Teddy Oscar, Abuja
The House of Representatives has hinted that it is entertaining no fewer than 2,000 petitions from Nigerians against one ministry, department or agency (MDA) or the other, adding that 50 percent of the petitions are on matters of wrongful sacking.
Dropping the hint with newsmen in Abuja, chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Hon. Uzor Azubike, noted that government’s actions have witnessed breaches of due process in the awards of contracts as a result of high level of favouritism.
Azubike, who observed that this is worse in contracts, added that this explains why companies that were never in the bidding picture of any contracts end up being awarded the contracts.
“Presently, we have over 2,000 petitions that are pending, and between the time that the committee was inaugurated and now, we have treated over 400 petitions against various institutions, agencies and others. Under the Constitution, we have authority to investigate certain matters, especially those covered under Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution.
“There are several petitions against some actions of ministers in office. In Nigeria, there is a high level of favouritism resulting in breach of due process in government actions, especially in the award of contracts. We have cases where after advertising for bids and after interested parties make their submissions and go through the various stages of the prequalification process.
“But by the time the tender is to be opened, a company that never applied may be introduced into the picture, sometimes with instructions to have the contract awarded to them. That was the case between Chevron and some contractors where NAPIMS, on the instruction of NNPC, just introduced two companies, carve out these jobs and give to these companies that never participated in the process of the bid.
“There is this other petition that is still on-going on the lottery platform where complainants are saying “we were the only people that bid for this job and suddenly everything was put in place to award it to a different company. These are the kind of matters we have and you know that when it happens, it means that somebody up there has interests and he has thrown the rules and procedures to the winds.
“We also have cases of misappropriation of public funds and if any officer within the system dares raise an eyebrow, he could be sacked. We have seen such things happening. In the process, the parties engage themselves and we also engage the parties to ascertain the truth because many petitions are based on frivolities, malice, envy and falsehood but many more are as a result of impunity within the system,” the lawmaker said.
On how his committee is helping to curb injustice, corrupt practices and other forms of impunity in the country’s bureaucracy, Azubike said: “When the directorate of State Security Services (SSS) and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) speedily restored complainants’ job and land allocation respectively even before appearing before his committee,
“More than 50 percent of the petitions we received are based on unlawful termination of appointment of public servants and you find out that without following due process in many agencies, many people in powerful positions just terminate appointment of workers without following due process and they do it on the belief that nothing will happen.
“We have so many petitions against the police, more than 50 percent of them are police against police – impunity within the hierarchy of the Nigeria Police on the rank and file. Many others are against the armed forces, the Navy, Civil Defence and Immigration authorities. but the State Security Service (SSS) have very few petitions against them and our impression is that the SSS is a very organized agency and they keep detailed records.
“Then you know of the Oyerinde case, which came at the instance of the Governor of Edo State, where the police was accused of incompetence in the investigation of a complaint and the situation appeared helpless, even to the Governor. There was no other institution that could go into the matter and bring all the agencies involved – the SSS, the Police, Edo State government, the office of the Attorney General and all others to come and give their account,” he noted.
The lawmaker spoke further on the role of the National Assembly: “Some government agencies will give work to people and after doing the job, they will not be able to pay and they will try to use one excuse or the other. Many of them, once the petitioners come and even before the agency appears before us, they go and pay.
“You heard of the Capital Oil controversy and the complicities of Aig-Imoukhuede who was chairman of the Presidential Task Force on subsidy then. Even when the court gave orders that the properties of Capital Oil should be released, they were adamant and in such frustrating situation, resort was made to the National Assembly through a petition. With the mere listing of that matter for Public Hearing, immediately, all the agencies complied and allowed due process to take its course.
“Also, you heard of the case of the termination of the appointments of 4,099 staff of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in one day. When the affected people had no other place of resort, they ran to the National Assembly.
“Likewise, the National Universities Commission woke up one morning and revoked the licenses of seven Nigerian universities in one day without stating what will be the fate of the students who got admitted into various departments with the accreditation of the NUC.
“My committee intervened immediately, brought all the parties together – the minister, the NUC and all relevant agencies. Our own duty is to look at the law and the actions taken and once we know that any action or decision is at variance with the law as it is today, then we state so because we swore to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Azubike stated.