Nigerian Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ Attitudes to Public Complaints: A Seeming Impediment to Transparent Justice by Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq
It is a true fact that government is a body or an institution through which all the needs of the state and or the societies are fulfilled. It is also true that government acts true its Ministries, Departments and Agencies-herein after referred to as the MDAs to achieve all its mandates. In these MDAs are human beings operating towards the achievement of the goals and objectives of the MDAs. In the cause of carrying out all these functions, one or more complaints arise from the public either against the MDAs or against the individual(s) of the MDAs. At some occasions, the complaints might be against individual(s) in the society(ies). These complaints may seek a redress of administrative complaints or the investigation and or prosecution of alleged offence in criminal proceedings against the individual(s) against whom the complaints have been made. These complaints might be in form of complaints or petitions. At some occasions, the attitudes with which some of those MDAs handle complaints and or petitions seem as impediments to transparent justice in the summation of an average Nigerian as well as in the assessment of the writer of this paper. That is why this paper is an attempt at calling on the powers that be in charge of the MDAs to ensure that justice is transparently done to public complaints, while treating those complaints in whatever form they might have been lodged.
It has been a common phenomenon that when complaints are lodged to some of the MDAs, the complaints remain in the domain of the MDAs until only God knows when. There is another attitude of these MDAs that when complaints are written and duly submitted and or filed, the complaints are not able to be traced on record of correspondence, may be one or more of the members of those MDAs are the party against whom the complaints are made and one or more corrupt officers intend and or decide to assist the said person, then, the correspondence is not traced. For instance, during the National Youth Service Year of the writer of this paper, he wrote a letter for financial assistance to one of the Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja, as sponsorship for carrying out community personal development project. The writer of this paper continued to trace the letter until it got to an office after about more than a month or there about, the writer of this paper was surprisingly informed that though the correspondence’s file indicates that the said letter was received in that office and that there was a signature of someone as having sent out the said letter, but they could not trace the official that signed and sent out the said letter to another office since the person’s name was not written on the correspondence. Then what would be the solution?! The writer of this paper inquired?! The answer was that he should write another letter and start all over! That was the end of the matter! It would be absurd for the writer of this paper to commence another journey that leads to nothing!
Furthermore, there is another attitude that where complaints are written, the complainant is duty bound to always follow up the complaints, else, there will be no response on the complaints. With due respect, it is submitted that that position and or argument is unacceptable. This is much more unacceptable in such a situation where a poor Nigerian who has tried out of the little available resources, to write the complaints is concerned. Assuming, the cost of transportation to trace the said letter is high, what will happen? End of discussion?! This is definitely ridiculous! It is submitted that it remains the duty of the MDAs who are the recipients of complaints to notify the complainant of the progress in respect of his complaints from time to time until the attention of the complainant is needed. Nevertheless, this is not to support the attitude of the MDAs that where complaints are submitted and or filed, for months or forever, there will be no response and or communication to the complainant about the progress on his complaints. This situation will create the notion in the complainant that his complaints are not being treated, the notion which might be true! As a matter of facts, there are some complaints written by the writer of this paper to some of the MDAs which have not been replied up till the writing of this paper, after several months.
Also, the law enforcement agencies of the government have their own issues in relation to complaints.- the Nigeria Police Force as an example. When one complaints, it is the complainant who is the victim of the alleged offence that will be requested by the police to provide the transport to arrest the suspect. He will pay for file to write his complaints, sponsor all costs of visits to scenes of the crime, pay for transport to transfer the suspect from one place to another, etc. The writer of this paper has experienced these narrated situations at different occasions in the course of his professional duty to some of his Clients who are complainants. And there are implications where the complainant cannot fulfill these financial obligations- his complaints will not be treated or his case will have problem of due prosecution or be treated as a ‘Yeye (unworthy) case’ as reacted by a police officer to one of the complaints written by the writer of this paper on behalf of one of his Clients. The question that comes to mind is that ‘is the police only for the defence of the rich?!’ or ‘is it that no financial provisions are made for the law enforcement agencies in the National budget? If the complainant has to spend to this extent, then what do the law enforcement agencies use the allocated budget for?! The point being made here is that government’s law enforcement agencies should stop requesting the public to offer moneys for the due prosecution of their complaints!
Furthermore, almost every member of the MDAs is a boss on his own, including a constable or gate man. Everyone does things in the manner that he likes and use the name of the MDAs as his port folio, that is, ‘he is a staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance!’ etc. This will then breed a situation where such persons handle official duties at their own time and according to their wills. Some of the Investigation Police Officers (IPOs) in charge of investigating the case of a complainant are also not always in the justice of the case of the complainant. This is not a wrong accusation. There are at least two different petitions written by the writer of this paper against some of the IPOs to Commissioner of Police, FCT-Abuja, but, whether the petitions will be given the justice they deserve is hard bone to crush. That is why the writer of this paper has opined that top police officers should always stay in their offices to discharge their official functions to the public or duly delegate such power to competent but qualified officers, rather than attending meetings here and there, with most of the times for office works, spent outside the office. In fact, there are several issues that one will continue and continue to mention in this paper but for want of space.
Therefore, the writer of this paper is of the view, with due respect, that if the reactions of the MDAs to complaints are worst as narrated or more, then, how can an average Nigerian have assurance in transparent justice? How can Nigerians, especially the voiceless, the oppressed, the vulnerable, the helpless etc, have hope in seeking justice through the principle of Rule of Law and not seeking redress by jungle justice and trial by force?
Finally, it is the intention of the writer of this paper to utilize this medium to draw the attention of the authorities in charge of the MDAs to correct all these anomalies in government’s bodies, many of which they are aware of undeniably, and make sure that the public get their complaints resolved in just a little time with due satisfaction by the complainant. In other words, the writer of this paper urges the authorities in charge of the MDAs to ensure that justice should not be delayed in treating public complaints and justice should also not be denied to deserving complainant who has sought the appropriate authorities’ intervention by his complaints, without any fear or favour or discrimination to both the complainant and the person against whom the complaints have been made and that is the core principle of natural justice and equity.