The FOI Bill and Barth Nnaji”s Resignation

ImageThe Transition Monitoring (TMG) has closely followed the developments in the Nigerian power sector especially the on-going process of privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Given the allegations made by the PHCN staff and other stakeholders in the sector, TMG condemns on a strong note the continued silence of President Goodluck Jonathan on the allegations of corruption levelled against Prof. Barth Nnaji. The abrupt resignation of the Minister of Power is a confirmation of our pronouncement that the process of PHCN privatization is not transparent. It is our opinion that his case should be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Committee (EFCC) for further investigation and immediate prosecution if he is found guilty of corrupt practices in the privatization exercise.

TMG also considers it of paramount important to investigate all serving Ministers and other appointed or elected government officials. This is to ensure that their ownership and/or relationship with companies bidding for contracts under their office does not infringe on the Procurement Code of Conduct and the integrity of democracy. It should be a matter of routine (especially for a project as large as the privatization of power) for the security agencies to check lists of bids submitted against officials (and their proxies) in the ministry/government agency calling for contractors to ensure that no relationship exists between the two.

The President has gained a reputation as a leader who is slow to take decisions. Over two months after Dr Haliru Mohammed Bello, the erstwhile Minster of Defense, was relieved of duty in June 2012, a replacement has not been appointed. His delay in taking key decisions and handling matters of national interest decisively has often cost the country dearly. In this instance however, it will be particularly dangerous to delay. When the Nigerian penchant to engage in sharp practices when there is no substantive leader at the helm of affairs is taken into consideration, the ongoing privatization exercise and the agitation of PHCN staff becomes fertile ground for another misappropriation of government funds/property on the scale of the fuel subsidy fraud still being investigated.

The example that President Goodluck Jonathan set by succinctly stating that he does not “…give a damn” about declaring his assets is what has set the stage for Barth Nnaji’s forced resignation. TMG adamantly calls for mandatory public declaration of assets by all public servants before and after their tenures as elected or appointed officials to avoid confusion in bidding for contracts and lay a bedrock of integrity and transparency on which a New Nigeria can evolve. The President’s refusal to take a cue from the Liberian government and other African governments standing up for transparency by declaring their assets raises the question of what he has to hide. If the proverbial hands of he and his fellow officials are clean, unnecessary controversy would be avoided by declaring their assets.

The Transition Monitoring Group therefore strongly calls on Mr. President to; prove his officials and himself corruption free by furnishing a list of assets of all government officials, with dates acquired, to the public under the FOI Act and also to stop resting on his oars and act quickly in immediately appointing a Minister of Power who is a deliberate reformer in order to build on the momentum for change created by Prof Nnaji. To do otherwise will be tantamount to encouraging favorable conditions for those who have continually sought to cripple Nigeria via corruption.

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