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This research project is titled “The Role of the Public Complaints Commission in Protecting Worker’s Rights against Administrative Injustice and Maladministration in Nigeria”. The research work has been prompted by the observation made on the decline in the discharge of its roles in some state offices of the Commission, despite overall achievement of organizational target. The main purpose of this research therefore was to find out what must have been responsible for the decline. To achieve this, data were collected and interview conducted. In the data collected, simple descriptive presentations in Annual reports were consulted. In the course of this research, findings revealed that limitations of the Act have made a negative impact on the performance of Commission’s staff, but that the staff encounters problems while carrying out their respective jobs. Responses also revealed that the Commission needs to continually conduct training programmes especially on investigation, as that will boost staff performance. Finally, the argument in this work is that, although the PCC has recorded some achievements regarding the discharge of its mandate from the time of its inception to date, it might not be rated high on its score board. In this regard, (the researcher/study) have made recommendations that will have far reaching significance and they are sure to make the commission more focused, more robust and more dynamic, if they are judiciously implemented.


1.1                 BACKGROUND

Hon. Chief Justice J.V. Milvain of the trial division of the Supreme court of Albarat, Canada delivering judgement on 6th January 1990 in the case of “Feldbrugge V. Netherland A/100/1986 where the complainant was refused the payment of his social benefit after he fell sick and was retired as a result of ill health – held that the right to continue to receive benefit after sickness is valid under the law of insurance and should apply. In the Court of Human Right, UK Parliamentary ombudsman Re: Ombudsman Act Canada captured the basic purpose for the establishment of the ombudsman when he said… the basic purpose of an ombudsman is the provision of a watchdog designed to look into the entire working of administrative laws…” 1

Therefore, the worldwide popularity of the Ombudsman Institution as a significant part of contemporary governance is certain without question. A research conducted by Dr. V. Ayeni of the Commonwealth Secretariat revealed that at the end of 1999, at least 102 countries had established the office at governmental level worldwide. Within the commonwealth, 38 of its 54 members now have an Ombudsman office including its four developed countries and 22 of the 32 so-called small states including Botswana. Presently, 29 of Africa’s 54 countries have governmental Ombudsman offices2.

From the above premise vis-a-vis the goal of ombudsman, the decision to establish it in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. It was established in 1975 with specific power and limitations. The journey so far (i.e. 1975 to 2011) is it worth the trouble and the resources invested. Has the limitation of its jurisdiction militated against its effective performance? What areas need to be addressed in the commission’s Act for achievement of better results? These and other unraised issues is what the whole of this project addresses.

1.2                        STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The ombudsman is one of the most effective Alternative Dispute Resolution institutions in the country, charged with the specialized task of redressing administrative injustices.   Like all other institutions the commission is expected to operate within a specified statutory “locus” called jurisdiction as provided by section 5 and limited by section 6 of the Public Complaints Commission’s Act.3 Has the jurisdictional provision covered adequately the whole field of administration where injustices are on daily basis meted to the citizenry? Is the limitation on jurisdiction so wide that the effective performance of the commission can hardly be achieved?

Lastly, could it be that the effective performance of the Commission does not hinged on adequate funding alone but in addition, depends on adequate, qualified, trained and motivated manpower who are engaged on research, monitoring and evaluation of the overall performance of the Commission?

1.3                 OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH

The objectives of the research work are an attempt to:

  1. Examine the law in the Public Complaints Commission Act and other relevant laws.
  2. Examine the application of the Public Complaints Commission Act for protection of worker’s rights against maladministration in Nigeria.
  3. Highlight some factors militating against the effectiveness of the Public Complaints Commission.
  4. Provide recommendations, amendments and better ways of protecting worker’s rights.

1.4                 SCOPE OF THE RESEARCH WORK

This research work is intended to cover the objectives, structure and characteristics of the ombudsman. The work covers also the strengths and weaknesses as well as some decided cases by the commission in performing its duties and historical overview of the ombudsman institution in Nigeria and other jurisdictions to compare the roles of Public Complaints Commission, the court, the National Assembly, Public Petition Committee and make recommendation where necessary.

1.5                 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The research is significant in the sense that it will:

  1. Promote social justice for individual citizen without which there can hardly be genuine peace and stability in Nigeria.
  2. Educate and enlighten the general public on the viable options available for redressing grievances against administrative injustice arising from bureaucratic errors, omission or abuse by officials of government or limited liability companies in Nigeria.
  3. Improve administration of the Public Complaints Commission by pointing out some weaknesses observed in its law, procedures, practices, rules and regulation for standards of behaviour for officials.

1.6                 METHODOLOGY

In collecting the information leading to this research work, combinations of methods were used. Both primary data obtained from respondent via interviews and secondary data via Arm chair research i.e. use of library. However, one must place on record that majority of the data used were obtained from secondary sources.

The empirical and doctrinal research methods. Interviews were conducted and questionnaires were administered. Reference will be made to journals, annual reports, newsletters, magazines and textbooks

1.7                 LITERATURE REVIEW

The major thrust of literature review for my research is to highlight and evaluate relevant literature or studies relating to my study.  The central theme of this study is to examine the role of the Public Complaints Commission in Protecting Worker’s Rights against Administrative Injustice and Maladministration in Nigeria. Scholars and practitioners have made contributions on the Ombudsman Institutions in many parts of the world.

