Minister behaving badly

Nigerian government officials have no respect for the laws of the land. They not only flout the laws with impunity, they flaunt their lawlessness before all to see.

Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo was an unusual guest when he visited the port about 10 days ago but his behaviour was not unusual. It was typical of our ogas at the top.

Nebo had come to take delivery of over 200 containers abandoned by the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). The containers, laden with National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) equipment of the Obasanjo era had been abandoned at the port since 2003. They were left at the port for 11 years to rot. No wonder the suffering has continued unabated. And we blame generator suppliers for sabotaging government’s effort to provide uninterrupted electricity for Nigerians. Is it generators dealers that abandoned these multi-billion naira equipment at the port. I was part of a team of stakeholders that met with Vice President Namadi Sambo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in June 2010. The meeting was at the instance of the Vice President who had requested for waivers for the NIPP containers which had stayed at the ports for about seven years at the time. Terminal operators and shipping companies wasted no time as they promptly announced storage charges and demurrage waivers ranging from 60% to 80% for the overtime cargo. VP Sambo was quite elated with the terminal operators’ response he immediately directed the Power Ministry officials at the time to immediately take delivery of the containers to enhance power generation and distribution. But that was the last anyone would hear of the NIPP containers until Nebo showed up four years later.

Nebo came at the time many commuters and residents of Apapa were groaning under an unprecedented gridlock occassioned by bad roads as a result of near total neglect by the federal government.

Nebo, accompanied by several senior officials of the Ministry of Power including the Permanent Secretary, Godknows Igali, had an answer to the menacing traffic. Not minding the insensitivity and the criminality of their action, Nebo and his entourage drove against traffic. Right from Ijora Olopa, they drove on the wrong side of the road, facing oncoming traffic and not minding the danger they posed to other road users. With siren blaring and mobile policemen wielding guns, there was no stopping the big man.

People who intentionally drive in the wrong direction do so either because they missed an exit, for thrill-seeking, as a suicide attempt, or as a shortcut. Nebo’s was for shortcut. And it is not only illegal, it is immoral. The consequence of this action is that Nebo and his team have committed a serious traffic offence and they must be compelled to pay the appropriate fine and undergo necessary psychiatric evaluation in line with the traffic laws of Lagos State. An offence of that magnitude would earn them three years in jail or N50,000 fine but since they are first-time offenders (I hope), the Minister may get away with one year jail term.

Lagos State Government should institute an action against the Minister to convey a strong message to others in his ilk. Our government officials can not be above the law if we are serious about our development as a nation. Examples abound from other climes of how top government officials are made to face justice when they misbehave.

Former Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Sarah Palin, was, less than two weeks ago, fined for speeding in Alaska after being caught driving at 63mph in a 45mph zone. It might interest you to know that Palin was governor of Alaska from Decenber 2006 to July 2009. And she was stopped by a trooper and fined. And she paid the fine. She paid $154 to the state for her action.

On May 31, 2001 President Bush’s 19-year old twin daughters Jenna and Barbara were ticketed by police in Austin, Texas for alcohol-related misdemeanors, while attempting to buy alcohol at a Mexican restaurant. Jenna Bush was cited for misprepresentation of age by a minor for allegedly using someone else’s identification to order an alcoholic beverage. His mother and former First Lady, Barbara Bush was ticketed for possession of alcohol by a minor. All of these happened while George Bush was the sitting President of the United States of America.

Impunity agaisnt the law arises from the failure of the State to meet its obligation to investigate violations. The State must not only investigate violations, it must take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators by ensuring that those suspected of violations are prosecuted, tried and duly punished. Nobody should be above the law no matter how highly place. Since the offence was committed in Lagos State, the state government has the responsibilty of setting an example. Just as Governor Fashola made an example of Colonel Yusuf in January 2012; he should order the prosecution of Chinedu Nebo to further discourage impunity by top government functionaries.

And by the way, I was caught up in traffic on Osborne Road, Ikoyi sometimes last year. We were on that stretch of road for about 45 minutes as the traffic moved slowly. I looked to my left and behold, it was the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire. She sat quietly with her aides in her official car. A pilot car in front with its siren not blairng (not even a sound!) and another car packed full of security details behind, the Deputy Governor’s convoy moved along with the traffic. They did not even as much as switch lanes. They just moved on like every other motorist. I doff my hat ma’am.

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