Port Harcourt yesterday flung open its doors for think-tanks, stake holders and captains of industry to an Enlightenment Workshop for participants to discuss measures and adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR as the fastest way of dispute resolutions put together by Public Complaints Commission.
Declaring the event open, the chairman Dr. Alphaus Paul Worika in his opening remarks informed the auspicious gathering that the Nigeria Ombudsman was established with decree No. 31 of 197, and after passing through series of constitutional amendments cumulated in what is now known as CAP P37, Law of the federation of Nigeria 2004 and charged with the mandate of investigating, addressing and resolving all Complaints from members of the public concerning cases of administrative injustice at both Federal , state and local government levels.
While playing host to his guests in his welcome address, River State Federal Commissioner Hon Marshall Israel gave the PCC score card as pursuing the vision of the agency by diligently handling the 600 hundred cases it met on ground within his first year in office to 150 pending cases. He said the results of the aggressive and sustained enlightenment visits came in two folds, (1) as a result of the working synergy established with many companies, agencies and some individuals many cases were resolved amicably and secondly the commission witnessed an upsurge in the number of complaints received which jerked up the pending cases to 800 now.
Marshall Israel enumerated some of the challenges adversely affecting the functions of the Ombudsman’s in the state, he said the state office which is located at federal secretariat is a small room on 5th floor that cannot accommodate the over fifty staff of the PCC.
He said effective investigation and resolutions of complaints that ushers in peace and stability can no longer be viewed as one-man business or be left in the hands of Government alone. It calls for collective responsibility among all stake holders to achieve the desired peace and security for all.
The chief ombudsman Hon Chille Igbawua represented at the occasion by the cross River state federal commissioner Hon Tasie in his keynote address said the commission is here to address social injustice and ensure that peace is enthroned.
Also speaking at the occasion the General manager, Government/ External Relation shell petroleum Development Company. Igo Weli, thanked the commission for bringing all stakeholders together. He praised the Rivers State Federal commissioner Marshall Israel for his doggedness and enthusiasm in carrying out their official mandate of alternate dispute resolution. Urged the youths to make the state safe for investors to come in and create employment for the youths. He frowned at the spike and the manner at which violence is perpetrated and shared on social media which is circulated all over the world and in turn drive away potential investors. He added that the future of Niger Delta is in private sector and private companies should be encouraged to operate in the region.
In his paper presentation the secretary to the commission public compliant commission Barr. Bala Mohammed Abdul. Speaking on the topic tagged “public complaints commission: mechanism for addressing citizen’s grievances in a democratic dispensation”.
He talked on the unique powers of ombudsman, he said the ombudsman has the right to initiate and carry out investigation and sighted the example of the south African public protector which investigated former south Africa president Jacob Zuma who had over spent in renovating his official residence and was made to make refunds to the government. He said in Nigeria the justice Oputa panel called for justice for the poor, deprived and indigent citizens. He said the ombudsman have the right to approach the legislature to change certain laws to the benefits of the public. He noted that public compliant commission has the duty to carry out an investigation, inquest in any sector in an efficient, reliable, effective, secured and private manner without recourse to the court.
He urged the commission to have focus on mandate, have simple and clear procedure. Act clearly, ensure that compliant are thrashed thoroughly using best practices.
He also appealed to the staff to be customer friendly, efficient without prejudices to any complaints brought before it. He urged them to discuss on interest rather than position especially in dispute between the people and government using the Pakistan example.
He noted that his research work on terrorisms and challenges facing the country on effective security management was the federal government resort to paying Amnesty to some individuals instead holistically addressing the issues facing the Niger/Delta. He said crime must be made unattractive and be discouraged with effective punitive measures. Giving an example of the precarious kidnapping situation in River’s state said ” government must adopt some stringent measure to address the issues of kidnapping using two formula
1). Government must Come up with Strong Policy on Ransom taking.
2). Make it or Impose measures that will make it impossible that profits of Ransom will not be spent by those who benefitted from the Ransom directly or indirectly.
He concluded by saying that proceeds of crime should not be enjoyed by those who participated in the crime.
Our correspondent reports that participants were heads of federal and state government agencies in rivers state, managing directors and human resources managers of companies including banks, heads of military and paramilitary agencies in rivers state, non-governmental organizations, human right organizations the media community, community chiefs and political leaders.