The Wikipedia (2011) transmitted that an indigenous Danish Norwegian, and Swedish term, Ombudsman is etymologically rooted in the old word, essentially meaning “representative”. An Ombudsman is an official usually appointed by the government or parliament, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens.4

The Wikipedia, 2011 further showed that the major advantage of an Ombudsman is that he or she examines complaints from outside the offending state institution, thus avoiding the conflicts of interests inherent in self- policing.5 That the Ombudsman Institutions are established the world over to promote social justice thereby curbing the menace of administrative injustice and maladministration of government officials.   As relevant as this work is to the present study it is not specific on Nigeria ombudsman and maladministration which is the main thrust of my scope of research.

Bowless opined that the role of Public Complaints Commission in most countries is justified as thus:

A number of cases have established principles of general importance… A greater number has concerned matters which, while no great public moments, were nevertheless of very real importance to the individuals concerned. In its concern for the latter, the office of Ombudsman is fulfilling one of its important and basic functions.6

From Bowless point of view, Ombudsman Institutions have solved quite a number of cases in dispensing justice and have over the years been able to fulfil one of its important basic functions which is to promote harmony and peaceful coexistence. Like wikipedia’s work above, Bowless work is not specific on the rights of workers which is the concern of my study.

Odunsi, Bennett in his book “The Role of the Ombudsman in Nigeria; redress of Grievances” reviews the Nigerian legal tradition before and after the advent of the British Colonial Administration. Odunsi argues that after gaining independence from British Colonial Rule, the Nigerian government did not deviate from the established practice of the colonial administration in relation to the protection of the rights of the citizens. He further asserts that the only available channel for citizens to challenge arbitrary and capricious action of administrative officials is the ordinary Courts of Law. Justice in administrative areas under this arrangement often seems slow and wanting. Therefore, the military government instituted a commission of enquiry to analyse and find ways to improve the situation of the Ombudsman in 1975, the Murtala Military Administration established the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) as a supplement to the Court system to correct flagrant disregard of basic standards of human rights by administrative officials.7

Odunsi submitted that during the 8 years of its existence, the Public Complaints Commission has resolved an average of 1526 cases annually, and a comparative analysis of the activities of the Ombudsman in other countries suggests that the Nigerian Public Complaints Commission has resolved at least a respectable number of cases. Furthermore, a review of testimony by citizens also indicates that some sections of the population have come to recognise the activities of Public Complaints Commission. On the whole, the Public Complaints Commission appears to have achieved some degree of success. This work has been found very related to my study although it is neither specific on the rights of Nigerian workers nor is it on examination of the recent situation in Nigeria with respect to maladministration.

The book “Nigeria Administrative Law” by Oluyede is another important source of literature. The author had extensively dealt with the institution of ombudsman tracing its history and evolution while showing the relevance of the institution considering its powers, jurisdictions and functions. He has painstakingly examined the success and achievements of the institution from inception and had thus concluded that although the success story of ombudsman in Nigeria is encouraging a lot more is needed to strengthen its capacity to achieve its mandate as promoter and defender of social justice.

7 The Role of the Ombudsman in Nigeria; Redress of Grievances by Bennett Odunsi, 2007 in Wikipedia, 2011, p.

While Oluyede’s book is of tremendous significance to this study its limitation lies in the fact that it did not consider contemporary emerging issues and specifically the rights of Nigerian worker.

From the foregoing, we have seen that empirical studies on the role of Public Complaints Commission are numerous as there are several scholars and professionals from diverse fields of human endeavours who contributed towards enhancing the performance of the Ombudsman institutions. However, very few writers among them laid much emphasis on Public Complaints Commission and maladministration.   On this note, most literatures including the works of Heidenheimer Arnold, Le vine Victor and Robert Price have tend to fuse the concept of maladministration with that of corruption. Arnold for example, in his book “Political Corruption” has this to say:

A public official is corrupt if he accept money‘s worth for doing something that he is under duty to do anyway, that he is under duty no to do or exercise a legitimate discretion for improper reason.   Hence the concept of corruption and maladministration therefore differs but many scholars have misunderstood them” 8


The structural organisation of this research is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the general introduction of the essay, while the sub- chapters deal with the aims and objectives and the scope of research work. Under same chapter, the work discussed the methodology of the research elucidating on the type of sources and nature of the research materials.

8 A book of reading of Nigerian Ombudsman (Public Complaints Commission), P. 44

Literature on the idea, concept and dynamism of the ombudsman were highlighted. The chapter was concluded by a narration on the structural organisation of the research work.

Chapter two deals with background analysis of the Public Complaints Commission. It started by conceptualising and giving meaning to the phrase “Public Complaints Commission” its organ and legal basis, its nature, practice, salary and appeals. Chapter four is the assessment of the performance of the commission in the area of receiving and disposal of complaints in the face of legal limitations that face it and jurisdictional subject matter and its roles. Chapter five deals with an overview of “ombudsman institution.” Chapter six is the recommendation and conclusion of the research work towards an effective complaint handling and resolution for the attainment of social justice.