In Nigeria, the reports of the numerous committees formed to probe certain anomalies are asses.
The memorable words of Charles Dickens, a Victorian era writer and orator, that the “law is an ass – an idiot” seem very complimentary to the Nigerian law. Our law is more than an ass, it can be more than a pig – that is if you assume ass to be an animal. But it is not only law that is an ass in Nigeria; the reports of committees are also asses.
The latest guest at the presidential committee report incinerator is the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Task Force. The fate of two other similar reports, the Dotun Sulaiman Committee on Governance and Global Best Practices in the NNPC and the Kalu Idika Kalu Committee on the Nation’s Refineries is seemingly on the verge of joining their ancestor.
Obviously, there’s a question following the altercation that ensued during the presentation of the Ribadu report among the committee chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, the vice chairman, Steve Oronsaye, and a member Bernard Otti; coupled with the president’s subsequent remark that Oronsaye and Otti’s “becoming board members of NNPC does not disqualify them to be members, sometimes you need those in establishment to explain certain things and not to influence anybody.”
Here, the president means a person can be judge in his own case.
But the presidency is at crossroads, battling with image crisis over the Ribadu report. In trying to defend the president, when Reuben Abati is not gloating over having dinner with the president or seeing the president “up close and personal”, he becomes a wordplay impressionist, sounding more of the Edo politician, Patrick Obahiagbon. Describing the public outcry that greeted the presidency’s attitude to the report, Abati said the “ignorant carping and malicious tittle-tattling about the report” is uncalled for.
Last week, the presidential Rotweiller was released on Malam Nuhu Ribadu and to a larger extent Nigerians. He was out to not only maul our psyche but also tell us that the presidency was indeed culpable. Those familiar with dogs can differentiate between its approving and disproving bark. While trying to rubbish the report, Okupe said, among other things, that since the report was leaked to Reuters and other international media, the Federal Government would not accept what was not first officially submitted to it.
Before going through Abati’s latest swipe on Nigerians, I expected him to either clearly or latently disown his colleague, Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Public Affairs. He didn’t because they were speaking for the same principal. Despite his marathon effort to absolve the president of blame, his failure to contradict Okupe further confirms the presidency “would not accept what was not first officially submitted to it.”
Even Allison-Madueke’s failure to initially receive the Ribadu report, the president’s failure to ask Steve Oronsaye and Bernard Otti to resign from NNPC board, Okupe’s press conference to discredit the report, Abati’s indirect endorsement of Okupe’s ranting, are enough reasons for Nigerians to know that the report actually didn’t go down well with the president.
Of course the fury is justifiable in view of the manner with which the report is handled with frivolity by the presidency and the speed with which various committees are set. The waste of public resources to cover sitting allowances, refreshment, honorarium and hiring of consultants should give cause for alarm.
Look at the Petroleum Industry Bill drafting committee by Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the flood fund committee by Aliko Dangote, the Justice Alfa Belgore-led Presidential Committee on the Review of the Constitution, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke committee on the Review of Alfa Belgore Committee, the Ambassador Galtimari committee on Boko Haram.
What happens to Theophilus Danjuma’s Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) report? Dumped.
What about Ibrahim Bunu Projects Assessment Committee, which was raised in 2010 to assess the ongoing Federal government projects across the federation? Dustbin.
What about the 19-man committee set up to plan the nation’s century of existence “ahead of time”? One also wonders why the Anya O. Anya-led committee on Expenditure Review set up to rationalize the recurrent expenditure of the 2011 budget does not reflect in the current budget. Despite the committee report, Ministry of Finance will spend a staggering sum of N43 million on fumigation. Pray, how many tankers of Ota Pia-Pia can this amount buy?
But where is the report of Justice Ishaq Bello, which President Jonathan set to look into the implementation of the Justice Sector Reforms? Have you noticed any improvement in the administration of justice in Nigeria? Isn’t the law still an ass in Nigeria?
Any idea about the whereabouts of report of the Special Committee to Undertake a Holistic Review of the UNEP Report on Oil Pollution in Ogoniland? Don’t be surprised if Okupe tells Nigerians that the abductors of Madeline McCann are suspected to have bolted away with the report.
Nigerians may also need explanation as to the implementation of the July 2010 Steve Oronsaye-led committee, which was set up to look into the problems of Niger Delta Development commission (NDDC). Did the committee report resolve the mounting problems of the commission?
Someone should please tell me whether the report of a committee inaugurated by the president in December last year “to appraise the $235m fine against British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways over price-fixing” has achieved its objective.
But sometimes there’s a seeming double standard even in setting up the committees. What is the essence of the president raising a committee to organize “proper burial arrangement” for Madalla church bombing victims and refusing to set a committee to organize the burial for recent (and others before it) church bombings in Kaduna State? Life is life, and committee is committee! Abi?
Any idea which dumpsite the president threw the reports of these twin committees: the ‘Doing Business and Competitiveness’ and ‘Investor Care’ committees raised in March, and headed by Kunle Omowole and David Adulugba respectively?
Who noticed any reorganization or improvement in our policing after Jonathan inaugurated the “Special Committee to oversee the urgent reorganization of the Nigeria Police Force” headed by the chairman of Police Service Commission (PSC), Parry Osayande?
The roll-call of reports of the committees set up by President Jonathan is as endless as his foreign trips. Much as one loses count of his foreign trips, one also loses count of committees.
Apart from the Jonathan committees, out there in the National Assembly, there is barn full of reports of standing and ad-hoc committees, yielding no result than raising the BP of the discerning public. Just as our laws are bastardized, the myriad committee reports set up by the Executive and Legislative arms of government are as useful as suya wrapping paper. This therefore makes a committee report in this clime to be an ass – an idiot!