In Nigeria, the consensus view on the fight against corruption is that the anti-corruption agencies should operate like Rottweiler guard dogs with the strongest dentition meant to bite and crush the bones of culprits of any reported act of corruption.
Some had preferred death sentences to be visited on anyone who got convicted on corruption charges, Nigerians simply preferred to see ministers, state governors, National Assembly members and other top government functionaries found guilty of perpetrating corruption while in office to be hauled straight into detention and charged to court as often as they got nabbed.
From the beginning, the anti-corruption agencies had towed these lines of thought. They had deployed very heavy sensation, braced by the media in the trial process of anti-corruption cases. Some so-called big toes were nabbed, detained and later released, while only a few, very negligible in number were unlucky to get behind bars. From indications, the anti-corruption war which began in Nigeria in 2001 has been whirling within the same circle, begging for new approaches which could help fast track the reduction of the menace of corruption within the larger society of the country.
The new approach is what the current leadership of the Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has been focusing on. It involves the art of tackling the menace right from the roots and not from the surface as we in Nigeria are used to.
For the new team headed by Barrister Ekpo Nta, the battle against corruption should encompass even the underage and the youths within formative ages. Barrister Ekpo Nta had repeatedly averred that the best soldiers for the anti-corruption war are primary and secondary school students and by extension, scholars in the tertiary institutions. For this reason, the ICPC had imitated plans aimed at engaging them seriously in the battle. The Anti-Corruption Volunteers Corps launched by the ICPC few years back and ICPC clubs in schools have been recording some breakthroughs in this regard. To this end, ICPC had received petitions filed by students, pointing the Commission’s attention to cases of anti-corruption within their environment. The petitions, to say the least, had proved very helpful.
The ICPC Chairman is not resting on his oars in the plan to raise a bottom up approach for the fight against corruption. He has been holding talks with the National University Commission (NUC) on the need to overhaul the tertiary education system in the country in a manner that would make Nigerian Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges less prone to corruption.
With the cooperation and collaboration of the National Universities Commission, NUC the commission had concluded a review of corruption-prone systems as a pilot scheme into three universities. The report of its findings will be unfolded in few days. Again,it was rather the students that encouraged the ICPC to take the bold initiative following petitions from them and members of staff, unions and other stakeholders, alleging all manners of corrupt practices and abuses in most of the tertiary institutions.
The Chairman had noted that some of the abuses were in admission processes, conduct of examinations, appointments and promotion of staff and manipulation and falsification of academic records such as transcripts, general examination malpractice, cultism, sorting, impersonation, indecent dressing, intimidation, lateness, running illegal programmes, plagiarism, suppression of information, absenteeism amongst others. This system review on the Nigeria’s university system, according to him would put an end to such acts of corruption in the schools.
On the other hand,Mr Ekpo Nta, has also been fighting to make Ethics a compulsory subject in the category of English and Mathematics in primary and secondary schools in Nigeria. According to him, the teaching of Ethics would further strengthen efforts to build new generation of Nigerians that will uphold the values of integrity, honesty and accountability in their day-to-day living.
He would have spoken the minds of Nigerians who had benefitted from such teachings as they schooled at the period Nigeria was evolving as a nation. The Jettisoning of the idea by successive governments in the country has been the reason acts of perversion appear to be taking hold of many who are in schools at all levels in Nigeria today.
Mr Nta drummed this idea of a return to teaching of Ethics in school during his visit to St Anthony’s Nursery and Primary School, Molete, Ibadan, his Alma Mater just recently. He was accompanied on the trip to the school by a member of the Board, Prof. Olu Aina and some Directors of the Commission including the Director, Public Education, Mrs Rashedat Okoduwa and Head of Media, he had passed out of the Primary School in Ibadan in 1964 as the head boy, and so, the feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed him as soon as he appeared within the premises, the reason, he had the motive to kick start the ICPC’s agenda for recruiting new soldiers for the anti-corruption war from the school.
In his words of exhortations on how schools in Nigeria could assist in the fight against corruption, Mr Nta explained that efforts by the commission to introduce teaching of Ethics such as honesty, integrity and accountability in younger Nigerians were already yielding fruits. He urged the authorities of the school to fully embrace the idea, noting that since Ethics was re-introduced as a subject in primary and secondary schools, the ICPC has been receiving positive responses.