Like a sinking ship, the Nigerian state is fast deteriorating and zooming on a fast lane to the precipice. Politicians have been sufficiently blamed for this damning situation, however, not many people have fully recognised the fact that the ruin wouldn’t have assumed such magnitudes without some active collaboration with civil servants in the country.
The Nigerian civil service has over the years grown to become the engine of corruption in the country. A trip to any government establishment be it ministry, agency, or parastatal in Nigeria at Federal, State, and Local government levels will expose one to the depth of the rot in the system. It is rather sad that the civil service which is supposed to be an integral component of societal development as obtainable in many developed countries around the world is now a den of absurdities in the country.
Nigeria’s civil service has over the past six decades failed to live up to it’s assigned constitutional role as the engine that runs government as it wallows in indolence and corruption.
Nigerian civil servants are perhaps a far bigger problem than politicians because of what they have managed to become over the years. From the look of things, it is safe to describe them as architects of corruption, because, without them, political appointees and executive officers will not be able to draw up plans on how to loot resources. It is safe to refer to them as the quantity surveyors of corruption because, without them, politicians will not be able to quantify the exact amounts to steal without raising big concerns. It is safe to conclude that they are the forensic accountants of corrupt leaders because they are the ones that illegally, but professionally provide a guide for them on how to save their ill-gotten money without being intercepted or traced by the EFCC, ICPC or any other commission locally and/or internationally. These civil servants are the lawyers to corrupt politicians who directly or indirectly protect and represent them whenever they are brought before any Court or Commission of inquiry. Frankly speaking, they aid and abet corruption.
Nigerian civil servants have perfected strategies that they are always quick to deploy to subvert the system for their selfish desires and this has continued to sink Nigeria. The sad truth is that the Nigerian civil service is populated by ‘Evil’ servants and not ‘Civil’ servants. Ideally, public Service is supposed to be a public trust where officers and even employees are expected to make conscious efforts to be accountable to the general populace whom they are expected to serve at all times with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency. Above all, they are expected to carry out their duties with the highest sense of patriotism while thinking out of the box to help in finding solutions to the myriad of problems confronting the country.
The truth is that the biggest cases of corruption in Nigeria are actually perpetrated by civil servants in active service and not politicians as many Nigerians erroneously. In 2022, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the looting of over N80 Billion Naira. This man was a civil servant who did not win any election to be where he is, he and many others like him, are the major thieves in the country and that is the truth.
Corruption in the civil service has caused Nigeria so much pain and has only given rise to ineffective service delivery across the country. The reasons for the corrupt civil service include the weak institutional structures, the negative attitude of the civil servants to work, cumbersome administrative procedures, and individuals’ insatiable appetite for wealth at all costs all of which stems from greed, the drive of an individual to exploit, an insatiable appetite and craving to have more, and the fear of the unknown. All these have contributed in no small measure to deliver the mess Nigeria is currently dealing with.
It is pathetic that the culture of accountability and ethical behaviour in service does not have a place in the Nigerian civil service. Indiscipline is the watchword and everyone tries to outdo the next person’s stupidity. Almost everyone is busy looting, bribing, and manipulating the system without remorse. All these has contributed to ensuring that Nigeria remains the dwarf she is in the comity of nations.
It is without a doubt that corruption, whether political or institutional, destroys the socio-economic life of any nation, makes economic planning difficult, if not impossible, and stifles implementation of the infrastructural projects, while concentrating wealth in the hands of a few individuals. Corruption is deadly because it equally promotes widespread poverty and large-scale unemployment, inflation, destruction of efficiency in public institutions, destruction of ethical, moral, and domestic values, and fosters an environment in which unfairness and inequity thrive.
While it is only rational to blame governments at all levels in Nigeria for their lackadaisical attitude towards the welfare of civil servants who mostly live from hand to mouth, with salaries that can barely take care of their most basic of needs, it is not enough to turn the civil servants into rogues.
Extortion by government officials before rendering services they are paid for is something that has become very common in Ministries and Departments. Corruption between government officials and contractors in inflating contract sums in return for kickbacks is a practice that has become very rampant and it is not as a result of poor welfare. Directors are not in any way different from armed robbers, they have simply become experts in using their pens like guns. In every level of government from local, state, and federal, civil servants have mastered the art of justifying corrupt practices by pointing at poor salaries and allowances as an alibi. This is insincere.
While Nigerians continue to call on its leaders to provide better welfare packages for Nigerian civil servants, they must also make the fraud being perpetrated in the civil service a major issue. The two reforms has to happen simultaneously if Nigeria is to stand a chance.
In conclusion, Nigerians must at this time begin to use their voices to correct these anomalies. They must find ways to call for the reforming and sanitising of the civil service. They must demand for an outright end to the era of file-carrying and rather insist that a proper system be instituted to ensure accountability and transparency in the day-to-day running of government business. They must make a case for the full digitalising of the entire civil service structure to make it more effective and result-oriented. Nigerians must do their best to mount pressure on governments at all levels to ensure that only qualified people who are patriotic and progressive-minded and have the overall interest of the country at heart will be allowed the opportunity to work in the civil service. Nigerians must be ready to do all these to bring about the desired behavioural change and promote national ethics and integrity if Nigeria is to ever stand a chance at redemption.