By Tanko Yakasai OFR
Having been associated with the corridor of power both at the state and federal level in Nigeria, I doubt if the President is such a docile person as to allow his subordinates to manipulate his office the way our media made us to believe. To adjudge an official for corruption, justice demands proof or evidence. Islam enjoins Moslems always to be just. In this regard, I would like to comment on the ongoing discussion on the letter the Minister of state sent to the President complaining of being side-lined by the NNPC GMD, INSUBORDINATION, and contract award without channelling such awards through him as chairman of the NNPC board. My understanding of the issue is that, it is unimaginable to assume such a leak can happen without the knowledge or even consent of the Minister of State or anybody who is the author of such a document.
From the content of the Minister’s letter, it contained series of grievances which appeared to have accumulated. It is a common knowledge that the President has been away for over three months, common sense dictates that such accumulated differences should have been conveyed to the Acting President during the absence of the President.
As I have said earlier, I am familiar with the happenings at the highest level of governance, both when I was a member of my state executive council for eight years and at national level as a Special Assistant to the President for four years. I know for sure that critical communications at the higher level are not normally done through a third party to avoid leakage of information. In view of that, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu’s letter must have been delivered to the President himself thereby eliminating the possibility of a third party knowing the content of such communication.
A leakage in this regard can only come from either Dr. Kachikwu or the President himself. Common sense dictates that the President will not leak such communication to the public particularly as it was carried by almost all the print media immediately after the letter was submitted to the President.
My feeling is that the leakage of the letter is simply made to embarrass the President and create an impression that he is not serious about following due process.
Another point is that some four years ago when I was serving in the Political Thematic group of Vison 202020, I could recall that late Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, raised an issue on the Public Procurement Act of 2007, enacted during the tenure of President Obasanjo, which he felt very strongly about. Ibrahim Tahir’s strong feeling rose from alienation of the Ministers and the Board of Federal Government Parastatals in the award of contract. His argument is that under the present system, the President, Governor and the Local Government Chairman are the only people mandated by the electorate to serve as Chief Executive Officers of the tier of government they are heading. The constitution, however, empowered them to delegate some of their powers to their subordinates including Ministers and Board of Parastatals. Dr. Tahir felt that it was odd for the Minister and the Board of parastatals not to have a role in matters pertaining award of contracts. Members of that thematic group can testify how vigorously Dr. Tahir tried to converse support to recommend changes in this regard but without success.
To this extent the question of the NNPC GMD side-lining the Minister of State has no justification having regard to the provision of PPA act of 2006 in PART V — ORGANISATION OF PROCUREMENTS under Accounting officer which states that “
(1) The accounting officer of a procuring entity shall be the person charged with line supervision of the conduct of all procurement processes; in the case of ministries the Permanent Secretary and in the case of extra-ministerial departments and corporations the Director-General or officer of co-ordinate responsibility.
(2) The accounting officer of every procuring entity shall have overall
responsibility for the planning of, organization of tenders, evaluation of tenders and execution of all procurements and in particular shall be responsible for:
(a) ensuring compliance with the provisions of this Act by his entity and liable in person for the breach or contravention of this Act or any regulation made hereunder whether or not the act or omission was carried out by him personally or any of his subordinates and it shall not be material that he had delegated any function duty or power to any person or group of persons;
22.—(1) There is hereby established by this Act in each procuring entity a tenders board (in this Act referred to as “the Tenders Board”).
(2) Subject to the approval of the Council, the Bureau shall, from time to time,
prescribe guidelines for the membership of the Tenders Board.
(3) The Tenders Board shall be responsible for the award of procurements of goods, works and services within the threshold set in the regulations.
In view of the foregoing, it is clear that the PPA of 2007 does not confer any responsibility on the Ministers and Board of Parastatals on matters pertaining to public procurement. I am, however, aware that for some time Ministers and members of Board of Parastatals are grumbling over their exclusion in the process of public procurement and award of contract.
On matters of insubordination, the Minister of State’s letter did not give sufficient details to enable an informed judgement by anyone on this matter. According to the Public Service Rules, any case of insubordination should be immediately reported for appropriate action. There is no indication where the Minister has reported the insubordination of the GMD of NNPC to the appropriate quarters.
I am getting concerned at the current trend in Nigeria where a whistle blower is automatically regarded as telling the truth without investigation. I saw this in the case of a member who accused Speaker and members of house of representatives of budget padding and the media did not subject his allegation to proper scrutiny.
For Nigerians to get it right, the practice whereby the accused is automatically presumed guilty is not in consonance with the principle of that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.