Today the 14th Ocober,2021 marks the fourth annual International Ombudsman Day. The second Thursday of every October was first set aside by the American Bar Association in 2018 to recognize the ombudsman institution which over the years has remained hidden and underutilized despite being one of the oldest institutions in existence. The date has since been adopted by the International Ombudsman Association.
Today the Nigerian Ombudsman Institution joins other countries of the world to mark this day with a message of peace and unity in line with this year’s theme for the celebration which is; Exploring Options to Resolve Conflicts Together. The theme is apt and timely in view of current global happenings. Here in Nigeria, our country is faced with enormous challenges that threaten governance and our nascent democracy. Our existence is threatened daily by conflicts and many of these conflicts have largely remained protracted.
The Ombudsman Institution is widely recognized as an effective device of curbing official abuse in public administration. It is a system which shows how the rule of law should be implemented to protect the rights of the people as enshrined in the Constitution and other laws and regulations. In performing its functions, the Ombudsman does not only check on the excesses of public officials but helps government to correct its errors that have been made involuntarily or otherwise thereby ensuring good governance.
The Public Complaints Commission, the Nigeria’s version of the Ombudsman was established in 1975 and entrenched in the 1999 Constitution( as amended), specifically captured under S.315 (5) (b) of the Constitution. The Commission is empowered by its enabling Act to conduct proactive and reactive investigation into complaints lodged before it in respect of administrative actions and inactions of the Federal, State, local Governments, public institutions and corporate companies.
The implication of these statutory provisions is that the Public Complaints Commission is vested with the responsibility of curbing and correcting all forms of unholy practices which directly or indirectly affects normal public administration in both private and public institutions. Through easy accessibility and simple conflict handling procedure, the Commission has over the years serves as a veritable instrument that protects the citizens against abuse by those in power and helps the government to perform better by becoming accountable to the people.
Today, I call on all and sundry; government institutions, corporate organizations, Non-governmental organizations, young and old to put all hands on deck and join in the country’s search for resolutions to the many protracted conflicts that have plagued our peaceful co-existence as a nation.