Monday 12 May 2008

Nigeria: Leaving the objective for the subjective

Leaving the issue

This is probably a classic example of the issue I raised in my blog about the Senate Health Bill being rejected for having irregularities.

In that blog, I made the observation that generally Nigerians tend to leave behind the issue and pander around peripheral subjects that becloud the real matter at hand thereby losing the ability to objectively focus on what needs to be done.

No power for all the money

Nigeria has a serious energy crisis which is experienced by a majority through inadequate power supply; it would appear the last regime spent $16 billion according to some sources on building new power stations and fixing the transmission grid.

Nigeria produces 3,000 MW of electricity whilst it needs at least 8,000 MW, the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel has been reviewing the numbers and contracts awarded having seen situations 18 turbines worth $3 billion are still at port because neither the government nor contractors have the means of moving the machines to their power station locations.

You are cordially invited …

Before concluding their report on their findings on the power contracts and why improvements do not seem to be commensurate with the moneys and contracts signed, the House Committee on Power and Steel, respectfully invited the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his deputy, vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the former Minister of Finance Nenadi Usman to help understand the terms and circumstances of the contracts and what was expected for what was paid to fulfil those contracts.

Obasanjo and Atiku have offered to appear, Usman has been too chicken to appear at any of the committees to which she has been invited.

In general terms, if these people do have any information that would help us understand what was spent between $6.5 billion according to Obasanjo and any other figure of speculation, we would be glad to know why it has not yet resulted in improved power supplies or some other impediment to progress.

A legal clearance

The Nigerian Bar Association has been flipping the pages of the Nigerian Constitution and concluded that the legislature is within its rights of competence to invite, summons, issue a bench warrant or warrant the arrest of a citizen that refuses to heed its friendlier requests.

So, all should be in order for these people to respectfully present themselves to the committee and hopefully answer the questions they are asked so that the committee’s report might have a completeness that would allow us to move on to providing decent solutions for power.

Defending the indefensible

Well, not really, a group of lawmakers from the South West – read politicians driven by tribal instinct – have opposed the invitation to Obasanjo, criticising the committee for not seeking the backing of the principal officers of the House.

I think the committee already has the mandate of the House to review and investigate issues under their remit, if it includes inviting citizens no matter their previous status; they should not have to renew their mandate to invite individuals of interest to the committee.

They go on to argue that it is an act of disrespect to invite someone of Obasanjo’s status having served the country meritoriously as a past leader.

Well, I would contend, if he has served the country meritoriously, he should quite proudly and honourably be willing to defend and accentuate the good points of his service before any committee of properly constituted authority that might be seeking to get at the truth or attempting to impugn his service.

Obasanjo is already in the fray

Obasanjo may not have awarded the contracts but his regime should have had systems in place to monitor the progress of contracts and sanctions in place to exact against those who fail to deliver on the contracts.

Obasanjo himself has published information about what he spent on the power contracts which makes him a person of particular interest to answer questions on that matter – we should not be caught in the emotion of those lawmakers, the matter at stake is not about personalities, it is about questions that need answers that Obasanjo, Abubakar and Usman probably know a lot about.

Preserving a flawed status

The Nigerian Tribune which has an editorial remit that makes fawning sycophancy a prime art, suggests that Obasanjo and Abubakar might not appear before the committee.

Obasanjo, they say is being advised by his associates not to appear in order to preserve his status as former president – it makes you wonder if a former president of Nigeria does not come under that general collective term of citizen of Nigeria.

We are being regaled with due process talk of who should invite anyone between the Clerk of the House and the committee – it does not really matter to me, if the committee by a majority has decided to invite anyone, it just belabours process to have it contested by House officials.

But this is a clear example of people who are leaving the objective issue of obtaining answers to questions about power to peripheral subjective issues about status and respect – how that helps answer the questions escapes me and it does not help anyone – neither the summonsed parties nor Nigerians at large.

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