By Idowu Taiwo, Lokoja
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is winding up 2014 with a renewed vigour in discharging its constitutional duty of fighting corruption in Nigeria.
A studied shift in paradigm of its operations, which to all intents and purposes, has started enjoying the confidence of more Nigerians is undoubtedly responsible for this new development. Put differently, the recent exploits by the Commission headed by Barrister Ekpo Nta in tackling corruption has been matching the expectations of watchers of the Commission who had always wanted ICPC to be more aggressive by initiatives and result oriented by operations .
Since he came on board, Ekpo Nta has consistently been labouring to en-graft a new trick in the mode of fighting corruption by ICPC. He had severally schooled officials and Nigerians on the importance of a preventive approach and a bottom-up means for combating acts of corruption. Such, he believes are more effective such that every step taken in the right direction by the anti-graft commission would attract only a modicum of hype, while the greater results are obtained at the end.
Only a few understood what the ICPC chairman had in mind initially, since Nigerians, hitherto, preferred a brand of anti-corruption war that usually inspired banner headlines of newspapers. All along, Nigerians had preferred that high-profile offenders be arrested, handcuffed and driven in prisoners trucks to face trials, not minding the end results of the cases involved.
It was not until the system reviews conducted by the ICPC on institutions and agencies of government began to expose corruption within the banking system, tertiary institutions, visa processing, tax profiling, processing of salaries in government establishments and others than a motley crowd of Nigerians began to focus their gaze on ICPC while gradually endorsing its preventive mode of fighting corruption.
In the past one year, ICPC, after its system study of tertiary educational system, had sealed many tertiary institutions which had been offering fake admissions to unsuspecting students. So far, ICPC had sanitised the process of application of travelling visas by Nigerians through a synergy with Embassies to keep off touts. It has assisted in developing the right mechanisms for arresting monumental fraud in the Nigeria’s pension system, while all the same ensuring that those collecting multiple salaries within the government establishments face the law.
In the past two weeks, the National Headquarters of ICPC has been buzzing with activities from visits by agencies of government one after the other, each attempting to forge ties with the Commission on how to curb corruption within their respective agencies, using a preventive approach which is now in vogue.
The import of the new mode of fight against corruption being employed by ICPC sank in just last week when the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) visited the Commission’s in Abuja. Specifically, ICPC featured JAMB in its 11th Good Governance Forum, with the Registrar, Professor Dibu Ojerinde as Guest Speaker. The insightful and quite impactfull lecture by the JAMB Registrar, was indeed, a good expose on the message being preached all along by the ICPC Chairman that corruption could be fought more effectively by special designs which do not make room for hasty arrest and instant humiliation of offenders.
Ojerinde told his listeners how JAMB has been able to stamp out the issue of malpractices in the conduct of its examinations in the past two years, using subtle, but more progressive means that never encouraged hyping.
The JAMB Registrar stunned the audience at the ICPC Auditorium with the manner the Examination body deployed Information Technology for detecting all tricks, hitherto employed by the JAMB applicants to cheat during examinations. Those in attendance listened with rapt attention how JAMB through the Registrar was able to institute a measure with Computer Based Test (CBT) to stamp out the art of multiple registration for JAMB exams, impersonation, leakages of examination papers, cloning of JAMB results, admission letters, call up letters and others.
He lets his audience into how computer systems had enabled JAMB to be more efficient and timely in processing and releasing of Jamb results, a feat he said was being attained now within two days after every JAMB exams.
At the end of the lecture, both the JAMB and ICPC saw the necessity for the two to continue to compare notes, while looking further into areas by which they could co-operate to fight the acts of corruption more within the academic system in Nigeria.
Earlier in the week, the ICPC took its fight against corruption to the next level when it signed a memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Aviation on the fight against corruption at the Nigeria’s main international Airport. A ceremony marking this took place in Lagos with the Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka and Barrister Ekpo Nta of ICPC in attendance.
With the MoU signed, both the ICPC and Aviation Ministry would henceforth begin to synergise efforts towards stamping out corruption at both the exit and entry ports of Nigeria. Airport officials noted for soliciting gratification and tips while at work would henceforth be under focus. The essence, according to the Aviation Minister, is to help change the perception of outsiders about Nigerians.
Ekpo Nta said the strategies to be employed by the Aviation Ministry and ICPC in this process, include mandatory training on ethics and integrity at the anti – graft agency’s academy for personnel of all stakeholders deployed to work at the airports.
He said the agreement would also involve a comprehensive systems study of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, its parastatals as well as continuous sensitisation of the travelling public and foreigners who use the airports not to compromise by offering tips or bribes and report unwholesome practices to the ICPC.
In his remarks, the Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka who described corruption as a roadblock to national economic development vowed that the Aviation Ministry would spearhead the battle to rid the Nigeria’s entry and exit ports of corruption by way of correcting the wrong perception which outsiders have been having about Nigeria.
Earlier, The Director General of Pension Transitional Management Directorate, (PETAD), Nellie Mayshak in her visit to the ICPC Headquarters told the management that of efforts by the agency to guarantee the security of pension funds in Nigeria have so far been producing huge results.
> The PETAD, according to the Director General was soliciting the assistance of ICPC towards strengthening the Pension Management with a view to ensuring further reduction of corruption within the system. Mayshak said PETAD now sticks to integrity in the management of pension funds by deploying the use of electronic payment system, which she stressed, makes it easy for pensioners across the country to access their pensions without stress.
The Pension system in Nigeria before the intervention of PETAD and ICPC had recorded monumental fraud running into billions, leading to arrest and ongoing prosecution of some of the Pension Fund officials.
In Nigeria today, ICPC has become a focal point for public and private institutions with desire to curb corruption in their systems. It is all a tell tale that ICPC is now on top the correct logic required for the effective battle against corruption. The emphasis now in ICPC, as theorised by Ekpo Nta is the prevention of acts of corruption from the root rather than fighting the menace from the roof top.
The new initiatives by ICPC, in essence is now gaining public acceptability given the high level of cooperation coming from officials of government, the media and some concerned members of the public to fight corruption in Nigeria