TOP serving and retired public servants yesterday gathered in Abuja to work out ways with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to check corruption in the federal and state bureaucracies.
The Police, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, the helmsman of the CCB, state governors, and other officials, who participated in a training organised by the bureau, pledged to ensure compliance with provisions of the ombudsman, particularly on assets declaration by public servants.
Chairman of CCB, Sam Saba, had asked the participate to adjudge whether the 22-year-old bureau, had “fulfilled its duties or achieved the goals for which it was set up? I leave that to you.”
He had reacted to an address by Mohammed Uwais, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) at the compliance training for public officers.
The Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Isa Bello Sali, attended the event where the bureau threatened hard times for public officers who misuse or flout the assets declaration rule.
And in the process of engaging Justice Uwais’ poser, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, declared that civil servants were part of the rot in the polity. He accused them of collaborating with politicians to loot the treasury.
Amaechi, who was represented at the event by the Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, said: “It is good to know that with what the bureau is now doing, public service shall no longer be business as usual… If you say we are all corrupt, I agree. But for every politician to steal N100,000 in Nigeria, he needs the assistance of civil servants. This is the nature of our corruption. Collaboration. No person releases any money without the accounting officer. In this case the accounting officer is the permanent secretary. Now if a corrupt politician seats on a chair and says ‘please, can you arrange and bring out N100 million for me?’ and if the accounting officer has the courage to ask: ‘For what sir? No! Sorry this is not possible.’ Then the corrupt politician can only send such a permanent secretary away. He has no power to sack him. The courageous man is transferred and he brings in another permanent secretary, who also says: ‘I am sorry sir, this is improper, and then he is transferred, which is the worst thing that can happen in the circumstance. Now, assuming he transfers two or three permanent secretaries, then he too must be getting ready to leave. What does this mean for Nigeria? Unless we institutionalise anti-corruption, unless civil servants recreate themselves the vicious circle would continue and politicians would continue to steal from the public till.”
The compliance training is meant for chief executive officers and accounting officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria.
Stressing the imperative for a change of attitude, Saba charged public servants to comply with the extant provisions of the Bureau. He maintained that the compliance training on code of conduct for public officers has been instituted to ensure that in the months ahead, tough times await all who chose to flout the provisions.
The bureau is empowered as a federal body in part 1V, part 1B, section 153 of the 1999 Constitution while the Asset declaration is also a constitutional exercise in part 1 of the fifth schedule
Saba said: “We have to carry out this sensitisation exercise through the compliance programme. Government will spend billions of naira in building prisons if we were to comply with the code as it is today… The single and most important and visible enemy of Nigeria that has undermined the realisation of our economic agenda including Vision 20:2020, NEEDS, NEPAD and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is corruption, and of recent, terrorism…”
Abubakar who swore yesterday to fill the assets declaration form, said: “I think this is the beginning of good things happening to this country. I will be filling the form shortly even though difficult. I want to pledge my support for this fight.”
To Sali, “one of the greatest causes of corruption is not the absence of provisions but the erosion of morality as well as disregard of accepted standards of morality… The legitimate demands by citizens for a better life dictates that government officials discharge their duties according to laid down rules…We are meant here to renew our pledge and to partner with government on the fight against corruption. Earlier, Sali had expressed his support for the bureau in its effort to rid the nation’s civil service of corruption.
He spoke when Saba visited him in his office in Abuja. Saba said he would assist the bureau by “ensuring that all federal civil servants declare their assets in line with the provisions of the Code of Conduct Act.”