Public servants as whistle blowers to tame corruption



CORRUPTION has become so pandemic in Nigeria that it seems an acceptable norm and significantly because of its pervasiveness across all social strata and shades of opinion; and even the clergy is not insulated from it.

Erroneously, people believe that politicians are the most corrupt in the country without knowing or pretending not to know that corruption is so endemic in public service; to the extent that public servants especially the ’sacred’ cows so brazenly get away with all manner of corrupt practices.

It is incontrovertible to say that in military and civilian regimes bureaucrats dictate the pace; and one still remembers the era of super perm secretaries. In fact, these unguarded corrupt tendencies engineered by never-do—well bureaucrats which is grafted and laced by political gladiators pushed this great country into this financial hiccup right from independence.

No wonder that the late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu in his coup in 1966 announced that his intention and those of his colleagues “was to rid the country of irresponsible politicians, incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats, restore respectability and accountability to the Nigerian public service.”

After about eight years stay in power as military head of state in Nigeria, General Gowon said that his continuing hold to power was to eradicate corruption in the country.

The late Sani Abacha, who announced the military take over on 31st December 1983, claimed that the military “was compelled to seize power from the Shagari government to save Nigeria from rampant corruption, ineptitude and profligacy that had characterised both the federal and state governments of the country.

According to the Word Bank Public Expenditure Review, 1995 “approximately US$200 billion was invested in Nigeria between 1973 and 1993 with very little to show.”

Also a study conducted by Human Rights Watch 2007, estimated that during the eight year period of the Obasanjo administration, the country lost between US$4 billion and US$8 billion yearly to corruption.

A former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Malam Nuhu Ribadu has estimated that between independence and the end of military rule in 1999, more than US$380 billion was lost to graft and mismanagement.

Furthermore, a Report by U.S.-based group, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), indicates that Nigeria might have lost $130 billion from 2000 to 2008 due to illicit financial flows.

Transparency International (TI) has consistently rated the country high in terms of corruption. Nigeria was ranked first most corrupt country in the world in 1996 and 1997, fourth position in 1998, slipped again to second position in 1999, first again in 2000, second in 2001, 2002 and 2003, third position in 2004 and 2005.

There was a slight improvement in 2006 when it was ranked the fifth most corrupt country in the world. In 2009 Nigeria was ranked 13 most corrupt country and 12 position in 2010.

In 2011, the country was ranked 37 most corrupt country in the world. Out of 183 countries surveyed in 2012, Transparency International ranked Nigeria 35 most corrupt country out of 176 countries surveyed.

Endemic corruption has continued since then without appreciable punishment for offenders, especially serial perpetrators but in emerging strong economies such as Botswana nobody is above the law.

In public service, even the issue of promotion is not based on what you have to offer and who says there is no ‘god fatherism’ in public service just like in politics?

I will liken the problems at the various strata of the government and especially public service bedevilling the country at present to the ‘hyena principle’. Juxtaposing brain and brawn a hyena starts eating its prey before it dies; it eats the bones and the excreta of its prey; it cracks the bones and licks the marrows of its prey.

One should frown at the attitude of the trustees of the economy who I believe suffer from kleptomaniac disease.

All this hue and cry is caused by bad management because once the economy is buoyant; a greater number will not bother whether a white man, black or green man rules the country.

However, we can heave a sigh of relief because the continuous looting of Nigerian economy and erosion of public service can be curbed by a holistic and aggressive utilisation of the opportunities provided by the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, which was signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan on May 29, 2011 after the successful passage by the National Assembly.

The FOIA states that every government establishment should have and maintain a functional web site to contain information such as: Allocations, grants, contract awards, departments, units, staff lists and so on.

It also states that people have rights to access or request information whether or not it is contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official.

According to the FOIA, information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds should be published or made available to public.
I strongly believe that proper utilisation of the opportunities provided by the Freedom of information act will put corrupt public officers on their toes and drive many kleptomaniacs to jail to instil prudence and accountability in public service.

The most cheering news is that any public servant who discloses wrong committed in the service is protected by the FOIA. Therefore, the very few good ones in the service should serve as whistle blowers to bring back sanity into the system.

Time has come for sober reflection by all patriotic Nigerians to retrace our steps. What worries me the most is the analogy that a cow in America is fed with more than two (2) dollars per day while a Nigerian lives below a dollar per day. But this is a country that is richly blessed by nature; where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer by evil machinations of stoic capitalists.

The government should imbibe a strong political will to combating corruption in Public Service and of a necessity punish offenders regardless of who is involved. The citizens, civil rights groups should be involved in the process of monitoring and evaluation of programmes.

Introduce transparency and accountability in government functions, particularly in all financial transactions; encourage a more robust free press and electronic media to forcefully report to public on corrupt practices in the society; organise civil society to address the problems of corruption brought to light by the process of transparency and the activities of the media.

Minimise and simplify government regulations, particularly those involving the issuance of licenses, permits and preferential positions, thereby restricting opportunities for rent seeking by corrupt means.
Insert anti-bribery clauses into all major procurement contracts and with the assistance of both international financial institutions and bilateral aid agencies insist that international corporations, bidding on African procurement contracts, accept such clauses and the penalties associated with their violation.

Introduce similar anti-bribery clauses into contracts relating to privatisation of government enterprises, and the development of natural resources.

The government should ensure that enforcement is predictable and forceful; and to criminalise the acts of bribery; prohibit the deduction of bribes for tax purposes; and erect barriers to transfer to Western financial institutions of financial gains derived from corrupt practices.

The state should require that all high-level Nigerian officials, Presidents, ministers, Legislative officers, Central Bank governors, Police and Customs chiefs, military generals, sign a statement granting permission to banks, both local and foreign, real estate or investment houses to disclose any personal assets they may hold.

Scrutinising individual depositors of huge sums of money, by financial institutions for sources, would go a long way to curbing looting of national treasury by civil servants.

What I am saying is that nationhood, nationalism and patriotism should prevail above personal issues. Let us not allow the sinister prediction that the country would split in 2015 come to pass through unguarded utterances, mischief, decided hatred, sabotage ethnicity and above all massive corruption. Always remember that no ethnic group in Nigeria can stand alone successfully.

Emezie is head of Information, (Media), National Judicial Institute,08059090746


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