In the fight against graft or corruption in the Nigerian public space as championed by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, more attention has been given to political office holders, other politically exposed persons and even the judiciary than the civil service who in the opinion of this writer is the coven where corrupt acts are perfected and executed.
Without mincing words, one can categorically say that if Nigeria can achieve a corrupt free civil service, the political office holders either at the executive, legislative and judicial arms will have little or no elbow room to engage in corruption.
Unfortunately, a pragmatic and objective assessment of the Nigerian situation will point out that the civil service or the civil servants are the roots of corruption in Nigeria.
Like rats, the lethargic, pedantic and deceptively docile Nigerian civil servant hiding under the heaps of papers and bureaucratic red tapes have for decade been the purveyors of gargantuan corrupt tendencies and practice which has over time evolved to be a norm or business as usual, to use the Nigerian lexicon.
Since independence, successive military and civilian administrations have come and gone but the civil service, the engine room of governance and entrenched practices has always remained, transferring its corrupt mind-set and influencing each and every new administration with ‘this is how things are done’ odium of corruption.
It is instructive to state here that the first administration to have taken the issue of fighting corruption in Nigeria seriously, the General Ramat Murtala Muhammed administration (July 1975- February, 1976) had in realization of this germane fact undertaken the most extensive purge in the Nigerian civil service till date, flushing out bad eggs in the system with mass sack or compulsory retirement.
Though many still allude to that action as uncalled for and ill-conceived, what obtains now will in retrospect point to that action as the most fundamental action ever taken to curb corruption in Nigeria.
Coming to the present day Nigeria, it is on record that apart from the ongoing arms deal fraud alleged to have taken place under the watch of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the biggest and most sensational case of corruption in Nigeria in recent times has been the pension funds scam.
As we talk, all measures undertaken by the present administration in checking the over-bloating of the state and federal government payrolls has not deterred the entrenched practice of ghost workers in the Nigerian civil service, a practice that has been deployed by successive top echelons of the Nigerian civil service to dupe the national treasury trillions of naira since independence.
Many people are even of the opinion that it is the civil servant that teaches, aids and abets office holders into corrupt practices, and this is no lie.
Without the active participation and connivance of the Nigerian civil servants, frauds and scams like the Halliburton saga, arms deal, petroleum subsidy, pension scam and most recently the Malibu corruption case involving a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adeoke and others currently being investigated and prosecuted across Europe, America and Nigeria will not have been possible.
If proper checks be made to provide proof of the burden of guilt on the concerned, all you have to do is check and you will find trillions of naira worth of properties scattered across the nooks and crannies of Nigerian urban centres like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Sokoto, Abuja and even exotic holiday spots and major cities in Europe, America and recently the United Arab Emirates.
You will find gigantic multi-million-dollar property and investment portfolios belonging to otherwise colourless Nigerian civil servants all from the proceeds of a long term steady and conscientious looting of the Nigerian treasury.
As President Muhammadu Buhari gets set to commence his second term in office, one can only hope that he will embark on his Next Level agenda of fighting corruption in Nigeria by making an incisive and surgical thrust into the Nigerian civil service cauldron of corruption and root out the malignant cancerous tumor of corruption embedded in the Nigerian civil service, and only then would he have tackled corruption from its roots.