By: Emmanuel Utibe
Laws are propagated by those elected by society to guide the behavior of people in society, check their excesses, and ensure order. In the context of a Nation-state, the constitution is regarded as the highest authority; a scripture of governance. It is based on the rules of the constitution that public service holders are elected, and they are expected to operate by it. Incidences in the Great Independence however suggest that some public officers do not think highly enough of the Constitution to abide by it.
On the floor of the Independence Hall assembly yesterday, a pressing issue was brought to the house; the management of the hall’s gymnasium seems to have been handled with relative laxity. To start with, Mr. Jethro, a Katangite, who claimed to have been put in charge of the gym by the Sports Commissioner and the Administrator General of the hall, came to testify that he had been harassed by people who – by his account – had registered with him for the facility, but could not use it because it has been locked down by the AG.
In an eschewing statement with inconsistent detail, he seems to be unsure of the number of registered users who paid through him. At first, he stated that 4 people had paid directly to him. Upon query, he brought up the number to 6, and at the end of the questioning, 8 persons were – in his statement – linked to registration through him. At some point, the statement suggested that another person – named Dynamic and may not be a Katangite – collected money for the gym on behalf of the hall.
The AG, also present to give his own position, stated that he had not appointed Mr. Jethro directly. According to him, he cannot take responsibility for all the actions of all members of the executive council; there is a certain level of autonomy in decision-making on nitty-gritty matters such as this. He further explained that the idea of having somebody manage the gym was something of a tradition that he had vividly observed in the hall since his 100 level. As a man of tradition, he argued that he followed the pre-existing norm. He confirmed only 4 payments, made directly into Hall’s account, and requested that Mr. Jethro get the names and phone numbers of the rest of the people that paid so that he can cross-check and confirm.
On the surface, this may be a simple issue with due process and accountability but since it’s now staring us in the face, it is important to ask questions that explore the issue beyond the surface.
When there is no regard for Due process; What happens?
First, it is important to question the rationale behind the remittance process. Why in the first place, should the hall’s money pass through unauthorized hands? While should an individual who is not an office holder be burdened with remitting hall revenue, when there is an office constitutionally charged with overseeing the facility? What happened to the sacrosanctity of constitutional duties? True, it is plausible to make a case for the outdatedness of the Constitution. However, this does not absolve any direct breach of the most fundamental of its declarations – the duties.
A deeper delve into Mr. Jethro’s statement further begs other important questions. In his statement, he described a scenario where a Katangite – Mr. Prince – made half payments to him and remitted the other half to the sports commissioner digitally. While this is yet to be authoritatively established, here are some questions that further guide this inquiry:
Where do the offices draw the line between constitutional duties? For instance, why is the Sports commissioner linked with remittance in the first place? Why should the Administrator General be overseeing or cross-checking financial transactions? What is the role of the Financial commissioner in all of this debacle?
Aside from providing assistance in navigating the inquiry and possible investigations into this case, these questions draw the ink to broader issues of negligence for due process in the hall. To provide a context on the pertinence of these questions, Article V of the Independence Hall constitution Article VI, Section V, Sub-Section II (a) stated clearly that the financial commissioner should be responsible for all the financial transactions of the hall and this is not a case of improving in the absence of binding legislation. By implication, the AG, Sports Commissioner, or Mr. Jethro should clearly not be responsible for the remittance and documentation of internally generated revenue in the hall.
Also for context and to establish the seriousness of this issue, the recent case that involved the UISU PRO is similar to this. He collected revenue generated through Union’s property into his own personal account when he is constitutionally not allowed to do so.
Undutiful officers, Inadequate laws, and Weak institutions
It should be of note that the constitution does not explicitly define the charge of the gymnasium. The closest legislation that addresses this would be Article VI Section IX (C) of the Constitution. The Articles clearly state that the Sports Commissioner shall see to the availability of sporting equipment for all sporting equipment in the Hall and it is on this that in good faith it has been said that it constitutionally falls to the office of the sports commissioner. This piece will carry on based on the assumption that the gym is a sporting equipment (or more appropriately, facility) in tandem with the interpretation of the house.
However, and as the AG had clearly stated, it has been a tradition to charge someone outside the executive council to manage the gym. In the same vein, some have identified the Defense Commissioner with gymn management and administration because the Marshals are sometimes given explicit access to the gym. Obviously, the shaky position of the Constitution is a fundamental issue that may have contributed to the entire debacle. Since the constitution was drafted as far back as 2005, it does not accurately address salient issues as they apply to administration in the recent. If the law was clearer on who is responsible for the gym, the hall would not have to outsource its management, and the current controversy may not have materialized.
In conclusion, and while we await the findings of the house’s investigative committee on the issue, it is yet another reminder that as a republic, we must do some introspection and determine if the state of our polity is one that is befitting of the time that we now find ourselves in. It is indeed a smear on our polity that, independence hall’s facilities could potentially be left at the whelms of just anybody and the hall’s revenue could be remitted to just any Katangite. The Hall needs to address all the right institutions and structures to avoid a repetition of the case or the occurrence of a similar one.