BPE: Senate window dressing

The Nigerian senate are back to their familiar trenches; where they force the rest of us to watch circus shows in the name of probing. The committee set up by it to look into the activities of BPE in the last 12 years, is akin to curing leprosy with ordinary soap and water. The public hearing of the committee and those invited or those who came to make complains, only showed clearly why we are underdeveloped.

Clearly the reason(s) adduced for the privatisation or commercialization of state owned enterprises are visible for all to see. Public enterprises are never allowed to produce to their optimal; right here in Nigeria, they are just another conduit pipes used in draining scarce financial resources. There is no known public corporation that was meeting it obligation to its employees not to talk of the government and people of this country prior to the emergence of Bureau for public Enterprise (BPE).

Majority of the staff in most of them would have been unemployable if they were to face a genuine panel of interviewers when they applied for the jobs they are got. It was plainly federal character absurdity and godfatherism at work. These enterprises became a free for all, come and loot affair. The incompetency of the staff and management of these public enterprises were glaringly; they were federal and state spoilt brats, who are opportune to be closer to the "national cake" than the rest of their country men and women. Official assignments they are expected to carry out in the course of servicing the nation, have to be paid for by the end users. NITEL staff in those days have to be settled before they come and rectify cut cables or broken poles. Yet the same end users will still pay their bills. Even Nigerian Airways staff do not pay for their flights and those of friends and family members. Evidences abound where people simply get notes from staff of the then Nigerian Airways and get themselves on the planes without payments. These sad tales are endless in public enterprises; like PHCN, water corporations, NNPC and so on.

No one is saying the activities of BPE should not be scrutinise; the common Nigeria symptom of corruption, ineptitude and mischief have eaten deep into that organisation. A lot of the staff in that commission should be ease out and prosecuted; including those who have worked there in the past like our holier than thou Nasir El-rufai. But that is not enough to condemn the whole of the privatisation and commercialization exercise so far carried out.

My grouse with the senate committee is why leave the root cause of the malaise and give too much attention to the drugs prescribed? Why are they not bother about those who made these public enterprises to become comatose in the first place? If they do not know, then I will be glad to inform them that their president, Senator David Mark was a former communication Minister and NITEL was under him for close to three years. Nigerians will be happy to know how he contributed in bringing NITEl to its sorry state today. Even the chairman of the committee, Senator Lawal have worked in a public enterprise in the past; almost all our legislators present or past have worked in one public enterprise or the other. In fact majority if not all became comfortable after their sojourn in these failed public enterprises. They should tell us how their nefarious activities in those days aided the collapse of these enterprises. Until our federal legislators clear themselves and make bare their past to us, for me their probes are inconsequential. They are simply distracting us.

At the commencement of this present National Assembly, Nigerians were asking questions on the salaries and remunerations of our federal legislators; some even advised that the entire legislative business should be made part-time, since they spend two-third of a whole year doing nothing. To diverge the attention of the people, they came up with this BPE drama. When all the selling and concessions were taking place, and complains were coming from investors who are short changed, where were our federal legislators? These are people elected and paid to monitor the activities of the executive; peradventure BPE is found wanting in the discharge of its statutory duties from this probe, then it will be an indictment too on our federal legislators.

For a people that are careless about government properties, privatization and commercialization is a welcome strategy. Our government both in the past and present have shown lack of capacity to manage and superintend over business ventures. Nigerians should only insist on openness and transparency in the activities of BPE. In the mean time we should demand that enterprises sold under suspicious circumstances should be redress and the best bidders should be allow buy.

Those calling on the senate committee to invite former president Obasanjo to testify, have not told us what Obasanjo will add to what Nigerians already know. We all know that the reckless, corrupt and shambolic leaders that have continuously rule us since independence brought our country to this despicable state.

But in pointing accusing fingers on our leaders, we must also ask these pertinent questions: why would professors remain in a university system that denied them materials for researches that will enhance development? And still do not feel the guilt of collecting salaries for idleness. Why do civil servants who go to offices every working days, refusing to do what s/he is employed for, still have conscience to demand for salary increment and promotion? In the last twelve years our refineries are not working to 40% of install capacity, the one in Kaduna at a time was in fact closed for almost two years, yet the workers shamelessly queue up for salaries every month. What about those who at various times were in the management boards of these failed public enterprises; how come EFCC or our legislators are not turning their searchlight on them? Most of them today are the powerful politicians still manacling our country.

Among the senate committee members probing the BPE, is a retired Major General, who was the Internal Affair Minister during the reign Mohammadu Buhari, he was then controlling the police, immigration and prison, today these government agencies are in different levels of decay; A former NUJ president, who claimed to be the senator of the masses yet kept mute when he was enjoying the 400 million naira unapproved quarterly allowances with his colleagues; another worked at the management level in a failed government bank. For the past records of the rest members of the panel and the entire National Assembly, I can only weep for Nigeria. God bless Nigeria.

Olurotimi Adeola

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