By Olujide Mayowa
There is no bigger indictment in recent times than the one delivered recently by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission, ICPC, – the two agencies he created while in office to fight corruption.
These agencies, believed to be gradually turning to instruments of sensational media trials, may have outlived their relevance when other countries are fine-tuning laws and procedures to plug loopholes and discourage corrupt tendencies.At an international symposium, with the theme: ‘Leadership and Africa Narrative in Development and Progress of Africa, to mark his 85th birthday, Obasanjo had said: “I cast a cursory look at some of the people running around and those for whom people are running around. If EFCC and ICPC will have done their jobs properly and been supported adequately by the judiciary, most of them would be in jail. Any person who has no integrity in small things cannot have integrity in big things.”
With this high-power indictment, one would have expected these agencies to sit back and engage in introspection to change their ways in justifying their continued relevance. Alas the EFCC is yet to turn a new leaf against the futility of engaging in media trials of politically exposed persons.
Last November, Daily Trust Newspaper reported alleged malfeasance at the ICPC. The agency was alleged by the paper to have been fingered in “a wide-scale certificate forgery and age falsification scandal, involving dozens of staff, with many senior staff found to have been involved in the illegalities” further alleging a grand plan by the board and management of the anti-corruption commission to provide a soft landing for those found culpable.
Rather than strive to remove the speck in its eyes, ICPC has strenuously bandied unproven allegations against some federal agencies in a clear case of failure to understand the workings of the civil service.
Take a look. At the Third National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service and Presentation of Integrity Award held in Abuja, in November, last year, where President Muhammadu Buhari was present, the ICPC Chairman was all out to prove his capacity and showcase his efforts concerning his mandate. However, in doing so, he maligned others through wrongful accusations.
As if this Federal Government agency is on a mission to tar the nation’s foremost teaching hospital, UCH was singled out for another round of smear campaign while the ICPC presented its 2021 Ethics and Compliance Scorecard last month.
Last week, at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption and Public Service Matters, the ICPC Chairman alleged that the Ministry of Labour and the UCH were found culpable of padding their nominal rolls.
In many news clips, the ICPC Chairman has severally identified illegal recruitment, illegal and unilateral increases and remuneration by some MDAs “for the high cost of governance and rising personnel budget” among others, to which he tried to justify, using UCH and Ministry of Labour as scapegoats. But he forgets, rather disingenuously, that his own staff were also fingered in certificate scandal and age falsification!
The allegations against the nation’s premier teaching hospital are becoming quite obsessive and smacks of a grand sinister campaign. Documented evidence from the Federal Ministry of Health, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and even President Muhammadu Buhari’s public engagement with striking doctors mid-2021, has nothing to show a deliberate intention to breach rules and regulations on ethics and financial compliance by the management of UCH.
The legal luminary likes hugging the headlines to prove to the world that the anti-corruption agency under his watch is working towards the realization of one of the President’s campaigns promises; that is, non-tolerance for corruption and the imperative of instituting transparency in public institutions.
While no one should begrudge ICPC in doing its job, it is trite to ask, if investigations are still ongoing, why name only one institution out of the hundreds it claimed infringed on the extant rules. Contrary to the ICPC Chairman’s claim, the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation could not have asked ICPC to investigate a process it was part of from the beginning, and here is why.
Available documents indicate that UCH recruitment was validated by the President’s pronouncement and the exigency of the moment including COVID-19 backed with a directive by the Ministry of Health.
Why didn’t the ICPC boss include Head of Service’s office as an accomplice or make available the memo from the same Head of Service forwarded to him? Inadequate professionals in the health sector, brain-drain and lack of modern equipment have done a lot of damage to the health sector.
However systemic bureaucratic bottleneck and frustrations by wrongful accusations to score political point like the ICPC Chairman’s frontal attack on UCH is capable of further wrecking a badly hit and weakened health sector.
- Mayowa lives in Garki, Abuja