BY DAUD OLATUNJI
FOR a man who reigned with near maximum power for eight years in Ogun State, these are indeed unusual times for former Governor Gbenga Daniel. Actions and activities of the former Governor, which for eight years were covered by immunity or other stratagems are these days the focus of multiple probes and investigations by the new administration in the state led by Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Beside the executive arm, the legislative arm, which like the executive, is also controlled by the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN is equally in the dig against the actions of the Daniel era.
The panels include: Truth commission, Judicial commission of enquiry, Visitation, House of Assembly committee on land matters and audit of N59 billion debts, and concession of public property by the former administration.
The conception of the different inquiries have, however, generated some little controversy as Daniel and some of his supporters now consider the Governor as being on a revenge mission.
Indeed, there seems to be some tension in Daniel’s camp especially following the establishment of the Truth Commission which is to examine the mystery behind some disappearances as well as assassination of prominent people including the late Governorship candidates of the ACN, Dipo Dina and Alhaji Sulaimon Age.
So while some view the efforts of the new administration as vindictive others see them as wholly in line with purposeful governance on the fact that no matter how highly placed one should be compelled to face the consequences of his actions.
OGD, as fondly called, has kicked at the choice of the terms of reference of the commission, which he described as self-serving and restricted in focus. He accused his successor of targeting him.
Initially, Daniel had expressed his readiness to appear before the truth commission once the plan was unfolded.
Basking in euphoria, Daniel had lauded the composition of the commission, which comprises a retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Pius Aderemi as chairman with Justice Abdullahi Mustapha
(rtd), Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (rtd.), Barrister Bamidele Aturu, a Human Rights activist and Barrister Tunji Onabanwo, a nominee of the Ogun State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, as members.
Speaking at the swearing-in of the members of the Commission, Governor Amosun lamented the alleged maiming and killings of some citizens of the state on account of political differences, actions he said, violated the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 5-man panel, according to Amosun is to investigate human rights abuses in the state, between January, 2003 and May 29, 2011. He said: “because, it is aimed at acknowledging the wrongdoings and ensuring justice for those who lost their lives or suffered injuries, during this period. It is also to prevent a recurrence of such,” he claimed.
It will be recalled that, Governor Amosun during the celebrations of his first 100 days in office had announced the setting up of a Truth Commission to investigate alleged cases of killings, brutality and harassment done during the tenure of the immediate past administration.
Amosun, further said that the gesture was also aimed at placating the people of the state who lost their lives and property including 59 of his supporters who did not have appropriate opportunity to seek redress during the tenure of the last administration.
Remarkably, exactly 48 hours after the governor announced the setting up of the commission, Daniel whole-heartedly welcomed the idea as announced by his successor.
In his first response, Daniel said: “from the initial composition, we notice that, the Commission is composed of men of proven integrity, capable of ensuring justice in this sensitive assignment.”
Speaking through his media aide, Adegbenro Adebanjo, Daniel added, “as we await the terms of reference, I wish to confirm my full participation and personal attendance at the hearing. We, however,
believe that, to do justice, we will require at least one week to give testimony with opportunity for multimedia presentations, and live coverage of the proceedings by both the local TV stations and at least a national TV”, he submitted.
However, the announcement of the terms of reference of the commission was to spark controversy.
The term of reference empowered the truth commission “ to inquire into reports, complaints and cases of deaths, disappearance and assassinations of persons between January, 2003 and 29th of May, 2011 with a view to determining whether or not such deaths, disappearance and assassinations involved the abuse or misuse of power by any person or persons holding public office or by any person or group of persons acting under the control or authority of such public office holder;
“To inquire into reports, complaints and cases of kidnapping, physical torture and infliction of bodily harm on any person or group of persons between January, 2003 and 29th of May, 2011 with a view to determining whether or not such kidnapping, physical torture and infliction of bodily harm involve the abuse or misuse of power by any person or persons holding public office or any person or persons acting under the control or authority of such public office holder;
“To Inquire into reports, complaints cases of wanton destruction of properties between January, 2003 and 29th of May, 2011 with a view to determining whether or not such destruction of properties involved the abuse or misuse of power by any person or persons holding public office or by any person or persons acting under the control or authority of such public office holder;
“To Identify individuals, institutions and groups whose activities resulted in the acts referred to in (i), (ii) and (iii) herein, and the extent of their involvement.”To identify the victims of the acts perpetrated in(i), (ii) and (iii) above and ascertain the extent of damage to the lives and properties of such victims;
“To recommend appropriate measures and sanctions against the perpetr ators, conspirators and masterminds of the said acts as well as recommending measures and means of preventing the future occurrence of the acts mentioned in (i), (ii) and (iii) herein; and “ to appropriate recommendations on any other matter which in the opinion of the Commission, is relevant or incidental to the foregoing,” Amosun listed.
Reacting to the new development, Daniel expressed misgivings about the terms of reference of the commission, saying they focused on issues, that are wholly criminal in nature, suggested that, certain individuals conceived the panel to achieve other intentions apart from unearthing the truth.
According to Daniel, ordinarily, a Truth Commission of this nature, being proposed for Ogun State, should be unfettered in its range of issues and area of concern with all participants allowed to table relevant issues of their choice.
“This informed the content of our statement welcoming the establishment of the Truth Commission by the administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun, where we also expressed our readiness to participate in its proceedings.
“Then we counseled that all issues should be allowed for discussion without any restriction whatsoever. However, our counsel and concern have largely been ignored going by the content of the terms of reference for the commission just released by the Ogun State Governor which restricted its focus to issues that are wholly criminal in nature and which are within purview of the law enforcement agencies and the law courts.
“Incidentally, the Governor of a state is the Chief Security Officer of the state, who, being the boss of the state Commissioner of Police, the state Director of State Security Service (SSS) and also the State’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), has the power, authority and resources to call for the case files, if any, of any criminal case and cause such to be prosecuted through the normal justice system as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“For the truth is that, issues of alleged murder and kidnapping that constitute the restrictive Terms of Reference of the newly inaugurated Commission are purely criminal matters over which the security agencies and law courts are statutorily empowered to handle and resolve.
“Given this, it is obvious that the commission was conceived and constituted to provide a platform for political theatrics and a forum to embarrass and harass perceived enemies and opponents. And in this, it is quite clear that the immediate past Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, is the unmistakable target” he said.
He has headed to the court asking it to declare the truth commission illegal and unconstitutional and luckily, the court has granted his prayers, restraining the commission.
The commission, before the court restraint was expected to submit its reports on December 13, 2011. But, it is uncertain, if the commission would go ahead with its action regardless of the injunction.