Preventing ‘Domino Effect’ of corruption in Nigeria through integrity-based public appointments
The dominoes are compromising! The dominoes are falling! Where is that happening? It’s on the field of play in the course of a game between the Nigerian government – represented by public officials – and corruption. And the stakes are very high. In the meantime, the dominoes are compromising, and they are falling under the weight of selfish interest, greed, narrow-mindedness, peer pressure, and primitive accumulation of wealth. Yes, more and more dominoes are compromising and falling in turns. They are indeed “corrupt dominoes” of our society. And the cumulative effect of such chain reactions of the dominoes is what one can borrow a term to refer to as the ‘Domino Effect’ of corruption in the Nigerian public space. What we are saying, in other words, is that corruption has risen to a contagious dimension.
Who are the corrupt dominoes in this circumstance? They are the paradoxical heroes of their poor and/or illiterate followers, the shameful “brides” and warlords of their communities, ethnic and religious groups, the sticky-fingered public officials, and the negative role models of backward-thinking members of the middle class. They are largely the players who constitute the government team on the field of play in a critical must-win game against corruption. They come from different places, play different parts, and operate in different ways at different frequencies. They occupy positions here and there in a strategic row of corruption in such a way that enables free flow and passage of the cankerworms and loot of corruption from one domino to the other, falling over one another, and creating a negative Domino Effect, while neutralizing, checkmating and frustrating the efforts of the non-corrupt ones who are playing to win the game. Although corrupt dominoes play on the side of government and are supposed to key into the government’s game plan against corruption, they fall easily to pressure from corruption. And as EFCC, ICPC and allied anti-corruption agencies run after the fallen dominoes, the dominoes somehow get off the hook, get dusted, and re-positioned back in the game to create the next round of Domino Effect, and the vicious cycle of corruption continues.
But, has government been quiet and lackadaisical about this scenario? No! Government has indeed established structures such as ICPC and EFCC to beam searchlights on corruption and wage war against it. Needless to say that relevant laws have been enacted by the National Assembly towards sustaining Transparency, Accountability and Anti-corruption Government has also established, as a constitutional duty, the Code of Conduct Bureau [See Section 153 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria]. Moreover, Government has put in place a number of systems including e-payment, Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), Treasury Single Account (TSA), Bank Verification Number (BVN), Whistleblower Policy, and Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).
However, Government needs to do more in terms of strengthening and autonomization of existing anti-corruption agencies such as EFCC. In view of the economic, financial, political, social, moral, developmental, and other dimensions of corruption beyond the legal dimension, the influence of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on the EFCC and any other anti-corruption body should be curtailed particularly to the extent that any such influence conflicts with the anti-corruption war and dispensation of justice.
In addition, Government needs to begin to rely on other structures, systems or strategies apart from EFCC and ICPC which mainly fight the anti-corruption war as a reactive post-mortem investigation and control. Government will gain more mileage by introducing new strategic and preventive measures to minimize corruption and reduce the burden on ICPC and EFCC. One of these measures is to ensure that people that are appointed into public posts are people of high integrity in addition to merit. We need to do away with the unproductive system of allowing individuals with serial records of corruption to get rewarded with another public post sometimes even at a higher and more sensitive level. We possibly always think that such people have changed or will change, but leopards do not change their skins. Before anybody is appointed into a public post, it would be more beneficial if we can beam light on his/her official pedigree and conduct due diligence, candidate profiling, and 360 degree performance appraisal involving his/her current and previous supervisors, superiors, subordinates, peers, trade unions, and other stakeholders. We can give this all-important responsibility to an existing agency or, at the risk of adding to the multitude of government agencies already in existence, establish a brand new Integrity Commission to be manned by people of proven integrity.
The demonstrated integrity and anti-corruption stance of President Muhammadu Buhari and those of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo constitute enormous strengths and opportunities which must be latched on to in practical terms. In order to succeed in the anti-corruption war, beyond the great efforts of the EFCC, the President and the Vice-President will need to ‘clone’ themselves down the ladder of governance by ensuring that all public appointments they make are not only merit-based but also integrity-based. Integrity should form part of the critical yardsticks in future appointments of Ministers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executives of Parastatals, Chairmen and Members of Governing Boards, and other public posts. By the time this is done, progressive state governors will also lay good examples in their states and ensure that integrity is given its pride of place and elevated as the new public order not only in public appointments but also in everything we do. The issue of integrity is a shared core value that a nation with a vision of development must not joke with. Fortunately, integrity is one of the core values of the Nigerian civil service and is also one of the seven (7) national ethics stipulated under Section 23 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
At this auspicious moment of the arrival of Mr. President from medical vacation, about which we are excited and grateful to God Almighty, we expect that Mr. President will change the gear, raise the bar, and begin to inject fresh blood into Government.
Reassuringly sirs, our leaders at the national and sub-national levels, Nigeria is a country of good people and, unlike the falling dominoes who have been managing our public affairs over the years, there are many qualified and credible Nigerians who believe in transparency and accountability, abhor corruption, and are willing and ready to enlist their services behind you to achieve good governance and socio-economic development. May God help us!