THE recent federal government’s decision to stop budgetary allocations to professional bodies and councils, with effect from January 2024 is not just a welcome development but essentially the right path to tread in the present dispensation where the government in the face of dwindling resources is unable to fund critical sectors of the country’s economy requiring improved funding. Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, said that the decision was in line with the recommendations of the Orosanye committee report and the recent Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS)at its 13th meeting where approval to discontinue budgetary allocation to Professional Bodies/Councils effective 1st January, 2024 was taken.
CONSEQUENTLY, by this decision, all the over one hundred professional bodies and councils in Nigeria will become self-funding as from 1st of January, 2024 as was the past practice; hence, they are required to look for ways to generate funds to finance their activities and services. Indeed, many people and groups, besides the issue of paucity of funds bedeviling the public sector in the country, see the move as part of the federal government’s latest action to cut spending, possible leakages, and wastages of the scarce national resources. Of course, the decision has been communicated to all the professional bodies and councils concerned in the country for the purpose of preparing themselves for the January 2024 when they will no longer qualify to receive subvention from government.
HOWEVER, as plausible as this decision was, it equally has its draw backs. For instance, the decision proposed a blanket stoppage of subvention on all the professional bodies and councils without taking cognizance of their peculiarity activities and their abilities to generate sufficient funds to support themselves as well as accomplish their unique tasks or roles.
THOSE professional bodies and councils whose activities impinge on socially sensitive sectors such as health and welfare of the people and which may not be able to generate high income ought not to be treated same as others with large memberships and sound subscription base. This is more so that most of the professional bodies were established by Acts of parliament, not to generate money but for statutory purpose. Because they are statutory bodies, the government funds them through subvention.
ALSO, it should be emphasized that professional bodies in Nigeria are largely responsible for research and technology development in their fields, relying on government funding to conduct ethical reviews and propose and promote new professional standards.
THESE unique or specialize tasks may likely suffer if they are to combine it with sourcing for funds for their services. Furthermore, as plausible as the reason advanced for the stoppage of subvention to all professional bodies and councils, care should be taken not to commercialise the operations of these entities. If cancellation of public funding will affect their operations negatively and make them to abandon their core mandate in search of funds, then there is a need to look at the decision again especially those with limited members and public service functions that may still need to be funded publicly.
FROM all indications, the decision is a good and welcome one for the government to discontinue funding most of the professional bodies and councils to release more funds to development other essential sectors of the Nigerian space economy that are suffering at the moment. This is hinged on the realization that many of the entities are already buoyant enough to stand on their own. For instance, some of them including ICAN and Nigerian Institute of Public Relations have on their own stopped taking subvention from government before now. Others should emulate their rational disposition to self-sufficiency and seek ways for their own self sufficiency and many years of government financial support.
THE reality is that they cannot continue to hang on the government for eternity like a baby. The positions is reinforced by the simple fact that they all collect annual dues and grants from members and organisations. These should be sufficient to conduct their affairs. Afterall they were not established for profit maximization. However, those that still require support to make them efficient should be supported by the government.