EVENTS in the country in the last 10 years are gradually rewriting our story as a nation. Like a play that has a good beginning but ends on humorous note without any constructive ending, issues relating to corruption, probe and other social crisis always start well but fizzle out earlier than expected.
In fact, it has gotten to a stage where a primary school pupil can
predict what would happen anytime an alarm is raised over a probe or
corruption allegation against public officers. Today, it is convenient
to conclude that any case of corruption will never see the light of day
considering how previous cases were messed up.
For instance, Nigerians will not forget in hurry the surprise and
suspense that trailed the investigation into the Ndidi Elumelu-led Rural
Electrification Probe or Ayo Fayose’s poultry scam in Ekiti. At the
end, everything ended like a comedy, leaving the culprits unpunished.
Since February, when the Honourable Farouk Lawan-led fuel subsidy
probe panel began its sitting, many dramas have unfolded. The climax was
the recommendation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation,
NNPC; Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA as well as
indicted oil marketers and companies that refused to appear before it to
refund the sum of N1.067 trillion to the nation’s treasury.
Expectedly, the news was cheering as many people saw it as a good
step in the right direction but not without concerns in some quarters
over whether the report of the panel would not later be thrown into the
dustbin of history. Reasons for such assumption are endless but the most
prominent is the fact that the characters and people involved,
otherwise tagged ‘cabals’, are movers and shakers in the society. Today,
aside the fact that the moneybags and top political office holders,
whose names are mentioned in the report are mobilising against the
panel, there is fear in some quarters that a new move is being made
behind the curtain to shift the blame on some small organisations. If
that is done, then those who had predicted that the objective for which
the panel was inaugurated would not be achieved will be vindicated.
There are insinuations in some quarters that rather than chase these
so called cabals, the committee seems to have concluded on chastising
other operators in the industry who go about their businesses
legitimately. They are even being accused of round-tripping and
involvement in other shady businesses; this, to me, are all in a bid to
call a dog a bad name.
It is believed that the committee is protecting these cabals for
obvious reasons, and in the process creating the impression that other
operators in the industry are guilty of offence.
It would be recalled that at the inception of the committee’s public
hearing in February this year, some marketers were openly indicted and
castigated but it beats my imagination that the names of these marketers
were conspicuously missing in the report presented to the full House
Rather than turn the searchlight on the modus operandi of these
marketers, the committe has now decided to witch-hunt other smaller
operators so as to present a case that these people are guilty of
offence they know nothing about.
Already, tension was said to have been mounted among members of the
House of Representatives when the House opened debate recently on the
clause by clause consideration of the report submitted by the panel.
This is coming just as the Chairman, House Committee on Media and
Public Affairs, Honourable Zakari Mohammed has raised alarm that some
disgruntled elements were moving round to scuttle the report of the
panel which exposed corrupt practices in the nation’s oil sector.
The House had, after receiving the panel’s report on Wednesday,
slated the consideration of the report for another day. Before the day,
copies of the report had been distributed to members to study ahead of
the debate and consideration.
According to a newspaper report, those in favour and against the
report were said to have met to harmonise their lines of the debate
ahead of when the report would be tabled before the House.
Just as observers were turning round in their minds what would likely
be the output, Honourable Zakari, issued a statement that the House
urged all Nigerians to be vigilant and wary of those who would rather
want the country [to] be run in the usual corruption-laden way which put
unmerited resources in individual pockets at the expense of the people.
The statement also stated that regarding the group of 18 marketers,
who were deeply involved in the subsidy payouts, but declined to appear
before the ad hoc committee, the purported recourse to legal action was,
in the opinion of the House, an orchestrated plot to scuttle the
findings of the committee.
Zakari’s statement further revealed that following the presentation
of the report on subsidy regime, several individuals, marketers and
corporate organisations not favoured by the report have sought to impune
“Coming under various guises, including, but not limited to,
buck-passing and alleged non-invitation to the investigative hearing,
several of them are desperately seeking to undermine the outcome of the
report,” the statement read.
With the situation of things on ground, coupled with the fact that
despite repeated appeals by the Farouk Lawan-led committee to all those
who had anything to do with the country’s subsidy regime between 2009
and 2011 to come forward and make presentations before it, some of these
organisations conveniently chose to stay away, obviously because they
have something to hide-only to turn around now to claim non-invitation.
It will be difficult for anybody to know the next line of action the
cabals would take.
Now, if at the end of the whole show the report is thrown away or
some innocent individuals are implicated to suffer for the sins of the
influential people in the society, then it would be on record that
another kangaroo panel has been inaugurated to throw up issues and cause
Apart from the fact that the huge amount of money spent on the panel
would have been used to improve lives and provide social amenities,
twisting the House report may have a far reaching implication on the
anti-corruption drive being spearheaded by the President Goodluck
Jonathan-led government. It will also be on record as another injustice
done to the masses or those that would at the end bear the brunt of the
mismanagement of some big players in the oil industry.
AS WRITTEN BY Mr. RAHEEM AYODEJI, a member of Never Again Group (NAG),