When Abuja stood still for Public Complaints Commission FCT

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On July 4th,2013  a quality crowd of eminent Nigerians and diplomatic corps converged at the Atiku Abubakar Auditorium of the Shehu Yar'Adua Centre Abuja for the Second Annual Seminar  on The Role of the Public Complaints Commission in a Democratic Nigeria organised by the Public Complaints Commission FCT. Afam Chukwunwike reports.

The Nigerian Ombudsman today known as the Public Complaints Commission was the brain child of the Gen. Yakubu Gowon Administration. The Commission was a product of the late Chief Jerome Udoji panel which was empowered by the Gowon-led Federal Government to bring recommendations on how to checkmate abuses in public service which was rampant immediately after the unfortunate civil war. It was at this point that a Commission was established for this purpose. Today, the Public Complaints Commission Act Cap P37 LFN.2004 (PCC Act) in Section 5(2) states that A Commissioner shall have powers to investigate either on his own initiative or following complaints lodged before him by any other person, any administrative action taken by:

a. Any department or Ministry of the Federal or any State Government.
b. Any Department of any Local Government authority (however designated) set up in any state in the Federation.
c. Any statutory Corporation or Public Institution set up by any Government in Nigeria.
d. Any company incorporated under or pursuance to the Companies and Allied Matters Act whether owned by any Government aforesaid or by private individuals in Nigeria or otherwise howsoever; or
e. Any officer or servant of any of the aforementioned bodies.

To underscore the importance of the Public Complaints Commission in Nigeria, Section 315(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives it adequate protection.

Nonetheless, since the advent of this current democratic dispensation in 1999, no Commissioner has been appointed into the commission thereby relegating the Commission to the background. On May 18th 2012, Barrister Obunike Ohaegbu (Dara Nwachinemere of Ukpor) and his colleagues were sworn in by the Chairman of the National Assembly, Distinguished Senator David Mark to lead the Commission. This landmark action has since then breathed life into the once redundant Commission more especially in the FCT.

pcc seminarAttendees at the seminar

Under the noble leadership of Barr. Ohaegbu, the FCT office of the Commission has gathered prominent Nigerians in their quest to raise public consciousness through their annual seminars . This was much  demonstrated  when eminent Nigerians drawn from various strata of the society and cutting across religious and ethnic lines and members of the international Community stormed the Shehu Yar'Adua  Centre on Thursday July 4th 2013 to honour the Commission's second annual Seminar for the second successive year. The roll call was quite intimidating as eminent statesmen, politicians, businessmen, top government functionaries etc made the list.

Among them are, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida,GCFR, Former Head of State, Distinguished Senator David Mark, Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Ambassador David MacRae, Head,EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, His Excellencies, Executive Governors of Edo and Niger states, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu respectively,Senator Bala Mohammed, Honourable Minister of the FCT,PDP's National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Dr. Obinna Uzo, Chairman of Gocuz Group and a gubernatorial candidate in the forthcoming elections in Anambra state, Barr. Okey Wali(SAN),NBA President.
Others include, Barr. Daniel Elombah,Publisher of Elombah.com,Mr. Segun Adeniyi,former Special Adviser to the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua on Media and Chairman of Thisday Editorial Board,representatives of the EFCC, ICPC, British High Commission, Japanese Embassy, top government functionaries and bureaucrats.

 The royal fathers were not left out as their list was unlimited,they  include, the Etsu of Kwali,the Agabe of Gadabe and many others.

The event was chaired by His Excellency, General Ibrahim Babangida,GCFR, former Military President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who was represented by Colonel Idris Shaibu (rtd) former military administrator of Niger and Plateau States. In his opening address, the former President regretted his unavoidable absence and however, expressed his gratitude to the FCT Commissioner, Hon. Obunike Ohaegbu  "for availing Nigerians the opportunity for the second time in less than 12 months to know about the Commission ,its operations and the need for Nigerians to seize the advantage of its services to ventilate perceived injustice in an environment confronted with so much social and economic insecurity". He further called on Nigerians to support the present leadership of the Commission as they strive to assist government at all levels in delivering good governance for all and addressing administrative injustice.

Describing the essence of the seminar, the Host ,Honourable Obunike Ohaegbu said it was aimed "to create more platforms for promoting public knowledge and understanding of the Ombudsman concept in Nigeria and for a deeper appreciation of its integral role in good governance". He hailed the wisdom of the 7th National Assembly in appointing Commissioners noting that the long absence of the Commissioners has greatly undermined the role of the Commission. He also noted that in the past one year, the Commission, despite numerous challenges has moved from thin to thick evidenced by the large numbers of complaints lodged with the Commission. An increase he attributed to his unrelenting efforts in creating public awareness. Nigerians according to him, “are beginning to appreciate the efforts and importance of the Commission in the FCT and its roles in addressing administrative injustice”.

Acknowledging the contributions of the Commission in addressing administrative injustices within FCT, the FCT Minister who was represented by Mr. Nuhu Ahmed, the FCTA Director of Establishment Said in the last one year, the Commission under the dynamic leadership of Honourable Ohaegbu has "engaged in a massive sensitization programmes " which has culminated into a formidable partnership with the FCTA administration as both  works  to ensure the entrenchment of good governance and administrative justice in the Capital city. He assured the Commission of the FCTA continued support in delivering its mandate.

The Niger State governor,Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu  represented  by his Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Barr. Abdullahi Wuse delivered a paper on "Insecurity and Administrative Injustice in Northern Nigeria"
While reeling out the commitments of the European Union in fighting corruption and impunity in Nigeria through Judicial reforms, a guest speaker and the Head of European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador David MacRae in his Paper stated that there are other agencies of government that can aid in the fight against impunity and promotion of good governance. He named the Public Complaints Commission as a good vehicle in realizing those goals expressing satisfaction in the efforts of the FCT Commissioner. "The Public Complaints Commission is one of those. And I have to say I was impressed when the Commissioner for the FCT came to visit me at the EU Delegation and explained to me the range of things the PCC is responsible for." he added.

The Special Guest of honour, Distinguished Senator David Mark, the President of the Senate represented by the Senate Committee Chairman on Ethics and Public Petitions, Senator Patrick Ayo Akinyelure, in his speech commended the ebullient FCT Commissioner ,Hon. Obunike Ohaegbu for his efforts in repositioning the Commission. "I wish to congratulate the Honourable Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission FCT for gaining the courage in less than one calendar year to put together 2 successive annual seminars that brought together statesmen including past Heads of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria among other relevant stakeholders. Your activities have continued to gain the attention of government ,not only within FCT but also at the federal level. I urge you to improve on your current efforts and where you need support,do not hesitate to contact the relevant authority,primarily,the National Assembly."

His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who delivered the Keynote Speech seized the opportunity to lodge his complaint with the Commission. He described as unacceptable the current situation whereby funds meant for his state is been withheld by the Finance Ministry .He urged the Honourable Commissioner to use his good office to ensure the funds were released. “If as a Governor I can’t get my statutory allocation on the basis of the rule of law, I am aggrieved so if Public Complaint Commission can help me ". He Commended the Commissioner for the reforms he brought to the Commission and called for more powers to be given to the Commission to make it more virile.
Speakers after speakers took the podium to pour encomiums on the host, Barr. Ohaegbu for his visionary leadership and the microphone went off as foods and drinks overflowed.

Afam Chukwunwike is the Commission’s Information Officer and writes from Abuja.




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