Fight­ing cor­rup­tion goes hand in hand with ac­count­abil­ity

Sack­ing of­fi­cers who have been found to have con­tra­vened the law or com­mit­ted crim­i­nal acts – or ac­cept­ing their res­ig­na­tions as their em­ploy­ers – is not enough.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

The res­ig­na­tion of the erst­while Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Kemi Adeo­sun, over the al­le­ga­tion that she pre­sented a forged Cer­tifi­cate of Ex­emp­tion from the Na­tional Youth Ser­vice Corps (NYSC) for her min­is­te­rial screen­ing has gen­er­ated a lot of de­bate and con­tro­versy. The same forged cer­tifi­cate could have been pro­vided for her screen­ing when she was ap­pointed as Com­mis­sioner of Fi­nance in Ogun State.

Not too long af­ter her res­ig­na­tion, Se­na­tor Ade­mola Adeleke, gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date in the Osun State gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion (which went into a re­run as at the time of writ­ing this ar­ti­cle) was also al­leged to have pre­sented a forged cer­tifi­cate from the West African Ex­am­i­na­tion Coun­cil (WAEC).

The Nige­rian Po­lice ac­tively in­ves­ti­gated Adeleke’s al­leged forgery, vis­ited the Se­na­tor’s

alma mater, Ede Mus­lim High School in the process, and even ar­rested the prin­ci­pal. Fol­low­ing ru­mours of an im­pend­ing ar­rest of the se­na­tor just days be­fore the elec­tions were to hold on Septem­ber 22, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari is­sued or­ders to the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice (IGP) to de­sist from the planned ar­rest.

It was sug­gested that the Pres­i­dent pre­vented the ar­rest of Se­na­tor Adeleke to fore­stall ac­cu­sa­tions of par­ti­san­ship and big­otry against the se­cu­rity agen­cies, given that no ar­rest or pros­e­cu­tion was car­ried out in the case of Adeo­sun who prac­ti­cally ad­mit­ted to the forgery in her res­ig­na­tion let­ter.

The Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion is cur­rently faced with a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing the Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Ade­bayo Shittu, who has ad­mit­ted to not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the one-year com­pul­sory NYSC scheme for hold­ers of un­der­grad­u­ate de­grees or Higher Na­tional Di­ploma (HND).

In the de­bate that en­sued as to whether or not Adeo­sun should be pros­e­cuted, a lot of Nige­ri­ans were sym­pa­thetic to­wards her. A com­pelling rea­son that could be ad­duced for this dis­po­si­tion is that many of us are will­ing ac­com­plices in giv­ing and ac­cept­ing in­duce­ments to ac­quire gov­ern­men­tis­sued doc­u­ments or process ap­pli­ca­tions.

NYSC cer­tifi­cates, land doc­u­ments and other pa­pers are of­ten ‘fa­cil­i­tated’ us­ing gov­ern­ment agents. But how many of these doc­u­ments can we vouch for their au­then­tic­ity, hav­ing ac­quired them through such un­of­fi­cial pro­cesses? This is one of the ills the Pres­i­den­tial En­abling Busi­ness En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil (PEBEC) was set up to ad­dress. In one of the first Ex­ec­u­tive Or­ders is­sued by then-Act­ing Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, the gov­ern­ment di­rected cer­tain agen­cies of gov­ern­ment to sim­plify their ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cesses, thereby avoid­ing the need for touts and mid­dle­men.

Whether or not she was forced to re­sign, the former fi­nance min­is­ter has taken the honourable path of res­ig­na­tion. What is the honourable path to be taken by the gov­ern­ment? Is ac­cept­ing her res­ig­na­tion enough? What would it do when it is faced with an­other of­fi­cial who, rather than re­sign when an in­frac­tion is con­firmed to have been com­mit­ted, choses to make ex­cuses as Ade­bayo Shittu has done?

The Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions has made dis­tinc­tions be­tween his sit­u­a­tion and that of Adeo­sun. In his de­fence, he said he didn’t present any cer­tifi­cate at all be­cause he didn’t serve. While the sce­nar­ios are dif­fer­ent, both cases are felonies un­der the NYSC Act and pun­ish­able by a fine of N5,000.00 or im­pris­on­ment for a term of three years, or both.

