President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, decried the menace of corruption, which he said has continued to thrive in the civil service as it’s garbed in the cloak of nepotism, cronyism and political patronage among others including lack of transparency, accountability and other social misdemeanor.
This came as he urged leaders in the private and public sectors be mindful of their positions as trustees of the people, tasking them to always work towards leaving legacies that would outlive them.
“I wish that leaders would rise to be counted among leaders, who have distinguished themselves to do the right thing and leave their footprints on the sands of time,” he stated.
Speaking during conferment of awards on former President Goodluck Jonathan and 43 other prominent Nigerians anchored by the Nigeria Excellence Award in Public Service (NEAPS) held in the State House, Abuja, Buhari observed that such vices conspire to distract the civil servants and impinge on the delivery of their mandate.
He said if institutional mechanisms for holding public officers and civil servants accountable were not properly enforced, it would give the wrong signal to the public.
“Public service is a public trust where officers and even employees must be accountable to the people whom they should serve at all times with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency. They are expected to act with patriotism and think out of the box in order to solve the many problems facing the people they lead.
“At present, issues in corruption continue to affect the civil services in many countries, around the world. Several reasons of these issues still exist because of the deeply rooted problems like nepotism, cronyism, political patronage as well as lack of transparency and accountability. These vices distract them from delivering on their mandate and aspirations.
“The unsystematic enforcement of law and institutional mechanisms for holding civil servants and public officials accountable of their actions will always lead to a negative impression to the citizens.”
The President expressed delight in having the opportunity to recognise 44 persons and orgnisations, which, he said, have distinguished themselves in many areas of governance, and other endeavours across sectors.
“I am particularly happy to recognise His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, my predecessor for his contribution to peace building from the Niger-Delta region, which was snowballed into the Nation and now, around the world.”
Since leaving office, he has deployed his rich experience to ensure peace in many parts of Africa and has led mediation talks in several parts of the globe.
“I want to also specially recognise Abdul Samad Rabiu, the Chairman of BUA International Limited for his interventions in education through the BUA Foundation, the Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative (ASR Africa) and his personal philanthropic initiative.
“This initiative funds tertiary education institutions in Nigeria from its yearly $100million ASR Africa Fund for Social Development and Renewal. I am happy that five Universities have so far benefited with many more to come.
“I am equally elated to have some governors and my ministers receive this award. This is to put on record that this Awards is born out of empirical evidence of performance and not politics.
“This award is a recognition of the giant strides you all have made towards the transformation of Nigeria and you have consistently put hard work and dedication at the centre of your initiatives.”
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Jonathan, who said he was surprised to receive the award, observed that the absence of local government council chairmen among the recipients showed that something was wrong with the tier of government.
He, therefore, called on the National Assembly to take appropriate measures to ensure that the third tier of government is able to function as expected.
The former President also called for recognition for other cadres of service providers such as teachers that are moulding the characters of the future generations, medical personnel saving lives and others.
He stated: “And let us specially thank Mr. President for coming in person to give these awards. You make this award look like the national honours that Mr. President himself has to give to people who merit it. So, we have to thank you for this gesture.
“Of course, this is quite a unique programme. The master of ceremony said it all, the Secretary to the Government of Federation said it all. And when I got the letter, inviting me for today’s programme, I said what? I have to commend those who have the vision that when people are working for society, there should be appreciation in words or in any other form.
“They always say that those who more is given, more is expected from them. You have selected 44 of us, honoured us on a live television. The only thing is that we promise that we will continue to do more for humanity.
“Let me use this unique opportunity to make a little observation. We have 36 states. And out of 36 states, from the list, 16 governors were recognised this morning. And I ask myself, out of the 774 local government chairmen, not even one was here with us. Mr. Senate President and Mr. Speaker, that shows that National Assembly has some work to do.
“Probably, we need to review and look at the structure and functions of the local governments. If the local governments are functional and doing well, we expect one or two of them to be noticed by those who go around the country to assess people that should be recognised.
“I believe we need to do something about the local government structure in Nigeria. Because if the local governments are working, some of the challenges we are having, even security challenges at that level of government that is very close to the people, they would have been able to nip it at that stage.”