The Nigerian government runs its business through the efficient and effective operations of her public service and in 1970, the Federal Government expanded the scope of the operations of the Public Service from core policy implementation to active participation in all sectors of the economy through the establishment of Agencies, Parastatals, and Commissions. These additional bodies were meant to be drivers of socio-economic objectives of the government, however, over the years, many administrations have further created more bodies which has escalated the cost of governance with no clear goals and economic benefits.
To redress this situation, in 2011, the former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan inaugurated a Presidential Committee to advice on Restructuring and Rationalization of the Federal Government’s Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions. The committee led by Stephen Oronsaye submitted a White Paper report (popularly referred to as the Orosanya report) in 2014, recommending among other measures, the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161.
While recommendations from the report have not been implemented, earlier this month, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered that the White Paper on the report be dusted up and implemented as one of the steps to reduce governance cost in the face of plummeting revenue occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 and its attendant effect on global oil price volatility with a target of October deadline for implementation.
What does this mean for the Nigerian Space Industry?
Principal institutions in the Nigerian space industry can be classified into the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and its centres (under the Ministry of Science and Technology), the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Limited (under the Ministry of Communications Technology), and the Defence Space Administration (under the Ministry of Defense).
With a 2020 National budget of USD 35 billion, the total approved budget for space for 2020 was USD 59.26 million spread across these three major institutions, about 15.5% increase on the 2019 budget which allocated USD 50 million for the space program (the budget allocation exclude the cost of major projects such as development and launch of a satellite).
According to the white paper report, the committee made three recommendations on the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited:
- The government sells off its shares in NigComSat.
- The functions of NigComSat that relate to space development be reverted to the National Space Research and Development Agency, and
- The budgetary allocations to NigComSat cease from the 2013 fiscal year.
The government accepted recommendation 1 and direct that the government will retain a minority share in the company, it also accepted recommendation 2. The government accepted recommendation 3 with the condition that it will be done as soon as the privatization aim is achieved.
The committed made two recommendations on NASRDA:
- NASRDA sources its funding from the proposed National Research Development Fund, and
- Direct funding ceases with effect from 2013 fiscal year.
The government noted recommendation 1 and rejected recommendation 2.
Defense Space Administration (DSA), on the other hand, was established in a later year. The DSA Act 2016 was enacted by the 8th National Assembly and signed into law on 3 February 2017.
There have been conversations about the privatization of NigComSat in the past, however, it might be closer than ever. A critical analysis of the proposed projects to be implemented with recently approved USD 22.7 billion loans the country is taking to finance infrastructural developments in the country shows exclusion of NigComSat, and the prioritisation of projects and infrastructures linked to the Ministries of Transportation, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Power, Works and Housing and Agriculture. This is another indication to NigComSat being privatized soon.
While funding has been a major challenge to NASRDA’s operations, additional funding from the proposed National Research Development Fund will help mitigate this challenge. The last major satellite project by Nigeria was in 2011 with the launch of NigComSat-1R, although a nanosatellite (Nigeria EduSat-1) was built and launched in 2017 through one of the Nation’s universities in collaborations with Japan. Both the Earth observation satellites and communications satellite previously launched by the country are due for replacement, unfortunately, there has not been any major commitment towards this by the government.
Since the beginning of the administration of the current government in 2015, there has not been any major space project in the country. If the Orosanya report is implemented by the Buhari led administration, successful privatisation of NigComSat will reduce government excess expenditure and allow for more funding for NASRDA operations which can be instrumental to shaping the missions of the agency.