By Carl Umegboro
The alleged extremes and impunity of the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Mr. Adesola Olusade and Director of Procurement, Ibrahim Ibrahim Gusau are alarmingly disturbing. By default, FCT ministry is a signpost of the federal government considering that it possesses almost equal status with the thirty-six states of the federation, but led by a minister appointed by the President unlike the states that have governors elected by the people. It therefore becomes logical to reliably assess policies of the President through undertakings and accomplishments of the Federal Capital Territory Authority as the seat of power which is directly under the presidency.
This imprudence must be checkmated and those engaging in the improper deals be punished accordingly. No doubt, these obnoxious activities had thrived for many decades, and inherited by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Nonetheless, as an administration that places priority on a fight against corruption, the abnormally must not succeed this administration. Clearly, these actions contradict the policies of Buhari-led government vis-à-vis autonomy of the Local Councils, independence of the Judiciary and noninterference in the States House of Assembly. Thus, the impunity must stop.
Looking closely at the activities of the ministry, most times, attitudes of some of its officials appear as if it runs reverse policies from the presidency. For instance, Buhari has been unrelentingly active in agitation for the autonomy of Local Government Areas, independence of judiciary and State Houses of Assembly towards bringing governance and dividends of democracy closer to the people as provided in the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria which the governors fervently oppose for selfish interests. This led to the industrial action of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) recently which paralyzed the courts for months.
Sadly, despite clear position of the presidency and efforts to enable Local Councils and judiciary operate independently accordingly, it was shocking to read on 14 July, 2021 in Daily Trust at page 31, a notice of intention to commence committal proceedings against the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Mr. Adesola Olusade and Director of Procurement, Ibrahim Ibrahim Gusau which suggests executive rascality and impunity of the two officials. In Nigeria, contempt of court is punishable under Section 133 of the Criminal Code; Section 274 (1) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance (amending section 41 (1) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, 1923) and Section 21 of the Native Courts Ordinance.
In the notice dated July 12, 2021 addressed to the Permanent Secretary of FCTA, signed by Kalu Kalu Agu, Counsel to Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy (CRPA), a nongovernment organization, the group categorically emphasized that the two public officials were foisting a ‘fait accompli’ on the court by craftily attempting to destroy the subject matter of the said suit pending before the court which has become a common tactics of intimidation against the vulnerable class by public officeholders. Conspiracy of ‘fait accompli’ has become a common tool some people in advantaged positions oppress the helpless by taking prejudicial actions before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it.
According to the report, CRPA had dragged the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) and the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) before the Federal High Court, Abuja in a Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1585/2020 premised on fraudulent and illegal award of contracts and usurpation of the constitutional duties of local council. However, despite the pendency of the suit before a court and the need for parties to maintain status quo till the final determination of the case, the Permanent Secretary and Director of Procurement allegedly continued to disregard the sanctity of the court.
It was also observed that the Bureau of Public Procurement; a federal agency under the presidency has shown commitments to respect the rule of law and maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the said suit. The uncontrolled and unrestrained intimidations of the two officials of FCTA must be checkmated. The committal proceeding is in order. It is high time the country began to operate like other nations of the world and make public officeholders account for their commissions and omissions. South Africa has set the pace that nobody is indeed above the law by the committal of her former president, Jacob Zuma, a 79-year-old to 15-month jail term for contempt of the court. This is how a society grows, and build institutions beyond persons. There’s no better practical way to build a society other than making all classes of people be subject to the Rule of Law.
Instructively, the Principle of Rule of Law is a safeguard against arbitrary governance and the foundation of good governance. Lord Denning in Gouriet V. Union of Post Office Workers (1977) 1 Q.B 729 @ 761-762 said: “… be you so high, the Law is above you”. Similarly, the Nigerian Supreme Court in Lagos State V. Ojukwu (1996) 1 NWLR (Pt 18) 621 noted that: ‘The rule of law presupposes that the State is subject to the law, that the judiciary is a necessary agency of the rule of law, that the Government should respect the right of individual citizens under the rule of law and that to the judiciary, is assigned both by the rule of law and by our constitution the determination of all actions and proceedings relating to matters in disputes between persons, Governments or Authority’.
Buttressing the concept of rule of law to Constitutional Democracy and Good Governance, the Supreme Court in Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal v. Okorafor (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt 745) 310 at 327 stated “Nigerian constitution is founded on the rule of law, the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. It means also that government should be conducted within the framework of recognized rules and principles which restrict discretionary powers.” Let Rule of Law thrive.
Umegboro, LLB, ACIArb is a public affairs analyst and social crusader.