ICPC: NEW BOARD, NEW HOPE?
For the ICPC 2018 was the year that marred its assigned role as a corrective government agency but, as God would have it, the year also gave the Commission the necessary disinfectant to cleanse it and restore public trust in its capacity to function effectively as an anti-corruption institution, with acquired immunity from human contamination.
The embarrassing exposure of ICPC’s descent to the orbit of rabble-rousers and allied mischief makers as reflected in its ill-fated and ill-informed press release supposedly blowing its trumpet on uncovering an alleged fraudulent payment of N2.5 billion by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to Pinnacle Communications Limited in the implementation of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project, was the lowest ebb in public estimation of this otherwise highly rated government body.
But the breaking news soon after that the Senate had finally confirmed the appointment of Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye as Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), along with eight other members, after almost a year of pussy-footing, was a timely saving grace for the Commission which had been forced into muted isolation in the aftermath of the self-indicting press release. That it has been unable to respond to the torrent of outrage and criticism its press release unleashed remains a sad admission of guilt.
Indeed it will be well nigh impossible for anyone in the Commission directly or indirectly involved in the decision to issue such a peculiar press release, that was inexplicably riddled with factual, terminological and logical irregularities on an issue but gleefully heralded as the subject of meticulous investigation typical of ICPC, to summon the words or the wit to respond reasonably without losing face. Loud silence is unbecoming of an advocate of anti-corruption crusade!
Notwithstanding this appalling development, the role assigned to ICPC is too important to be abandoned to the pitfalls of administrative compromise and gross indiscipline. It is however vital to confront the demons haunting the Commission considering the extent to which they have seized its commanding heights and mounted their altar to serve those it should be sanctioning.
The ICPC press release in question was so obviously dictated by uninformed vested interests displeased with the epoch making implementation of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) from analogue television broadcasting in Nigeria by both NBC and Pinnacle Communications Limited for pecuniary motives and sheepishly dished out by their well-positioned ICPC collaborators, replete with unpardonable misrepresentations and numerous other deplorable displays of stark ignorance and illiteracy that cannot and should not have been attributed to findings of ICPC investigations.
The new Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye –led ICPC Board clearly has its work cut out for it and they should regard the timeliness of their appointment as a divine calling to undertake an important national assignment. The Buhari Administration has rightly adopted the renewed fight against corruption especially in government as a cardinal objective and it must be alarmed about the apparent hijack of ICPC, a major weapon in its arsenal, by unpatriotic corrupt elements targeting the DSO, one of its flagship accomplishments.
An independent internal inquiry specifically identifying personnel and processes that were compromised as well as the sources of the planted press release which brought shame and ridicule to the ICPC’s reputation as the pace-setting investigative arm of the government’s antic-corruption drive are top priority pre-requisites for the corrective measures that the new ICPC board should undertake urgently and transparently in their own interest as well as the patriotic duty of salvaging the sunken image of the ICPC. Incidentally, the hatchet job of the ICPC included freezing accounts of Pinnacle Communications Limited which a Federal High Court adjudged unjustified and revoked, cautioning the Commission against ill-motivated exercise of its functions.
As someone coming with the fortuitous antecedent of being the immediate past secretary of a presidential panel dealing with anti-corruption agenda of the Buhari Administration, Prof. Owasanoye is a most appropriate appointee to right the wrongs of the ICPC and strengthen it to withstand unavoidable internal and external sabotage by enemies of national development. Nevertheless, the ICPC must put the NBC-Pinnacle Communications-DSO debacle behind it also by reassuring the outraged public that it has taken measures to prevent a recurrence. May the Owasanoye ICPC Board succeed in its divinely ordained national assignment .
Mudashiru Lukman wrote from Ibadan