial officers, has ensured the increasing disposition to corruption contributing to the miscarriage of justice by our courts. The deep and severe negative impact of this failing is evident in the increasing numbers of public and private sector officials involved in frauds with the amounts in question increasing with every new case. The continued looting of local government, state government and federal government revenues also persist and will continue for as long as the perpetrators can be assured of the near certainty of a corrupt judicial officer that will ensure that he/she does not pay for her crimes. This assurance is made possible by the failings of the NJC in its regulatory responsibilities.

Nigerian Customs Service

With the responsibility of policing our borders to ensure that goods and services are not smuggled into the country without the appropriate duties paid on them, advising the executive on issues that concern imports and exports within the country, collecting and remitting all revenue from import and export custom duties, the Nigerian custom service is a colossal mess of corruption. From the ports, to the airports and the border crossings, the customs are more possibly more corrupt than any other Para-military agency within the country. Over the years, it has become obvious to any common sense consideration, that all the advice on policy directions given to the executive by the customs hierarchy has never been in the long term interest of the country and has consistently been advice that ensure that the policies initiate renewed and/or new efforts at smuggling of various products and services, which allow for money making by the corrupt custom officer by way of bribes from the smugglers, thereby depriving the country of revenue and also ensuring the proliferation of smuggling through illegal border crossings which then allows an infiltration by weapons smugglers who pose security threats to the country.

Other lists of failed regulatory agencies in Nigeria include:

National Universities Commission (NUC)

The systemic failure in the NUC is directly responsible for the current pathetic state of our universities, the despicable prevalence of sexual abuse of students by lecturers and the endemic corruption in university admission.

Central Bank of Nigeria

The CBN whose continued failure we see all around us in the form of a bad economy and a naira that continues to depreciate even when the country is earning more income revenue and the touch and go position of the banking sector with the many abuses and rights infringement existent there.

Consumer Protection Council 

The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has a responsibility to protect Consumer Right, Commodity Protection and ensure Price Stability. The majority of Nigerians are aware of these fact and whose responsibility on the CPC as the agency is supposed to ensure proper pricing of goods and services so that the consumers are not made to overpay. The situation where the Nigerian consumer is permanently at the mercy of the seller is a clear confirmation of the continued failing of this agency.

A few other regulators that have failed us include The Police Service Commission (PSC), the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and a few others. These have and still failing the common man and defying all common sense in doing so!

A discerning mind can imagine a Nigeria where the majority of these regulators are successful and adept in the performance of their duties and the picture so elicited, brings a rueful sadness to the mind. With this realization, the question as Prof put it; “whose responsibility is it to regulate the regulators?” And we come full cycle to return to government and her continued failing of the common man. Here we listed federal regulatory agencies, but the same situation is found in state owned regulatory agencies. However, irrespective of whether the sector and regulator in question is at state or federal level, in so far as government, by reasons of ineptitude or corruption on its own part, fails to appreciate the need for effective regulatory agencies and commence plans of sanitization and restructuring of these agencies, the common man will continue to get the short end of the carrot as whatever infrastructural development and otherwise achieved by this or any government within any sector will be eroded by the systemic failure of regulator for that sector.

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