President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday told Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof Okon Nta not to fail Nigerians on the anti-corruption war.
Jonathan told Nta, who was hitherto the acting ICPC boss, before his swearing-in as the substantive chairman, that himself, individuals, corporate bodies, including NGOs, civil societies, community based organisations and even faith-based organisations must be part of the fight against graft at all levels.
The president also swore-in five new permanent secretaries. They are Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, Ambassador Sani Bala, Dr. James Obiegbu, John Femi Jegede and John Gana.
Jonathan said, "For the chairman of ICPC, you have been an acting chairman for quite sometime and I have observed and I know you have been making some changes to make sure that ICPC becomes more functional and effective.
“Every day, you hear Nigerians talk about corruption, corruption, corruption because that is why during Obasanjo administration, ICPC and EFCC were created or established by Acts of Parliament. We believe that these two agencies are in the position to reduce corruption. As a president, I promise you that I will give you the free hand to do your work. I will not interfere with your function.
And from the security briefing I have about you from when you were a state counsel in your state till date, I believe you are one of the most credible Nigerians. If you fail this country, I will be terribly disappointed. So, I believe that you will bring this your wealth of experience and your commitment to doing things properly to bear in your job as the chairman of ICPC.
"You have to make Nigerians know that we are committed to reducing corruption. I know as somebody who read widely about animals that human beings are born greedy by nature. But we must stop people from stealing and taking what does not belong to them".
"All arms of government, the judiciary, the parliament must be involved; all individuals, corporate bodies including NGOs, civil societies, community based organizations and even faith-based organizations.
"If people donate money to you that you are not too sure of the source, please, return it if we must fight corruption, all of us must frown at it. You don't give a chieftaincy title to somebody you don't know the source of income. That is my thinking, that is my belief. If you do that, you are encouraging that person to be corrupt.
"So, I believe that if all Nigerians work together, we will be able to reduce corruption. we believe that corruption is one of the stumbling blocks in terms of our development effort and you are in a new position to make history for this country".
For the new permanent secretaries, the president lamented that the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation's was owing huge sums of money as judgement debt because of negligence of duty and incompetence on the part of civil servants.
"I think in the office of the Attorney -General, we are owing so much money because of judgment debts. I believe people did not do their work very well and that is why we are owing", Jonathan said.
He added: "But while trying to make sure that you don't make mistakes you must also make sure that government moves. Nigerians want service and bureaucracy should not be a stumbling block to progress or development.
"Those of us holding political offices, we have time limit and we must show something to Nigerians while we are here, within the short period we are meant to be here. But in most cases, the civil servants have to stay there until they serve 35 years or the way they want to move. And the way we want to move appears different.
"Let me use this opportunity to plead with the permanent secretaries and indeed the entire civil servants of the federation to work with us to make sure that we change this country.
Position given to us by God is for service to humanity and I believe you will use this privilege and opportunity to serve Nigerians faithfully.
"I don't believe the job of a permanent secretary will extremely be strange to you. it is something you are a bit conversant with. It is just that you have gained more responsibility. You are in the position to take major decisions for your ministries or department of government that you head and for government".
He noted that the greatest problem the country suffers from in terms of managing the civil service is the relationship between permanent secretaries and their ministers.
He said, "Though I have not heard too many complaints within this period, but a number of people within and outside government believe that the civil service must begin to function like private sector.
"It is extremely difficult because there must be some element of bureaucracy in the civil service because the civil service is meant to look at things critically and to reduce mistakes because it could be very costly if government makes silly mistakes.
"This country belongs to all Nigerians and we must make sure that we get to where our other contemporaries are. People talk about the 60s where Nigeria was at the same level with such and such countries. I think we should stop this lamentation. It does not take more than 10 years to change a nation from what others have done. And even within four years, you can make significant changes to reposition Nigeria.
"Only yesterday, we were talking about polio. I think it was 1988 the whole world said we must do away with polio. As at 1988, there were 128 countries that had polio. Today, it is only Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, why will Nigeria continue to lag behind just to do away with polio?
"I believe we can do better than we are doing now as a nation and for us to do that, the civil service is the fulcrum.
There is no way a minister can perform magic. You must use the civil servants and if the civil servants are not ready to work with the ministers, no matter the effort you put in, you cannot move with the pace you want to.
"You are coming in, we believe that you will use your own experience and position to help make sure that as a nation, we move forward".