By Eric Teniola
A FEW years ago those in the central government in Abuja would tell you that fear of the due process mechanism is the beginning of wisdom. The policy was like the import licence policy carried out by the then Ministry of Trade which began during the era of General Murtala Muhammed/General Olusegun Obasanjo. The due process mechanism was as crucial as the import licence policy. While being implemented many were concluding at that time that the era of accountability in government has at last arrived. But now we hear less about the due process mechanism and its implementation.
Due Process is a mechanism for ensuring strict compliance with openness, competition and cost accuracy rules and procedures that should guide contract award within the Federal Government of Nigeria. It has become the popularly adopted short term for the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (BMPIU) which is the unit tasked with implementing Nigeria’s Public Procurement Reform Programme. The BMPIU was established by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001 in fulfilment of tenacious commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of Nigeria’s public resources.
The unit was then headed by Dr. Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili (56) popularly known as Oby Ezekwesili. Dr. Ezekwesili came into the government as special assistant (projects) under President Obasanjo. Unlike Bodunde Adeyanju, Andy Uba, Handei Okoli, Tunde Olusunle or Dr. Doyin Okupe, Dr. Ezekwesili was not a pioneer staff of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. She came in 2000. Unlike most pioneer staff in 1999, Dr. Ezekwesili from Anambra state had known General Obasanjo as far back as 1991 while she was working in the Centre for International Development, Harvard University. She used to attend many activities of the African Leadership Forum in Ota, Ogun state as far back as 1991. Her contributions to lectures and seminars at the African Leadership Forum were outstanding then. That was before General Obasanjo was sent to prison by General Sanni Abacha.
Before 1999 only few people had worked under General Olusegun Obasanjo who later worked under President Obasanjo in the Villa in Abuja. They are Major General Abdullahi Muhammed, the military governor of Benue/Plateau state in 1975, who became chief of staff to President Obasanjo, Chief Phillip Asiodu, who served as permanent secretary under General Obasanjo and later became chief economic adviser to President Obasanjo, Mr. Bodunde Adeyanju from Ado-Ekiti who worked in the African Leadership Forum since 1994 and later became personal assistant (domestic) to President Obasanjo; Taiwo Ojo, who first joined the African leadership Forum right from high school in 1991 until he had his master’s degree in 1997 and later became a trusted private secretary under President Obasanjo and Dr. Ezekwesili. Ambassador A.O. Esan, Gbolade Osinowo and Chief (Mrs) J.O. Ayo should be mentioned also.
Two other people who were prominent in the African Leadership Forum in Ota between 1993 and 1998 but who did not serve under President Obasanjo were Prince Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida (1950-2013), who later became the Deji of Akure and Ambassador Segun Apata from Oka in Akoko South Local Government in Ondo State, who is at present the chairman of the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited. Ambassador Apata was to be the chief of staff to President Obasanjo in 1999 but at that time he was engaged in Nigeria’s Diplomatic Service as Nigeria’s ambassador and deputy representative in the United Nations in New York.
When Dr. Ezekwesili came to government at 36 then, she had the backing and confidence of President Obasanjo and with that confidence and influence, she was able to put through most of her programmes. She was not just a special assistant to the president but a powerful special assistant who had the eyes and ears of the president. She was bold and assertive. No doubt the due process mechanism was her first project. She implemented the project along with Mr. Steve Osagiede Oronsaye (68) from Edo state. Etubom Anthony Ani (82) as Minister of Finance in 1995 brought Mr. Oronsaye from Peat Marwick Cassleton Elliot, an accounting firm, to government as director special duties. He graduated as special assistant under President Obasanjo in 1999 to principal secretary and later became permanent secretary. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua appointed him head of service of the Federation in 2009.
A diagnostic study conducted in 2001 into the state of Federal Government public procurement process claimed that Nigeria may have lost hundreds of billions of naira because of flagrant abuse of procedures for award of public contracts costs, lack of transparency, competence-based competition and merit as the fundamental criteria for award of public contracts. The findings of the study made it imperative that the country urgently needed to reform the procurement system if it was to reduce the large scale corruption and waste that had reduced the efficiency of the Nigerian public sector.
When the unit took off in 2001, it took over the function and powers of the directors of finance and supplies of the various ministries. Those directors felt jittery and threatened. Several times they took their complaints to the then head of service, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.
The mission of the unit was to use the Due Process Mechanism to re-establish and sustain an open, transparent and competitive Federal Procurement System that is “integrity-driven, upholds spending within Budget and ensures speedy implementation of Projects in order to achieve value-for-money outcomes without sacrificing quality and standards”.
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