Need to sanitise operations of Christian Pilgrims’ commission

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Rev. Tor Uja
Rev. Tor Uja

By Emeka Nwankpa

THESE are interesting times. Issues of diverse scope, shape and dimension arise for managers to wear their thinking caps and manage situations that threaten our collective destiny. State institutions exist primarily to preserve the foundations and ideals of society.

Today, issues occur at dizzying speed so institutions created to address them must also move at simultaneous speed to enable society derive lessons for the general good. This is where the Civil Service as an institution that once attracted the best and brightest comes in.

Recently, attention has been focused on activities of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims’ Commission, NCPC, where indications have emerged that the Presidency is now abreast of a face-off at the   Commission. The disagreement has reportedly pitched the Executive Secretary, Rev. Tor Uja against the Chairman and some members of the Governing Board over issues bordering on financial approvals, patronage and benefits on pilgrimages.

It was quite re-assuring to read in the newspapers that the Presidency has waded into the matter to forestall unnecessary unease and bickering at the agency. This is the path to thread in all agencies which were created to serve the needs of the people. Such commotion is the least of what Nigerians want as a people who daily desire the best in their lives.

The information quoting a female Presidency source indicated that necessary administrative measures were at conclusive stages to deal with all the recommendations contained in the findings of an investigation into allegations against the executive secretary.

Avoidable tussles and crisis of confidence between chief executives and their governing councils/boards have continued to be a matter of grave concern to government. It is re-assuring that all complaints on the matter have been investigated awaiting government’s decision. It is also salutary to know that the Presidency is on top of the situation and assured that the matter will not get out of hand as was the case between chief executives and governing boards in other agencies where official activities were grounded owing to undue escalation. The messy story at the National Health Insurance Scheme readily comes to mind.

In the submission of an official quoted by newspapers: ‘’Governance is a process. When complaints are received, they are subjected to proper investigation in line with civil service procedures. It is pertinent to note that administrative disagreements are not new in MDAs. This is why retreats are organized for chairmen and members of governing boards as soon as they are inaugurated. An administrative investigation has to be concluded as a process at the end of which the public will be kept abreast of government’s decision’’.

I cannot agree less with the position that ‘every development in one agency is a lesson for government so that new policies and practices will emerge for better governance processes’; an argument interpreted to mean that administrative investigations are necessary to determine the remote and immediate causes of such disagreements in order to avoid similar pitfalls in governance. This position demonstrates why the Civil Service has acquired the best procedure that creates due process, fairness and justice as the pillars of a society on the march to growth, development and progress.

The activities of the Christian Pilgrims’ Commission, like every government agency, are subject to public scrutiny at all times. It is normal for members of the public who are dissatisfied with the services of any government agency to file complaints and express their grievances at any time. Whenever such complaints are received they are subject to proper investigation in line with civil service procedure.

It is instructive to appreciate that the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation supervises 22 federal agencies including the Pilgrims’ Commission which are directly managed by constituted boards and management committees. Any time issues bordering on propriety and procedure are raised, they are properly investigated, allowing relevant officers to defend themselves as stipulated by law and also ensuring that justice is not miscarried.

Statutorily, complaints received by the OSGF on the activities of the any agency are made to pass through the rigours of internal investigative mechanism. It is apt to state that government is not expected to act in haste at any time so that the machinery of governance is not unduly imperilled by frivolous or unmeritorious petitions. It is also important to say that while the government tries to bring those who infringe against relevant laws to book, innocent officials are not unduly castigated or ridiculed. That is the principle of natural justice, rooted in the dictum audi alteram partem.

It therefore means that as petitions have been received at the highest quarters on the activities of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, the supervising arm of government, that is the OSGF, cannot hurriedly make a pronouncement until the entire process of investigation has run its full course and a position is taken by government which is usually in the best interest of all concerned.

It serves no good cause for anybody to rattle, incriminate or cast aspersions on the integrity of officials saddled with the responsibility of managing the affairs of government all in a bid to subvert the course of justice. One can only appeal to members of the press and commentators in the media to take advantage of the freedom of information policy of the government. It provides a platform for necessary clarifications before making pronouncements on the conduct of government officials and activities of public institutions.

In the case of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims’ Service Commission, it is true as applicable to all government agencies that the roles of the board and the management are clearly spelt out by relevant statutes. Government has often clarified that no board of management has the unilateral power to suspend appointees of the President without recourse to the supervising ministries or in the case of this Commission, the OSGF. The line of authority is very clear.

While citizens have the right to hold government agencies and government officials accountable, no serious government will   conduct its business in undue haste thereby sacrificing due process and principle of natural justice. This is the way to go.

Emeka Nwankpa is a former press secretary to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.

– Apr. 30, 2019 @ 11:59 GMT |

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