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(For The Records) Dogara to Public Complaints Commission: Make your activities public

Speaker, Yakubu Dogara
Speaker, Yakubu Dogara

Being address by Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives on the 40th Anniversary of the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), on October 15, 2015, at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja

 

  1. It is with great pleasure that I address you today on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the 40th anniversary of the Public Complaints Commission (PCC). The Theme of the Retreat “Re-positioning the Ombudsman for better performance” is most apt and timely.
  2. This is because, since the coming into being of the Commission on Oct. 16, 1975, the role and mandate of the Commission has become very critical in enthroning a just and humane society where no man is oppressed.
  3. A new administration has just taken office with a strong anti-corruption plank, with a pledge to rid Nigeria of impunity and abuse of office. The Commission has a big role to play in the anti-corruption policies and measures of the present government to ensure that the change promised Nigerian’s take place. The truth is that the PCC’s mandate is so structured that it is perhaps the only government agency with statutory authority to check abuse of administrative procedures of government, including the judiciary. Its mandate is not restricted to the public sector. It has jurisdiction to hear grievances even against companies in the private sector.
  4. It is one of the few Federal Government Agencies that has direct constitutional protection to investigate matters concerning not only the Federal Government and its entities, but also that those of the States and Local Governments. In order words, the principles of federalism which respects autonomy of States and Local Governments in the constitutional scheme of things, is inapplicable to the PCC.
  5. The founding fathers of this Commission thought so highly of it, that it was entrenched in the 1979 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution adopted the position of the 1979 Constitution by including it in S.315. S.315(5) further provides that nothing in the 1999 Constitution shall invalidate the PCC Act and that the provisions of the enactment shall continue to apply. It further provides that the provisions of the Act shall not be altered or repealed except in accordance with the provisions of S.9 (2) of the Constitution, which deals with the mode of amending or altering provisions of the Constitution itself. A stringent process indeed.
  6. The critical question to ask is, how has the Commission fared in the execution of its mandate? Has the Commission lived up to the dreams of its founding fathers?
  7. An examination of the activities of the Commission is necessary in order to answer the question fairly and truthfully. The PCC came into being during military Rule in 1975. From 1975 – 1979 and from 1983-1992, 1993-1999, the military held sway. During the military era, the Commission did its best but was constrained by the very nature of military regimes.
  8. Nigeria returned to civil democratic rule in 1999. The Commission operated without the compliment of Commissioners even under Civilian Rule from 1999 to 2012. It is difficult to say that the PCC functioned properly or be said to be properly constituted without the Commissioners, on a strict interpretation of the enabling statute. The enabling Act is very clear that the PCC is under the supervision of the National Assembly. Yet it operated under the Presidency even during the existence of the National Assembly for many years contrary to law. Commissioners were appointed by the National Assembly only in 2012. Since the appointment of a Chief Commissioner and Commissioners for the 36 States and FCT, activities of the Commission has picked up. Indeed, the Commission can only blossom and perform its role as Ombudsman when the citizens are truly free to air their grievances without fear of intimidation or molestation. This is better achieved in a democratic setting with constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.
  9. In the House of Representatives, the Committee on Public Petitions supervises the PCC on behalf of the House. This is because the Committee on Public Petitions has a similar mandate with the Commission and the Public Complaints Commission and the Committee are expected to work together to deliver administrative justice to petitioners.
  10. When a citizen vents his or her grievances and the state uses its resources to resolve them without any cost to him, he goes home satisfied that the country cares for him. This contributes to domestic tranquillity and makes for a stable polity.
  11. I admonish the PCC to increase the publicity of its activities. Your hearing of cases should be made more open to the public and the media so that Nigerians would watch and see for themselves the great work being done by the Commission on behalf of the poor, and marginalized Nigerians.
  12. On our part, we shall continue to support the budgetary needs of the Commission. We urge the Executive arm of Government to increase funding of the Commission to enable it play its constitutionally assigned responsibilities. This will reduce pressure on the National Assembly to intervene in the budgetary process. A situation where the entire budget of the Commission as contained in the Appropriation Bills sent to the National Assembly is always less than the funds required for personnel cost is most unfair. It distorts the budgetary process and it should not be allowed to continue.
  13. The Committee has a great role to play as a quasi-judicial body, and as an agency highly placed in the Constitution to resolve grievances from citizens and persons unjustly treated in society who may not have the resources to proceed to the regular courts. It is an agency made available by the state as an Alternative Dispute Resolution platform. We should all embrace the PCC and support it, as all the ingredients that will make it succeed are now all in place. Except funding!!
  14. Finally, let me use this opportunity to wish you a very successful 40th anniversary and fruitful deliberations at this Retreat.
  15. God bless you all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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