The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has identified political corruption as one of the biggest threats to democracy and sustainable development in Nigeria.
The APC chair, who made the observation at the end-of-year dinner of the Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS) in Abuja, said the civil service can play an important role in curbing political corruption the same way it enabled it.
Oyegun, who spoke on “the role of Nigeria Civil Service in this era of change”, stressed that the Civil Service remains the fulcrum for national development in this era of change.
According to him, public opinion about the civil service in the country is not a favourable one, adding that “the prevailing public opinion is that the Civil Service is a hotbed for corruption, ineptitude and mediocrity, hence the current commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to rid the nation of the scourge”.
While pointing out that the generality of Nigerians misunderstand the philosophy and modus operandi of the Civil Service, the chairman of Nigeria’s governing party said it remains one of the most important institutions for national cohesion and development.
“I can confidently affirm that even at that time, the Service was often not appreciated by the generality of Nigerians who misunderstood our philosophy and modus operandi.
“Notwithstanding then, as at today, yet the Civil Service remains one of the most important institutions to national cohesion and development.
“His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari has made the fight against corruption a critical commitment of his administration, and events of the past few months have shown that he is resolute about this.
“This campaign has been well received by stakeholders who understand the crucial need to drastically reduce the level of corruption that is prevalent in this country if we must have any hope of achieving much needed development.
“Corruption, especially political corruption, is perhaps the biggest threat to sustainable development, especially in Nigeria today.
“Corruption has been, and continues to be, a destructive element in the governance of Nigeria and the perception of the country in the comity of nations. The negative effects of corruption on Nigeria’s growth are numerous.
“The civil service plays a key role in enabling political corruption and equally can play an important role in curbing political corruption.
“However, before it can effectively function as the formidable anti-corruption check that should be, the civil service must reform, self-regulate and wean itself of the bad eggs that have caused a justified negative public perception.
“The prevailing public perception of the civil service is that of a hotbed of corruption, ineptitude and mediocrity. For decades, Nigerians have represented the civil service by a host of negative stereotypes – the official who will not treat a file until his/her palms are greased; the permanent secretary under whose watch public funds were pilfered, etc.
“This notion in the national consciousness must be addressed by the civil service and in so doing; the service will not only effectively function as an anti-corruption machine but also attract public support in playing this crucial role”.
Mr. Oyegun said in tackling the rot from within, anti-graft agencies like the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), will have to play a key role.
“The ICPC, by virtue of its mandate, is a critical stakeholder that must assist in strengthening public institutions to prevent and withstand corruption and has introduced several initiatives to tackle corruption in the public service.
“The Anti-Corruption and Transparency Monitoring Units (ACTUs), established by the ICPC in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), should serve as watchdogs and whistle-blowers.
“In several MDAs, annual internal audits specifically targeted at identifying arrears prone to corruption have reportedly been able to plug some loopholes in the management of the nation’s resources.
“On the external front, there is need for a renewed vigour by the judiciary and other stakeholders to have bad eggs weeded out of the service and punished for their crimes.
“These and more will eventually result in a civil service that can shrug off its negative public perception and act as a check on corruption”, he said.