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Friday, 9 September 2011


When President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan won the April 2011 presidential election and decided to proceed to the beautiful Obudu cattle Ranch, in Cross River State for a post-election retreat, some of us were not too pleased that rather than tackle the emerging security challenge posed by the barbaric and cruel post-election violence in the north that he has decided to cool off with his wife in that serene environment leaving hundreds of families who lost their loved ones to the mass murderers in the political violence to their fate.

Emerging development and other scenarios from the seat of power in Abuja in the last couple of days may have justified President Jonathan’s decision to go for the post election retreat. The President may have spent the retreat to re-discover some hard facts concerning how some government agencies are badly governed.

Some analysts have suggested that President Jonathan used the period of the post – election retreat to get some honest feed backs from some of his trusted sources. Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in their book; ‘why should anyone be led by you’ stated emphatically that ‘effective leaders seek out sources of straight feedback’.

One of such rare moments of truth in the presidential villa happened late last week when an authorized media release from the President gave frank assessment of what most objective critics have always said about the poor performance of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), a body set up by the federal government to privatize all publicly owned companies.

The President’s verdict on the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has come a little bit late and of course going by the business as usual tendency manifest in the current political environment, the operatives of that poor performing agency will not face any form of presidential sanction for failing spectacularly to discharge the mandate for which it was statutorily set up at the inception of the current democratic dispensation. 

For President Goodluck Jonathan to have passed a vote of no-confidence on the Bureau of Public Enterprises for failing in their duty and at the same time not deem it appropriate to sanction all the key officials that have misled the agency since it was set up is tantamount to telling these incompetent public office holders and operatives of the bureau of public enterprises to go and sin no more.

For our readers to fully comprehend the enormity of the verdict of poor performance passed on the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) by the President, it would be appropriate to reiterate that President Jonathan was so enraged by the poor performance of many privatized companies that he then decided to direct the Bureau of Public Enterprises to ensure competence, capability and capacity in all privatization decision henceforth.

 Last Friday the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Ima Niboro, said the President considered privatization as a laudable initiative of the government aimed at growing the economy.

He said the President was disturbed because many of the privatized companies were not doing well.

“In fact, many of them don’t seem to have fared better in private hands than they did when they were in government hands.            
“Apart from one or two, maybe the Eleme Petrochemicals, others have not done very well, and the question is why,” he asked.

“What guided the investment decisions about these companies? It would appear that there were considerations other than competence and capacity in the final investment decisions that were taken,” Niboro added.

He said the President had directed that no other considerations like politics and influences should be admitted in privatization decisions.
“The President is going to be firm on these decisions; he is going to be strict and will monitor it directly,” Niboro said.

On the privatized companies that were not doing well, Niboro said the government would design a mechanism to assist them to perform better.

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) serves as the operational base and secretariat of the National Council on privatization (NCP) and is charged with the over all responsibility of implementing the council’s policies on privatization and commercialization.

Among other vital mandate of the agency is the management of post transactional performance monitoring and evaluation.

From the above, it therefore follows that the findings by the presidency that virtually all privatized companies are not doing well and that petty politics rather than competence guided the previous privatization exercise is a big and very damaging indictment of the operatives of the Bureau of Public Enterprises.

If it were in other civilized climes, the head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) would have thrown in the towel, cover her face in shame for as long as the institution that she heads has received the worst form of public reprimand from no other person than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In Nigeria however, Spin doctors, hangers on and other sycophants who usually populate such public offices as office of Director General will make sure that resignation is not part of the operational lexicon of such an indicted Institution or agency of government.

What President Jonathan has done by only condemning the poor performance of the agency but failed to recommend sanction for indicted operatives or investigate thoroughly why the institution failed is simply a promotion of impunity which he has recently pledged to banish from Nigeria.

Impunity means exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines,” according to Wikipedia, the online Encyclopedia. The Black’s law Dictionary, eighth edition, also defined impunity as “an exemption nor protection from punishment”.

President Jonathan should order comprehensive probe of why the privatization exercise in Nigeria has failed and plug all loopholes so that public assets sold dubiously to some private persons do not remain with them while the people suffer from poverty and the nation suffer from lack of industrialization.

Dr. Sam Amadi in his book “Privatization and public good”: The rule of law challenge” raised an observation of what he thinks is the fundamental problem with the privatization exercise in addition to the problems already observed by President Jonathan.
In this scholarly book he published in 2008, Dr. Sam Amadi stated thus; “In Nigeria, privatization proceeded hastily. The architects of privatization in Nigeria consider it a sure elixir for the economy that it did not recognize the need for delays and hesitation, even to fully mobilize the institutions and create the regulatory and social environment that permit the scale of privatization they proposed. Privatization in Nigeria has so much of the trappings of the Russian privatization process which placed much emphasis on speed. This concept is based on the notion that to keep a privatization process on course the momentum of transaction should be kept high. Promoters of privatization have urged countries contemplating privatization to move quick and fast so as to avert possible roll-back resulting from changes in political formations”. 

The President will do Nigerians a whole lot of good if he can follow through with his solemn promise to say bye to impunity by publicly naming all those involved in messing up the mandate of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, recommend them for immediate prosecution and sanction by the competent court of law because the implication of what President Jonathan has said regarding what goes on in that agency is that considerations other than merit and competence were adopted in selling off most publicly owned companies and what this means is that cronies of some persons in government used their wide network to corner what belonged to the members of the public to become their private property with all the attendant breaches of the extant laws guiding privatization.

Goffee and Jones in their book ‘why anyone should be led by you’ stated rightly that “showing yourself as a leader always involves risks, and the risks are personal. To imagine that you can act as an effective leader without putting a little bit of yourself on the line is an illusion. And a dangerous one”.

President Jonathan is therefore expected to follow through with his avowed commitment to ensure that government activities do not follow the infamous business as usual approach which has gravely impacted negatively on the polity. Those men and women who misappropriated public assets through unfair means must not be allowed to continue to reap the fruit of their crime but must be made to face the full weight of the law.

·                    Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.       


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