Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Treating Public Reports With Condescension(II)

opinion

The Ndudi Elumelu led House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel set up to investigate the alleged $16bn expenditure in the power sector, the Farouk Lawan-led House Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management and the Nigeria Stock Exchange probe headed by Ibrahim El-Sudi and the N6.2bn SIM cards registration probe had some reports that generated serious debates but are idling away.

In June 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration set up the Human Rights Violations Investigation Panel, popularly known as the Oputa Panel, to review the human rights abuses experienced during previous military regimes.

While the panel worked assiduously, according to its mandate, nothing came out of report, as some powerful Nigerians even sought the orders of the courts, to stop its proceedings.

Halliburton had sacked its top executive, Albert Stanley, for allegedly bribing senior Nigerian government officials with about US$180million to win Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, contracts in the late 1990s.While the Federal Government set up a probe panel, headed by the former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, to investigate the case, the Senate and the House of Representatives separately also probed the incident.

Till date, no result has come from the probes and nobody was ever prosecuted from the outcome of the probes even when other foreign countries had sanctioned those indicted in the Halliburton scandal.

Senate also probed the problems of call dropping and poor services by the GSM operators in the country. After much work, the Senator Sylvester Anyanwu-led committee's report was rejected at the mercy of the million of subscribers, who are daily being exploited by the telecom operators.

In August 2008, the Federal Government set up a 10-man panel to investigate cement plants in Nigeria with the aim of arriving at how to cut down the exorbitant price of cement in the country and in the same year was the probe of the aviation sector by a panel, set up by then minister, Felix Hyat to investigate the utilisation of the N19.5billion Aviation Intervention Fund. Nothing was heard of the outcomes of the panels.

Governor Rotimi Amaechi of River State constituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a seven-man panel, headed by Justice Kayode Eso, in "unearthing the remote and immediate causes of cult clashes in Rivers State" and identifying perpetrators and victims, with a view to prosecuting the culprits and compensating the victims.

Justice Eso identified 'greed' as the main cause of the Niger Delta crises, while the remote cause is demand for self-actualisation by citizens of the states. To date, the recommendations of the 572-page report have not been implemented.

The report of highly celebrated Dr. Pius Okigbo-led panel went the same way. The panel was meant to probe the Gulf War period receipts. The full report, submitted on September 27, 1994, never saw the light of day, and was declared "missing" from records till date.

The failure to implement previous reports has been attributed to the lack of stamina and passion on the part of government in bringing about a change.

Many of such reports had "died" because the government lacked the political will to implement them because it is widely believed that most of the key players in the agencies covered in the reports had links with government.

Several billions of scarce resources have been wasted in the course of running the panels, committees and commission in the sense that members collect fat sitting allowances and perks of office, apart from the often ridiculously high administrative and secretarial expenses.

It should be appreciated that probing is a core part of governance and public office management. It is a modern tool used all over the world to get to the roots of problems, not necessarily for witch-hunting.

The essence of such probes or investigations is to make sure the causes of a problem are known, persons behind it punished if there is the need for that and to generally ensure there is safeguard built against a repeat.

That is why analysts believe that findings of the Ribadu Report would have helped the nation in some ramifications - putting a stop to the unhealthy practice of selling 100 per cent of the crude through traders instead of selling directly to refiners and privatizing or scrapping some of NNPC's 16 subsidiaries.

Others include a requirement that a full report of all NNPC's transactions be made to the National Assembly, arresting and prosecuting of perpetrators and financiers of illegal bunkering rings as well as ending NNPC's illegal deduction of monies payable to the Federation Account.

Mr. ADEWALE KUPOLUYI, wrote from Federal University of Agric., Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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