The Senate on Thursday revisited the demand it made to President Goodluck Jonathan last December for the immediate sack of the Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Bolanle Onagoruwa.
The lawmakers insisted that Ms. Onagoruwa be relieved of her duties at her bureau. They accused Ms. Onagoruwa of “gross incompetence in the management of the BPE” as well as the “illegal and fraudulent sale of the five per cent Federal Government’s shares in the Eleme Petrochemical Company limited, EPCL.”
The BPE DG’s removal, which was one of the 45 recommendations by the Senate ad-hoc committee that investigated the privatisation and commercialisation of public companies between 1999 and 2011, also called for the reprimand of three of her predecessors – Nasir el-Rufai, Julius Bala and Irene Chigbue, for various offences 1999 during their tenures.
But miffed at the continued refusal of the President to act on the far-reaching recommendations more than ten months after, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary session debating a bill for an Act to amend the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, Act 2004, appealed for immediate action.
“We know that our resolutions are not binding (on the president), but the decisions we take in this Senate, especially regarding resolutions, are well thought out and well researched,” Mr. Ekweremadu said.
“It is the amalgamation or views of very responsible Nigerians, and to that extent it is very persuasive. Any person who is ignoring the resolutions of this Senate is doing so at the expense of good governance,” he added.
Sponsor of the Bill, Ifeanyi Okowa, PDP-Delta, said the bill sought to ensure better accountability and amend the functions of the National Council on Privatization (NCP), to remove all forms of contradictions.
“The Amendment of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act is to provide further legislative framework for improved accountability, provide appropriately for host communities and staff of public enterprises in the sales of shares of such public enterprises,” Mr. Okowa said.
He said the amendment being proposed in the Bill is in line with the resolutions of the Senate concerning the investigation it carried out on the privatisation of companies.
“Section 5 (3) of the Act proposed for amendment to provide for the inclusion of host communities. The amendment provides for not less than five per cent of the shares to be offered to Nigerians to be reserved for the host communities of the public enterprise to be privatised.
The lawmaker said the amendment is to enhance the security of the public enterprise to enable the staff of the enterprise and the host communities buy into the process of privatisation.
“The local economy will also be stimulated and the gains made would help to transform our communities. The challenges of local content and employment within such enterprises are more likely to be addressed by the communities as co owners,’’ he said.
Mr. Okowa said the amendment being sought to section 1(3) of the Act would ensure that the National Assembly’s powers, as enshrined in the constitution to make laws are not infringed upon by any arm of government.
Co-sponsor of the Bill, Ahmed Lawan, ANPP-Yobe, traced the origin of the bill to the investigation the Senate undertook on the activities of the BPE from 1999 to 2011, which discovered that the Public Enterprises Act of 1999 was flawed in about four ways.
Section 1(3), he said, gives the National Council on Privatisation, NCP, the powers to amend the first schedule. This then gives the distribution of power of public enterprise to be sold out or privatised, adding that the investigation uncovered that BPE was spending its proceeds without reference to the National Assembly.
Mr. Lawan appealed to the President to use his discretion and implement the resolutions adopted by the Senate concerning the BPE report that was submitted to him.
“Mr. President must ignore people who will always tell Nigerians that the resolutions we take here are only advisory and have no weight,” he said.
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