THE CIVIL SERVICE AND CORRUPTION

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EFCC Operatives

EFCC Operatives

That the Nigerian  civil service has been comprehensively  permeated by corruption can no longer be a subject of debate. The civil service has almost lost its civility.

It is worrying that corruption has continued to consume the bulk  of Nigeria’s resources in spite of all the rhetoric on the war against the evil practice.  Annual budgets  have grown from millions to billions and trillions of naira, but this has not in any way reflected in the people’s quality of life.  For the vast majority of the citizens, the Nigerian situation has been a paradox  –  the more money flows into the coffers of the government, the higher the level of poverty.

Members of  the political class and their counterparts in military uniform have over the years been widely perceived as the locusts  that  brought the country to this sorry pass. It is now apparent that the civil service, which is generally seen as the engine room of government,  is also the point of origin of everything  that is wrong with government.

DURING his tenure as speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole made the startling revelation that civil servants were frustrating the implementation of capital projects.  He said the funds earmarked for the execution of such projects  were, as a standard practice, shared among the top echelons of the ministries.  It was not long after  the revelation that  a money-sharing  scandal, which cost  the sitting minister her job, occurred  in the Federal Ministry of Health.  As the political head of the ministry, the minister bore the brunt  of the scam  while nothing was known to have happened to the civil servants behind it all.  In his bid to check such a fraudulent practice, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua  issued a directive that all unutilised funds be returned to the treasury at the end of each year.

THE focus of attention  in the unceasing  catalogue of scandals is currently on the unspeakable fraud in the management of pension fund and civil servants are,  as always, at the centre of  it.  From what is so far known to the public, the extent of the fraud is mind-boggling.  The Pension Reform Task Force was first reported to have  uncovered the theft of N151 billion by officials of the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.  This was followed by another report that 32 public servants  and private sector employees had been arrested  for swindling Federal Government retirees of N67 billion.  Four former  permanent secretaries and a director were said to among  those arrested.   A sum of N12 billion stolen funds was traced to the account of a former director while N4 billion was found in the account of a deputy direcor.  A female deputy director stashed N2 billion cash in her house along with an unspecified amount in foreign currencies.  To perpetrate the fraud, the racketeers were collecting  pensions for 258,000 instead of  141,765 pensioners.

THE pension scam has again put in bold relief how deep-rooted the problem of corruption is in Nigeria.  Even the Pension Reform Task  Team set  up as part of efforts to restore order in the administration of pension funds, has become enmeshed  in it.  The chairman of the team who had, with remarkable aplomb, revealed how looted funds were uncovered within and outside the  country  is himself being accused of the same misdeeds  he was appointed to check.

THE amazing rapidity at which cases of  corruption occur in Nigeria has made it impossible for the media to follow any particular case to a logical conclusion.  The courts on their part are overwhelmed. The initiation of prosection is in most cases to satisfy public curiosity.  No effort is thereafter made to  prosecute the cases diligently.  The anti-corruption agencies have been engaging in occasional self-glorification by claiming to have recovered staggering amounts  of stolen funds and securing  so many  convictions. Neither the individuals convicted, nor those from whom the stolen funds were recovered  are known to the public.  There has been a lot of hue and cry about the pension fund scandal. The intriguing aspect of it, however, is that  the identities of all those involved are  being  closely guarded as if they are state secrets.  The reported bail granted to the nameless officials is an indication of the levity with which the matter is being handled.  This is a country  in which small-time thieves are gleefully paraded before the press and left to rot and even die in jail for offences that attract a few months behind bars.

THE callous mismanagement of pension funds should be seen and handled as a very serious matter.  So many retirees have  lost their lives   in motor accidents in the course of journeys to get their terminal benefits.  So many others have collapsed and died on the queue in the process of frequent verifications, ostensibly aimed at eliminating ghost pensioners.  It is now a known fact that the officials conducting the verifications  are the creators  of the ghosts on the pensioners’ lists. Our hope is that this case will not — like so many others before it — end up under the carpet.

 

In : Scandal