By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked the National Assembly to be very circumspect and not to directly sabotage the war on terror by the unwarranted distraction of ‘investigating’ the procurement of arms in such a way as to show that they may be doing the bidding of terrorists.
HURIWA has specifically counselled the Senate President Senator Ahmed Lawan and the speaker Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila to provide patriotic leadership to guide the relevant defence related committees so their members are not recruited as undercover sympathizers of Boko haram terrorists who will continue to spread sensational media stories regarding the propriety or otherwise of the procurement process observed in the Public Procurement of defence related weapons.
“We think that at a time of grave emergency and threats to the territorial integrity of Nigeria, what we expect from law makers is to support the hierarchy of the military with all that they need to effectively combat the threats of terrorism and after that then forensic investigations of expenses and procurements can happen in an atmosphere devoid of media sensationalism. We expect the legislators not to constitute unwelcomed nuisance and orchestrated distractions by organizing unnecessary public show and media drama of seeking to make a devil out of the heads of the armed forces of Nigeria and by so doing create disaffection and demotivate the Combatants by feeding them with half baked and unsubstantiated innuendos that certain members of the Military hierarchy may have diverted funds meant for procurement of arms. Who are these law makers working for? Nigeria or boko haram terrorists?”
“This is the most inappropriate time to do that and the methodology they adopted they are indirectly creating the impression that some of the members of the National Assembly may actually be doing the bidding of the masterminds of the terror campaigns against Nigeria.”
“If we may ask, are the legislators unaware of the very characters and political functionaries within the Ministry of Defence that are directly in charge of all procurements and don’t they know the custodian of such procurement records? Why have they not invited the minister? Why not read up the relevant laws if the members are bereft of the relevant information on the extant laws relating to procurement and that the Minister of Defence is the right person to provide all the information they seek or are they procured by the terrorists to cause disaffection by spreading false information about some missing funds?.”
HURIWA stated further: “For their information these are facts presented by a legal scholar and these faultless procedures are easily accessed on the Internet for the elucidation of the Legislator so they carry out their assignment if need be, with the highest decorum and avoid hugging the media in order to create somethingout of nothing and thing effectively derail the war on terror.
“HURIWA is privileged to learn lucidly the following: What is the relevant legislation and in outline what does each piece of legislation cover? In Nigeria, the relevant legislation is the Public Procurement Act, 2007 (PPA). Sections 1 and 3 of the PPA established the National Council on Public Procurement (the Council) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), respectively. The Council, as the first regulatory authority under the PPA, is responsible for: (1) considering, approving and amending the monetary and prior review thresholds for the application of the provisions of the PPA by procuring entities; (2) considering and approving policies on public procurement; and (3) approving changes in the procurement process to adapt to improvements in modern technology. The BPP, as the second regulatory authority, has the following responsibilities, amongst others: (1) to harmonise the existing Government policies and practices on public procurement and ensure probity, accountability and transparency in the procurement process; (2) to establish pricing standards and benchmarks; (3) to ensure the application of fair, competitive, transparent, value-for-money standards and practices for the procurement and disposal of public assets and services; and (4) to attain transparency, competitiveness, cost-effectiveness and professionalism in the public sector procurement system.”
“The provisions of the PPA, as per section 15 thereof, cover all procurement of goods, works and services carried out by: (1) the Federal Government and all procurement entities; and (2) all entities outside the foregoing description which derive at least 35% of the funds appropriated or proposed to be appropriated, for any type of procurement described in the PPA, from the Federation share of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, as captured lucidly by ICLG.com”.
These legal experts also unambiguously informed us that: “Procuring entity”, from the interpretation section of the PPA (section 60), is defined to mean “any public body engaged in procurement” and includes “a Ministry, extra-Ministerial office, government agency, parastatal and corporation”.
“Also The Public Procurement Regulations for Consultants’ Services, 2007 (PPRCS) and Public Procurement Regulations for Goods and Works, 2007 (PPRGW) are Regulations made by the BPP in the exercise of the powers granted to it under the PPA. The PPRCS and PPRGW constitute subsidiary legislation which applies to the procurement of consultancy services and the procurement of goods and works, respectively.
“What are the basic underlying principles of the regime (e.g. value for money, equal treatment, transparency) and are these principles relevant to the interpretation of the legislation?
The basic underlying principles of the PPA regime include the following: Open Competitive Bidding; equal and equitable treatment of interested bidders; transparency; economy and efficiency; probity and accountability in the bidding process; value-for-money standards and practices for the procurement and disposal of public assets and services; cost-effectiveness; and professionalism in the public sector procurement system. These principles are indeed relevant to the interpretation of the legislation. In interpreting a piece of legislation, the court is bound to consider the essence of the legislation or the purpose for which it was made. This is called the purposive interpretation rule.”
“The experts then asked, Are there special rules in relation to procurement in specific sectors or areas? They responded thus: “Yes. Generally, the provisions of the PPA cover all procurement of goods, works and services carried out by: (1) the Federal Government and all procurement entities; and (2) all entities outside the foregoing description which derive at least 35% of the funds appropriated or proposed to be appropriated, for any type of procurement described in the PPA, from the Federation share of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. However, the provisions do not apply to the procurement of special goods, works and services involving national defence or national security, except where the President’s express approval has first been sought and obtained. Section 15 of the PPA.”
The lawyers also asked: “Are there other areas of national law, such as government transparency rules, that are relevant to public procurement?
They answered: “Yes. Executive Order No. 001 of 2017 on Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment is relevant to public procurement. The Order requires every Ministry, Department and Agency (MDA) of the Federal Government of Nigeria to publish a complete list of all requirements or conditions for obtaining products and services within the MDA’s scope of responsibility, including permits, licences, waivers, tax-related processes, filings and approvals. The list is expected to: (a) include all fees and timelines required for the processing of applications for the products and services; and (b) be conspicuously displayed on the premises of the relevant MDA and published on its website within 21 days from the date of issuance of the Order. The purpose of publishing the said list is essentially to ensure transparency and efficiency in the business environment. Another relevant law is the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007. Under section 38 of the said Act, all contracts with regard to the execution of the annual budget are to comply with the rules and guidelines on: (a) procurement and award of contracts; and (b) due process and clarification of contract. Other laws that ensure transparency and are relevant to public procurement include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004, the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Act, 2000, the BPP Code of Conduct and the Tribunal Act.”
HURIWA recalled that on Monday, the Chief of Army Staff, Maj Gen Attairu Ibrahim appeared before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating arms procurement.
The appearance caused a standoff between the Army Chief and the Committee members, as the latter refused to apologize over his inability to attend prior invitations.
It would be recalled that the Committee had summoned the COAS and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele on the 22nd of March and the 7th of April respectively.
During his appearance on Monday, the COAS said he was unable to make it to the summons due to different engagements over internal security.
He also refused to speak on the report he submitted to the committee.
“An explanation is as good as an apology. Even a blind man knows that there are internal security challenges in the country. The same way you work for the people, that is the same way I work for the people. I have a command under me and they are also Nigerians.
On the report, he said the executive summary should suffice. This position angered some members of the committee who argued that he should speak under oath.
Bede Eke, a member of the Committee asked the “COAS to speak on the record, to be sure that it emanated from the office of the COAS.”
The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) believes that it is possible that the National Assembly has been infiltrated by sympathizers of boko haram terrorists otherwise these brickbats are wholly and absolutely unacceptable and constitute a cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progressive fight against terrorists.