Public Interest Lawyers League (Pill): House Of Representatives And The Probe Circus

 

The House of Representatives resumes this week from its recess. While we welcome all members to the business of law-making and the constitutional oversight functions they exercise over the executive arm of government, we are worried by the news of a planned probe of the oil sector emerging from that House.

While many would view the subject of this text of press statement as speculative and premature, we have cause to believe that the plan is real, going by its subtexts. As a civil society organisation we are not opposed to legislative probe committees of any kind; but where probes are orchestrated by members of a cabal, driven by narrow ethnic interests and by individuals who desire to turn public offices into reward-seeking avenues through blackmail of the executive arm of government, or in the extreme scythes for hunting down and gorging supposed enemies, it becomes our public duty to decry this fiendish syndrome. We hold no brief for any public servant, nor do we render apologies to any politician or legislator whose ox we gore by this press statement.

We gather from multiple sources within the House and its leadership of the plan to inaugurate an ad hoc committee this week to commence probe of the Nigerian oil sector. The probe, whilst it is pretentiously intended as one to be instituted in accordance with Section 88 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), has two fundamental subtexts: a) to undermine the continuing efforts at negotiating consensus on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), particularly among stakeholders and the restive oil producing communities of our country; b) and to implicate the current Minister for Petroleum, Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke in scandals that we believe have been scripted and rehearsed in advance of the inauguration of the probe committee all in an attempt to nail her and make her position untenable. Legislative probe committees anywhere in the world are never weapons of vendetta, witch-hunts or death’s scythes, nor are they in our case measures for correcting the President’s supposed inadvertence or missteps by not sacking his Minister for Petroleum. Just as it is the prerogative of the Speaker to choose his team, it’s the President’s absolutely prerogative to hire and fire his ministers.  We make bold to state that probe committees are inaugurated to achieve public good; and the public good that the House and its leadership can serve is to aggregate the consensus of oil producing communities around the PIB, isolate the conglomerate of international and local oil companies that are publicly opposed to the passage of the PIB. Again, there are probe reports of structures like NEITI whose recommendations the government is presently implementing, albeit in piecemeal.  A fresh probe committee, with the unfortunate subtexts stated in the foregoing, will unsettle the oil and gas sector, politicise the ministerial leadership of the sector. We don’t need another counter-productive, waste of a probe in the face of lean public resources.

Finally, we note, at least from the experiences Nigerians had with the Power and Oil Subsidy Ad Hoc Probe Committees under Ndidi Elumelu and Farouk Lawan respectively, that ad hoc legislative probe committees have always been used by members of these committees to ingratiate themselves with those in the executive arm, with those in the larger Nigerian public and to extort those they probe. The case of gamekeepers always ending up as poachers, we hesitate to add.

 

Abdul Mahmud

President

16th September, 2013.

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