I am always delighted when I have to speak on corruption because
that’s what I have been hired to do. When I accepted the invitation to speak at the 16th Wole Soyinka Annual Lecture organized by the
National Association of Seadogs two things were on my mind. First, it
is a rare privilege to for me to be part of any ceremony that would
honour an International Icon of Nigerian descent: Wole Soyinka, in a
world where to be described as of Nigerian descent connotes trouble
except you are a footballer scoring goals in the European League.
The second and more compelling reason was the opportunity for the
Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission
(ICPC) to use this forum as the first public testing ground to discuss the draft of the Nigerian National Ethics and Integrity Policy which is undergoing finishing touches in partnership with the Justice For All (J4A) Programme of the DFID.
What is Ethics?
This is a set of societal rules which have international acceptance in
terms of permissible behaviour or actions which promote good human
values: honesty (accountability, transparency, etc.) justice,
chivalry, respect for others, patriotism, etc. It guides conduct on
the basis of do what I say and do and not what I say and do not do. An absence or low supply of ethical values leads to a deficit in moral well-being and limits the deficiency-prone individual in the delivery of good governance and promotes corruption. A high dosage of ethical values can also attract resentment for an upright individual operating within a morally bankrupt corrupt society. Societies have tended to address and maintain ethical balances through self-regulating conduct and sanctions through the use of Law Enforcement Agencies, and lately added Anti-Corruption Agencies.
Corruption is the subverting of public institutions, processes and
goods for the benefit of a few persons or their associates. The
substructures that fuel corruption indicate that it thrives where
there is a high percentage of ethical and moral deficit in the
populace. Societies with high inflation rates, lack of social safety
nets, poor infrastructure, poor access to good quality health and
educational services, high unemployment rates amongst the youth
provide fertile grounds for corruption. Ill-paid civil servants,
public office holders and unregulated businesses will tend to exploit
these situations to provide personal safety nets and eventually become
Types of Anti-Corruption Agencies
There are various types of Anti-Corruption Agencies in the world. Some are multi-functional (Universal) and have investigative/prosecutorial, preventive and educational/public enlightenment functions. A good example is the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong established in 1974. Nigeria’s equivalent is ICPC which combines all these functions and was established in 2000.
A second version of specialist ACAs are investigative in nature and
address specific areas and needs. They may, or may not, have
prosecutorial powers. When Nigeria had specific challenges in money
laundering, terrorist financing, oil bunkering, internet-based fraud
and related economic and financial crimes, it responded with the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2004.
A third variant of ACAs are largely preventive in nature. They are
known as Ethics (and Anti-corruption) Commissions especially in Kenya
and Ethiopia addressed and concentrated more on ethical reformation as a basis for preventing corruption. Under this genre we have the
National Orientation Agency and the Code of Conduct Bureau to address
specific areas. The latter is part of the Nigerian Constitution and
has elaborate ethical rules guiding those in the Public Service.
A fourth type is the multi-Agency approach where several distinct ACAs work in synergy to fight the common enemy (corruption) and each
developes specialisations which come in useful during coordinated
inter-agency operations. A good example of this is the United States
Office of Government Ethics which has preventive functions. It works
in concert with the Justice Department which has investigative and
prosecution powers. With the aftermath of the September 11 bombing
incident the Homeland Security Department came into being and
coordinates several other Agencies like Customs, Immigration, Coast
guards, Secret Service, etc.
How did Anti-Corruption Agencies evolve in Nigeria?
Some countries established Anti Corruption Agencies as a response to
international pressures especially trading and donor partners. I doubt the effectiveness of their ACAs making any impact because of the perception that their local corruption is against outsiders.
However there is a higher opportunity for success in countries that
have had severe corruption crisis and have themselves decided to do
something about it domestically. The local population must buy into
and sustain it for their own good and the good of all.
Which is our scenario? Each country must understand its needs and be
careful not to dance to external music to the detriment of its
internal cohesion. We react in a knee-jack fashion and oftentimes
throw out the baby with the bath water and begin to reinvent the wheel
at great expense and arrive at comical results.
The theme of this 16th Annual Lecture is most appropriate and has come
at a time when all Nigerians, or most Nigerians, are beginning to
agitate and seek a change to the culture of impunity and corruption
that has robbed all of us of good life and international respect. Have
you of late tried ordering certain goods on internet and found out
that you could not find “Nigeria” in the drop-down box for mail
Fixing Ethical Deficits
ICPC is in the forefront of providing a National Policy on Ethics and
Integrity under its preventive mandate if we are to win the war
against corruption in the 21st century and beyond. We want to engage
the citizens and allocate shares to them as owners of the change. We
need to identify Nigerian Core Values.