These devel­op­ments raise an im­por­tant ques­tion about what per­for­mance the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes to record for one of its core cam­paign agenda – which is the erad­i­ca­tion of cor­rup­tion. The gov­ern­ment’s in­ac­tion about the in­ci­dence of forgery and the crim­i­nal eva­sion of NYSC by mem­bers of its ad­min­is­tra­tion is a damn­ing in­dict­ment on the Pres­i­dent.

One of our na­tion’s core essence is not so much what the pri­vate cit­i­zens are able to ac­com­plish in spite of their coun­try. It is about what cul­ture the gov­ern­ment al­lows to be in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized in the coun­try.

Nige­rian brand strate­gist, Charles O’Tu­dor once said, “Brand­ing can­not be con­jured or in­vented by mere lo­gos and slo­ga­neer­ing. A brand is built through an in­ter­nal pro­cess­ing of its brand’s DNA based on em­pir­i­cal re­search. As a coun­try, we need per­sonal, cor­po­rate and in­sti­tu­tional ref­or­ma­tion to achieve a trans­for­ma­tional repo­si­tion­ing of our na­tional brand iden­tity. The in­ter­nal process is what au­to­mat­i­cally re­flects in the ex­ter­nal pro­cesses.”

There is grave danger in waiv­ing penal­ties for crimes com­mit­ted by pub­lic of­fi­cials who should know bet­ter. This de­bate is not about the per­son of Kemi Adeo­sun. This is a golden op­por­tu­nity for this ad­min­is­tra­tion to change an en­demic cul­ture of un­ac­count­abil­ity. We must not ig­nore cor­rup­tion in our daily ac­tiv­i­ties of ‘fa­cil­i­tat­ing’ gov­ern­ment-is­sued li­censes and doc­u­ments just be­cause we have not been suc­cess­ful in pros­e­cut­ing the loot­ers of mil­lions of dol­lars from our trea­sury. Zero­tol­er­ance to cor­rup­tion should not be amenable to mak­ing ex­cep­tion.

Mrs. Adeo­sun – and the ‘trusted as­so­ci­ates’ that she re­ferred to in her res­ig­na­tion let­ter; Ade­bayo Shittu and Se­na­tor Ade­mola Adeleke should be in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted where found want­ing. If any form of par­tial­ity or pref­er­en­tial­ism is to be shown at all, let it come in the of­fer of a plea bar­gain to pre­vent the em­bar­rass­ment and stress of a trial and an of­fer to pay a fine rather than im­pris­on­ment since the op­tions are pro­vided for in the NYSC Act.

Sack­ing of­fi­cers who have been found to have con­tra­vened the law or com­mit­ted crim­i­nal acts – or ac­cept­ing their res­ig­na­tions as their em­ploy­ers – is not enough. As the ex­ec­u­tive arm of gov­ern­ment with a man­date to erad­i­cate, or more prac­ti­cally re­duce cor­rup­tion in the coun­try, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment must go ahead to en­sure ef­fec­tive pros­e­cu­tion.

It is per­ti­nent to add that as an em­ployer, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment it­self vi­o­lated the NYSC Act in the case of the Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Though the gov­ern­ment is yet to re­spond to this sit­u­a­tion, it is note­wor­thy that the NYSC Act places a duty on ev­ery prospec­tive em­ployer to de­mand and ob­tain from any per­son who has ob­tained their first de­gree, a copy of their NYSC cer­tifi­cate or a copy of their ex­emp­tion cer­tifi­cate. Such em­ployer must do so be­fore em­ploy­ment and must be ready to pro­duce such cer­tifi­cate upon re­quest to a po­lice of­fi­cer not be­low the rank of an As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice.

An is­sue-based dis­cus­sion, which Nige­ri­ans should be hav­ing, would fo­cus on de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity from gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials as a way of strength­en­ing our in­sti­tu­tions. The nar­ra­tive lies with the gov­ern­ment and it is its re­spon­si­bil­ity to spin it to a na­tion­ally-de­sir­able out­come.

There is grave danger in waiv­ing penal­ties for crimes com­mit­ted by pub­lic of­fi­cials who should know bet­ter.

Former Nige­rian Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Kemi Adeo­sun

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