Tackling Corruption in Public Service

The post-independence Nigeria has been groaning under myriads of problems as it is plagued with the challenge of effectively utilizing its resources to support equitable economic growth, effective service delivery and social cohesion. The identifiable catalysts to the development blockade has been lack of openness, transparency and accountability in governance, that ultimately led to entrenched corruption.

Nigeria has consistently been rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world on the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Nigeria’s corruption index averaged 20.17 points from 1996 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 28 points in 2016.

Taking pragmatic measures to curb corruption is of vital importance for Nigeria’s future given its implications for security and the political, social and economic prospects of the country. Poverty, insurgency, militancy and infrastructural decay are largely a result of corruption that is deeply rooted in the fabrics of the society.

To tackle the menace, successive governments have made various efforts and rolled-out different programmes to address the plague including; Ethical Revolution by the Shagari administration, War Against Indiscipline (WAI) by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime of the early 1980s, War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAIC) by the Abacha regime in the 1990s; the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act of 2000, which berthed the ICPC (ICPC, 2006); as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission set up in 2002 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to tackle economic and financial crimes, including advance fee fraud (419), mindless looting of public treasury, and money laundering (EFCC, 2002). But all of these efforts seem to no avail.

The public sector corruption is alarming. The mindless thieving by political office holders aptly aided by the civil servants has left over 80 million Nigerians in preventable poverty. It is a fact that there is no way the political office holders would be able to steal from the public till without the active connivance of civil servants. This explains why many civil servants build so many houses as obtained in Abuja, Lagos and many other cities in questionable circumstances but the system does not identify them let alone punish them.

Going forward, there is express need for ethical re-orientation and capacity building amid other measures to tackle the hydra-headed menace.

It is for these reasons that one finds the new resolve by the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in seeking the collaboration of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the introduction of a capacity building programme to enlighten civil servants in Edo State about corruption related issues most germane and timely.

The governor made the request when he received the Head of the Benin zonal office of the EFCC, Mr. Mailafia Yakubu, who paid him a courtesy visit . At the occasion, the governor said civil servants in Edo State would have to enroll in the course as part of evaluation process for them. There is no doubt that this will help to put Edo State in the front burner in the fight against corruption.

It is obvious that the problem in the country was not lack of resources but of corruption, this is why it will also be important to subject all political appointees to such capacity building workshop with the EFCC because it always takes two to tango in the business of corruption. The political appointees very often are the ones that use their vantage position to lure the civil servants into corrupt practices, that is why they should be put on the training as well.

It is heartwarming that during the swearing-in ceremony of the current commissioners in the state, the Governor warned them and all political appointees in the state to flee corruption as his government will not condone it. This is a more reason why all political appointees should also go to school under the EFCC capacity building programme to learn about the inherent dangers of abuse of political office and corruption.

It is most laudable that the current administration and the EFCC have agreed to work together in re-orientating the minds of the public on the destructive effect of corruption to nation building.

Many citizens simply believe it is a norm to be corrupt and they see nothing wrong in perpetrating it in all ramification of societal life. Raising public servants’ consciousness and telling them about the negative implication of corruption in the society and the penalties for wrong doing is the right way to go at this crucial time of our life when the nation is undergoing recession and the resources of government is dwindling.

Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.