2 February 2013

Nigeria: Investigation and Democracy - a Reflection


In every democracy, there are rules. Even in ancient Greece where this form of government took firm roots, there were a set of laws that governed human activities. Today, democracy thrives far beyond the shores of Greece because later days promoters of this globally acclaimed system of government consciously observe the rules of engagement. Therefore if for any reason we deviate from the generally acceptable norm, we must all rise in defence of these rules and standards.

For some time now, I have watched with amazement the overbearing attitude of the executive and the impression I have is that we all appear to have forgotten how we arrived here. We all seem to have also forgotten that but for the people, the freedom we all enjoy today would not have been possible. The legislature no matter how imperfect still remains our democracy's bastion and unequivocally, our most potent connection to government.

This is so because of its representative nature and we must not allow this important arm of government to be ridiculed. The recent in a series of calculated affront on the legislature by the executive arm is the aborted public hearing by the joint investigation panel of the House of Representatives into the implementation of the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P.

The public hearing which had attracted the interests of most Nigerians was stalled due to the failure of some key ministers and senior government officials to show up. For me, this is unacceptable because it is a wilful and premeditated conduct against an important arm of government

SURE-P is federal government's immediate response to the well organised and coordinated protests across the country occasioned by the partial removal of fuel subsidy on petroleum products on the first day of January last year. On the surface, SURE-P has the loftiest of objectives.

According to its terms of reference, the body was set up to alleviate the immediate impact of petroleum subsidy discontinuation especially on the poor and the vulnerable in the country. SURE-P also has the onerous task of accelerating economic transformation through investments in critical sectors and social safety nets. In addition, the programme is also expected to promote investments in the petroleum sector.

Therefore a public hearing on the journey thus far should naturally have elicited interest not just by anxious Nigerians but also by those directly involved in the management of the allocation to SURE-P.

The truth about the absurdities of modern Nigeria is that in the final analysis, we are all victims. The legislature, it must be emphasised represents the people of Nigeria and anything that diminishes the institution or the constitutional duties of law makers also diminishes us as a nation. Therefore any action, whether negative or positive against the legislature is an action against the people.

I dare say that the House of Representatives, as a critical arm of government, is a barometer for measuring respect for the people. For emphasis, we must continually remind ourselves that democracy is built on the rule of law, accountability and transparency and that the legislature remains an important and strategic party in every democratic evolution.

Therefore, if for any reason, government appointees who were not even elected in the first instance refuse to account for their stewardship, they are grossly abusing democratic principles which rest squarely on accountability, transparency and the rule of law.

Lawson, who is with the Anti-Corruption Network, wrote from Warri, Delta State.

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