Do Christians, Muslims and idol worshippers/pagans in Nigeria share
the same ethical values? Do they have different reactions to
“dishonesty”? The culmination and acceptance of shared values become
Core Values and over time become a basis for negotiating acceptable
laws for all persons in the society.
Do We Need Constitutional Guarantees for Ethics?
It must be noted that Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria (2011) dealing with Fundamental Objectives and
Directive Principles of State Policy has been taken care of the need
for national ethics. This is for “the purpose of promoting the good
government and the welfare of all persons in our country on the
principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of
consolidating the Unity of our people”.
Poser: Do Nigerians need Servicom and Social Charters to be scrawled
all over the walls before public officers serve with integrity and
honesty? What are human rights if we do not have respect for human
dignity and the sanctity of the human person especially when other
human societies have stringent rules for treating animals well?
Wherever you come from or whatever your religious belief is which
mother would like to see her children die in hospitals because they
were administered with fake drugs?
ICPCs Intervention/Preventive Activities:
National Ethics and Civic Curriculum: Eight years ago, ICPC in
collaborationwith the National Educational Research and Development
Council, developed a National Ethics and Civic Curriculum for our
educational system starting from the Primary schools. Last month, we
followed this with the launch of a Teacher’s Guide. We have
established Anti-corruption and Integrity Clubs in Secondary Schools
and tertiary institutions across the Country and my present Board has
approved increased funding and interaction to this vital sector.
University Systems Study and Review: ICPC is currently involved in a
review of corruption-prone processes at the tertiary levels of
education with a view of assisting that sector take command of our
national development imperatives. We have placed strong emphasis on
the principles of honesty, hard-work, etc and will help develop new
thought processes. We have begun the shutting down of illegal degree
awarding mills nationwide.
NYSC: ICPC has integrity partnership Associations with the NYSC and we
have an ethics programme that we run during their camping. After
camping the process is driven by the Corp Members as volunteer groups.
Town Hall Meetings: ICPC runs integrity programmes through town hall
meetings throughout the nation where we interact with the local
opinion leaders and citizens National Anti-corruption Volunteer Corps and National Coalition of Civil Societies:
Our most rewarding partnership that is citizen-run is in the area of volunteerism by citizens in the fight against
corruption through sensitisation processes. We are now engaging
Professional Bodies so that they can begin to proactively monitor
their members and sanction them.
Promoting Ethical Conduct:
Patriotism: What will make me die for Nigeria if my children will
become destitutes and will have no access to my death benefits? We
need to and we have begun cleaning up the pensions system and
enforcing new processes.
Access to Justice irrespective of tongue or status: Legal Aid Council
to assist the poor. Expand it to provide National Legal Schemes to
encourage and assist young Lawyers take up and defend the
“defenceless” for a State determined fee.
Democratic Change in governance – Strengthen democratic institutions
like INEC and let the citizens buy into it as a protection of their
Poverty alleviation programmes: will strengthen democratic rights –
the hungry and needy cannot make choices.
Restitution and compensation for victims of crime and injustice and
immediate retribution and punishment for criminal conduct: This is the best signal that can assist ethical conduct of citizens. Elaborate schemes, not adhoc ones, must be encouraged and developed.
Unity in diversity: Educational Institutions, NYSC, Military and
paramilitary Organisations must be encouraged to be universal in
nature so that all citizens can have a stake and buy-in that these are
Professionalism: holding professionals to the ethical values. Develop
specialisations and allow professionals to run their sectors.
Declaration of Interest – Code of Conduct for Public Officers
Federal Character Principles: Inclusiveness or Exclusiveness.
Use of Technology: Our integration with the world is based on
technological savvy and this must be done in line with international
Ethical considerations. Internet banking and shopping is based on
trust and we must remove the yoke of dishonesty that some of our
country men have imposed on us.
In conclusion, I would like to posit that Nation building would
benefit from a strong dose of citizen and leadership conducts driven
by Ethics and Integrity. The substructures that will support genuine
ethical conduct must be situated in a fair rewards system where there
is access to minimum acceptable standards that provide a decent life
to citizens. Our collective strength lies in the weakest Nigerian.
All levels of governance must key into a national ethical conduct and
not play “politics” with our jugular arteries especially in the areas
of education, health, agriculture, security, infrastructural
development, utilities, community development and national elections.
The ethics policy must be integrated into recruitment into the public
service, procurements and must be binding on citizens and foreigners.
Being excerpts of an address on “Ethical Deficit, Corruption and the
Challenges of Nation Building in 21st Century Nigeria” by Ekpo Nta,
the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission at the 16th Wole Soyinka Annual Lecture Organised by the National Association of Seadogs in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on July 12, 2013.