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Monday, 14 May 2012

WHERE ARE THE CABALS

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 recently.
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 its authenticity.
“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 distractions.
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),

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