Four days before the EndSARS panel submitted its report, Amasiemeka Adokiye, a former Nigerian football player and lawyer served a reality check on Nigerians. This was in a letter rejecting an appointment as a member of a committee formed to produce a 10-year football development master plan for the country.
In his letter of rejection, Adokiye laid bare the problem that has dogged nearly every committee set up by the government to investigate, probe or recommend a way forward for the various problems bedevilling the country in the various area of our national life, football inclusive. His depositions are worth recalling here:
“I refer to your letter FMYSD/FEAD/NFF/CORR/014/VOL IV of September 7, 2021, and state without equivocation that beyond cliches and perfunctory responses, but consistent with my natural disposition, I always feel honoured to be considered worthy to serve my beloved country in any capacity. Thank you, sir.
He further stated that:
“Nevertheless, it is apposite to recall that carefully thought-through reports on similar subjects by other committees, some of which I was privileged to serve on, were received with high commendation by the authorities, only to gather dust,” Adokiye wrote in his letter.
Adokiye’s contention reminds us of the many brilliant minds, that various Nigerian governments have asked to be part of one panel committee or the other, the many hours, weeks, months they poured in trying to come up with a report they thought the government was going to use, only to be disappointed. It doesn’t therefore come as a surprise to see President Muhammadu Buhari deterring at least for now, on acting on the EndSARS panel report. Many such precedents have been set by previous administrations.
In 1999, the Presidential Olusegun Obasanjo, set up the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria, popularly known as the Oputa Panel. Because Nigeria was just getting back to democratic rule, Obasanjo inaugurated a commission to investigate human rights violations during the military era of 1984 to 1999.
This penchant of Nigerian presidents to resort to Committees or probe panels, only to fail to implement the reports has contributed to the low trust, which citizens have on the custodians of the Nigerian State
The panel later went ahead to investigate “gross human rights violations” dating back as far as 1966. But unfortunately, the Government never officially made its report publicly available.
After Obasanjo, it was the turn of President Unaru Musa Yar’Adua who set up the Electoral Reform Committee to “examine the entire electoral process with a view to ensuring that we raise the quality and standard of our general elections and thereby deepen our democracy.” The report submitted by the committee headed by former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muhammadu Uwais was rejected by the government.
On his own part, President Goodluck Jonathan established several panels including a seven-member committee to develop appropriate strategies for the implementation of the report of a National Conference Committee. It was another costly exercise in futility.
This penchant of Nigerian presidents to resort to Committees or probe panels, only to fail to implement the reports has contributed to the low trust, which citizens have on the custodians of the Nigerian State.
It is also at the heart of the lethargic participation of technocrats in governance. For any meaningful progress to happen this must change.
President Buhari’s administration is about to walk the same path. Since it is contending that it is unable to act on the EndSARS report because it is waiting for a white paper which a new committee has to come up with. The Lagos State government through its legal counsel says it has found 40 discrepancies in the report; hence it is unable to act on it. While we do agree that any discrepancies in the report puts the authenticity of the report in question, we also wonder whether it is not another tactic to discredit the report in order for the government not to act on it, like it has done with previous reports.
There must be transparency in the way this panel report is handled. There needs to be a new precedent set by the President Buhari government that shows it pays attention to the rule of law, that it can be held accountable and is also capable of being transparent. Meanwhile,
the footballer-lawyer Adokie Amaesimaka is to be commended for his forthrightness and candour on this issue. Hopefully, the various governments in the country will take a cue from this and in the process put an end to frivolous, merry-go round panels which add nothing to the quality of the Nation’s governance profile and status.