‘We’re Out to Correct Abnormality in the Society’

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As part of his resolve to bring about a reorientation in the way the policies are administered in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari established the National Ethics and Values Compliance Office (NEVACO) to build in Nigerians the self-confidence that is needed. Dr. Emmanuel Adeoye is first Director General of National Ethics and Values Compliance Office (NEVACO) saddled with the task of giving a new orientation to Nigerians on ethics and values. The DG in this interview with Mary Ekah, spoke on how the organisation is developing the entrepreneurship skill of individuals

What are the aims and objective of the agency, NEVACO?
National Ethics and Values Compliance Office (NEVACO) is established to correct the wrong, the evil vices ongoing in our country and society today. It is to make sure we do things the right way, which we have not been doing in the country. Even the little child in Nigeria today wants to make money through wrong means. So, the aim of the commission is to educate people to be upright and sincere in whatever you are doing. For instance, you want to go to the ministry for something, you must have to bribe somebody to help push the letter, this act is wrong and we want to correct it. So, we are out to let everybody know whatever you are doing in the country, let it be ethnical, let it be done in the right way. Ethnic is to correct the abnormality in the society, to correct the misimpression by the outside communities.

Are there structures on ground to kick-start this programme, bearing in mind it is a national agenda?
We are just forming the structure. As we go to the states we form structures. We are looking for credible people to take over and not just anybody that would come to destruct the whole process. So, structures have to be on ground. Everybody must know his functions. In other words, we need to get the message of government to the grassroots; there must be orderliness and a structure for everybody to carry out their respective functions.

How come the FG appointed a Director-General without a structure?
No, we have structures. If you would remember vividly how Ethics and Value was being run, the former administration appointed her Excellency Sarah Jubril as Special Adviser on Ethics and Values and later on my office was created, I am the first Director-General. So, based on this, what was in existence before was Foundation for Ethics and Value (FEAV). At the time, she was not given any fund so she had to use her NGO to carry the message, which to me was a good idea. She started it as a cooperative society to help the people with their communities.

For instance, if there is cassava in a particular village, anybody can borrow money from the cooperative and process the cassava, refund the money after selling and the loan given to another people. That was how the structures were established based on NGO basis. What the government is doing now is that they are interested and decided to say let us make it a proper structure. But, again, there is no fund, what we told the government is that we will create something to be generating fund, so that the burden would not be on the government alone. That is what the government is looking for; that is what everybody needs now. Because the government can’t do everything, there’s no money anywhere at the moment.

We intend to create employment by training people on different vocations. For instance, in Ekiti State right now, the yam flourmill is down; it has not been working for a long time. We are looking at NEVACO taking over the mill. We can talk to the people, they bring the yam to our warehouse, and we can buy it from them, process it and repackage it for final consumption. We have to invest; we have to also look at bringing in investors to partner with us. We must find a way to create employment; we don’t need to wait for the government for everything.

With what you said NEVACO might still be seen as a cooperative society, how do you intend to correct this notion?
It is a wrong notion; they were talking about Ethics and Values. This is National Ethics and Values Compliance Office. Compliance means we have to comply with the ethics of the land. I don’t want to say we are policemen but to correct the abnormality in the society people have been doing. We came to correct that notion. We are Compliance Officers. For instance, when you are running a cooperative, we need to check if you are following the decree that established cooperative society in the country, who are the members etc. we need to make sure people follow the laid down rules and regulations.

To put it straight, we are here to correct the wrong in the society. NEVACO cannot shy away from the fact that a good number of people have committed a whole lot of efforts to the projects of FAEV but I must say it emphatically here that NEVACO is miles apart in ways of conducting its business vis-à-vis FAEV but this is not to say that the previous endeavours are wasted rather, it will form the stones on which we will step on for easy performance of the task ahead. So, the process of staffing in NEVACO is directly guided and coordinated by Federal Civil Service Scheme of Service. The relevant parts of the scheme will be made available to each state for the perusal of every member.

As Compliance Officers, don’t you think your duties would conflict with that of the already existing agencies, like Police and Civil Defence?
The police is established to act after the offence, the police arrest because you are a criminal, the DSS arrest because you are a criminal but NEVACO is a compliance office, we are there to correct everybody, all Nigerians and to preach the change. We are compliance officers and make people adhere to the ethics and values of the land. We let people know their rights from wrong. We are there to correct people; a Compliance Officer can correct even the policeman.

We were with the Inspector General of Police recently and we told them we are here to partner with them; we told them they also need to establish ethics and value in the police force to deal with any officer that tries to go above the law. Every department of our lives, every ministry, parastatals must have a compliance officer to correct abnormality in the country. It is a must; we must have ethics and values to correct the wrong in the society. We don’t arrest, we make sure you don’t commit the crime. The police are there to arrest when one commits a crime, but we prevent the crime from being committed. We are going to partner with the police and already existing arm forces; we are here to enlighten people.

Don’t you think NEVACO would be viewed as a Buhari/APC agenda?
Any serious government all over the world must have Ethics and Values. Just take a look at the advance world, its duties are to correct, train and enlighten the citizen. In Nigeria, we are developing and as developing nation things like this will need to stay together as one. Other organisations will come up in the nearest future that we are supposed to have. Even in the National Assembly at the moment we have a committee on Ethnic and Values to check them.

How optimistic are you that the bill to pass National Ethics and Value Compliance will see the light of the day?
It will scale through. That is what the public is looking for. Everybody wants to correct the vices in the country right now and it is only Ethics and Value that can raise the moral; it is the antidote to corruption. So, everybody is looking forward to having the bill because Her Excellency Sarah Jubril started it and I will push it while I am in the office. It has to go through; it has to be a national thing to correct the wrong devices in our society.

Why is it difficult for Nigerians to obey ethics and values?
Because we have been lawless for so long – impunity has eaten deep into our morals. There is this syndrome of do you know who I am? Nigerians are the best, but we are so proud, we are everywhere in the world doing greatly. But the problem of arrogance is in us. That is why we need to go back to the farm.