When I was growing up panel beaters, mechanics and iron benders had their shops very close to our neighbourhood. We used to play inside their workshop during the weekends or in the evenings. We took them as people who work and know only about metals. Many of us could not differentiate between a panel beater and a mechanic or iron bender – we took all of them as mechanics. But much later we got to know that their works differ. A panel beater is regarded as the one whose job is to remove the dents from the outer frame of a vehicle that has been in an accident. But we need to redefine or understand panel beating from another angle.

Whenever anything goes wrong in an organization, a locality or a nation, a group of specialists are called in to give their professional advice or opinion about the area in question – a panel is constituted. The panel is usually known or named after the one heading it. It is no longer news that we have had all manner of panels set up in different sectors in the last couple of years. These panels were saddled with the responsibility of unraveling many things, recommend immediate solutions or antidote, or just make professional comments. It is rather unfortunate that over here setting up panels had been futile exercises owing to strong ‘panel beaters’.

Panel beaters are in the best position to know or describe the malleability of metals or panels. But our own panel beaters do not know anything about removing dents from the outer frame of vehicles that had been in accidents, neither do they know about the malleability of metals. Our own panel beaters can beat any panel set up any where around. They either do not make those panels sit, frustrate them or make sure the results are put in the trash can. Most of these panel beaters for fear of indictment threaten the members of these panels with whatever they have in their arsenal. The main issues are swept under the carpet and trivialities become the focal points. Even when these panels succeed in trashing major issues, other panels or committees are set up to sieve out any thing that might indict the panel beaters or their operations.

As panel beaters are in the best position to ascertain the malleability of panels and metals on the body of vehicles, the seriousness of any panel should be determined by the number of panel beaters and their activities they were able to curb or check. Before we give kudos to any panel, we must be able to analyse their activities while it lasted. We must know their basic assignment; what they were expected to unravel, the extent they went to unravel them, what they were really able to unravel, the use of the information and what they actually came up with. If we cannot boast of all these, they may have amounted to futile exercises and total waste of resources – human and capital.

Do we set up probe panels for discoveries alone? May be we do. All the panels set up so far in the polity and in different organizations had only made discoveries. We shout to the high heavens about their discoveries but do little or nothing at all with the discoveries. This might not be unconnected with the impunity with which corruption is perpetrated over here. The ones indicted by different panels either sued the panels for lack of competence or jurisdiction, refused to appear and nothing was done or bought over the members of the panels and there was no substantiated evidence against them. That informed the reason we have had and still have panel beaters around.

Who and who were indicted by the Okigbo panel? Where are they and the result of the panel? The Chukwudifu Oputa panel is another. Did all invited appear? Where is the result and who were indicted? Needless talk about the ones set up in different states and local governments; all were exercises in futility. Let us also put the power probe and the panel behind and forge ahead? The Uwais panel on electoral reforms was a gamble, a big joke or what? Should we resist anybody from setting up any new panel in the near future? I do not think so but we must dare ask for the results oh! Where is the freedom of information bill?

One of my friends would always say that there is no real movement forward without the benefit of hindsight. We cannot really make progress without addressing issues that had enormous potentials to haunt our nation in the future. The issue of panels and panel beaters must be addressed in the interest of the nation. Even though our legislators at all levels have failed to help checkmate some of these excesses – because they are amongst the beaters, we should wake up and demand for accountability from any public office holder. We should at this point ask the government and different agencies to make their reports public. We cannot really stop the panel beaters if we do not have the report of the previous panels. We need the report of the panels now to move forward. Freedom of information may help check our panel beaters.


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