Malabu: When policy took precedence over law by Nasiru Suwaid

Nasiru Suwaid
Nasiru Suwaid

 “However, the leadership of the committee only expressed interest in investigating a mere breach of the federal government’s indigenous ownership policy.”

If I boldly say that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended is a lie unto itself, I will not be found out as taking a walk far from the truth, especially when taken from the premises of the assertion made in the preamble of the supreme legal document, where it started with the attribution: “we the people”, which to all intents and purpose is simply not true; because the Nigerian people as a collective, have never ratified nor even validated it as a codified instrument of law, through the process of a universally accepted referendum.

But my beep with what could be righteously tagged as our ground norm, is on the issue of its authorship and the writer’s credit or rather the lack of it on the document, because it is a basically accepted reality and universally authenticated fact, that every written word, be it in a book, a flyer or even anonymous quotes, somehow usually gets attributed to a source. Thus, if that is the case, could the legal draftsmen, who have drafted the Nigerian constitution not be due for such a recognition, not merely in acknowledging their personality, but rather in respecting the import of what they had wished to convey in the written legal stipulations.

For, if Nigeria’s institutions of state and branches of government, had strictly adhered to the intents and intendment of the written laws, the current challenges of governance which are afflicting the nation, would have been easily tackled. A simple but critical example is the issue pertaining to the functions of a legislator, who is apart from being imbued with the powers to pass legal enactments, is also saddled with the responsibility of oversight powers, against the executive branch of government, which could be in form of budget approvals, confirmation of appointments and unveiling of investigative committees; who are always mandated to explore murky matters of state, where and how a public servant might have committed the wrongful act of breach of trust, through knowingly acting with personal interest on strictly official matters.

Unfortunately and it seems these expectations on the legislature are not highly and truly being appreciated by the current membership of the National Assembly, if the atrocious rate of failure of their oversight functions is taken into consideration, because by the last count, none of the empanelled investigative committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, have yielded positive returns, in terms of checking the strayed excesses of an appointed or elected executive, rather and sadly, the platforms of the committees sittings, have only been avenues for grandstandings and showmanship, while the purpose of the unveiled sittings became of minor significance.

One of such committee, who had recently taken national limelight, but is threatening to go the way of other past committees, is the Leo Ogor’s legislative investigation panel, which is investigating the Malabu Oil Prospecting License Scam (OPL 245) and the illegal transfer of 155 billion naira as settlement for the sold oil block. While what brought the matter to the realm of the public square is the unlawful act of the Nigerian government, allegedly acting through the instrumentality of its key officials of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of State for Finance, to facilitate an illegal transfer funds akin to money laundering. However, the leadership of the committee only expressed interest in investigating a mere breach of the federal government’s indigenous ownership policy, which is about maintaining majority local shareholding (60%) in the sold oil prospecting license.

A fact that is not legally tenable, where issues of personal ethics like patriotism is discountenanced, because it is within the limited knowledge of even a layman in Law of Contract, that commercial terms of agreements between two parties is apart from the fact of its execution causing a general harm to humanity, giving it effect is not subject to ratification, approval or interloping by a third party, in fact, the trial court entertaining the matter, had earlier passed a judgment to that effect, which in this instant case is the relevance of 60% indigenous ownership to the execution proper commercial agreement.

Indeed, if really and actually the committee is interested in performing its constitutional oversight functions, of unraveling a seeming illegality and thereby celebrating powers of their offices, it is incumbent upon them to truly investigate a probable crime, when a public officer allegedly acted for pecuniary personal gain, by making transfers to an individual of questionable personality, an ex-convict more so for the offence of forgery, now accused of money laundering, surely a similar class of crimes that easily bring the Nigerian state into disrepute, as a corruption hub of West Africa, if not the whole world.

In fact, seemingly, the formulators of the Nigerian constitution had such scenario in mind, when they put the oversight functions into the supreme law, knowing the effects and impacts of personal temptation, tied to the plum nature of a public officer, who despite the assumption of official oaths taken, could easily get distracted and sidetracked into criminality, when a holder of public trust decides to award an operating license to himself. Upon such a situation, a diligent legislative house having a speaker (Aminu Waziri Tambuwal), as a certified legal draftsman, must know that the oversight functions of a committee are not mere grandstands, maintained at an exorbitant cost to the public, but a platform and an avenue for unraveling the not so clear and indeed murky matters of state, pending which any decision otherwise and the harsh verdict of history beckons.