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'GOVT USES PROBE PANELS TO DOUSE TENSION'

By NBF News
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Over the years, various governments have come up with one panel or the other to address issues that threatened the corporate existence of Nigeria.

So much fuss would be made over the panel and at the end of the day, the only thing that would be remembered is when the panel members pose in a group photograph with the President or Head of State during the submission of the findings and the rest becomes history as the recommendations are hardly implemented.

Human rights lawyer and security expert, Mr. Uche Onu said that government at various levels set up probe panels or panels of enquiry because of pressure and to douse tension but not with sincerity of purpose to address the reason for setting up such panels.

According to him, if the government has shown strength of character and has demonstrated firm commitment to implementing reports of panels, the reoccurrence of such issues that in the first place led to setting up panels would have been addressed.

Why do governments hardly implement panel reports?
It is lack of political will. We are all living witnesses to successive governments setting up panels of enquiry or probe panels as the case may be to look into causes of particular incident and at the end of the day, nothing comes out of the report as it would be confined to dusty files.

It is only in this part of the world that government pays lip-service to some of the issues that have grave national consequences. The government has not been sincere in this direction and it lacks the political will to implement any recommendation in any of the reports.

They always set up these panels based on pressure they have when any national calamity happens.

It is high time that our citizens began to mount pressure on government to implement reports of panels that it set up. Part of the reasons that the government toys with reports of panels is that the government has not been responsive to the yearnings of the people because in the first place they were not brought in by the people.

We are also living witnesses to what happened during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, where most of the officials were not elected by the people. It is only now that one can say we are getting it right.

Now that our votes seem to be counting, the government would begin to take Nigerians more seriously. The way things are going now and based on the manner the government has shown responsibility in the killing of the youth corps members during the presidential election violence in the North, the situation may change.

Why do issues that lead to setting up of panels re-occur?

The problem is that the government in its naivety has not brought to book any person that was indicted in the reports. If that has been done and such indicted persons paid dearly for the offence, probably by now we would have relative peace and the events that always lead to constituting such panels would not repeat themselves.

These reports are thrown into the dust bin of history and that is the more reason we are having this culture of impunity; everyone does whatever he wants and seems to get away with it because no one has paid the supreme sacrifice for inciting or igniting violence that claims lives of citizens. It is only when government shows seriousness and implements to the letter, the recommendations and findings of any panel that people would realize that they can't get away with any act of lawlessness. The lack of political will on the government's side has been the licence to some people to do all sort of things.

Government always seems to play politics with all these issues. When issues of this nature arise, you see the government of the day appointing cronies and people who hold political allegiance to the government of the day as members of the panel. What is the rationale of appointing a Grand Khadi to head the probe panel of the post-presidential election violence instead of having a respectable jurist.

Government has much blame because each time this ugly incident happens, they play politics with it.

The composition of the panel is wrong and again there are instruments of law for the composition of such panel and the government has to follow the legal framework in constituting such panels and this affects the implementation of the recommendation.

Government usually appoints their cronies as panel members.

There is constitutional framework laid down for the composition of any panel of enquiry. It is usually gazetted to give it a legal backing.

Most of these panels are set up via executive pronouncement and that is why the Nigerian Bar Association has criticised its composition.

Few years ago, there was an army and police clash in Lagos, the report of the panel was not made public. Only recently, another clash took place with casualties, does that have anything to do with the aborted probe report?

That is exactly what I am saying. The lack of political will is responsible for the reoccurrence of these problems. Look at how soldiers killed eight policemen in Badagry on Tuesday and the army authorities have denied culpability. It is in line with this that the military thinks it is above the laws of the land. We only get it right when military and other institutions are made to subject themselves to the laws of the land. The soldiers knew that nothing came out of such incidents in the past, that is why they engaged in that act of lawlessness. It is time that we showed that no institution of the government is above the law.

What should we expect from the post-election violence committee?

There have been criticisms of the committee. There should be equal representation of religious, professional bodies, NYSC, Ministry of Justice, which is to provide the legal advice. I think the composition is not in order. The government should give it a legal backing so that if the reports are not implemented, some of the professional bodies can seek legal remedies through an order of mandamus, which the civil society groups can use to force the Federal Government to release and implement recommendation of such panel.

The outcome of this panel set up by Jonathan will just be business as usual and I would be surprised if it is different. We are used to how things like this work.