By Agatha Chitumu, Abuja
The Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, Carl-Michael Grans said “The issues of Integrity and Transparency are not for civil servants alone; government ministries and agencies, civil society organizations, businesses, private sectors and diplomatic communities must continue to strengthen human rights, push for equality, openness and freedom, ensure people’s participation and maintain the rule of law in Nigeria, as well as in Sweden”. Accountability Lab, in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria, on Monday, held the “ Summit and Awards “ Event, in Abuja.
According to Grans, “Integrity and Transparency are two strong pillars that democracy stands on. They are clearly reflected in democratíc structures and institutions and spreading the word of democracy is a focus area for the Swedish Government and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, for which I work”.
“With Nigeria ranking 144 out of 180 countries, seconding to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, a lot needs to be improved for the country to truly thrive through democracy”.
For the third year in a row, Accountability Lab, through this Integrity Icon platform has continue to search for honest government officials and to drive debate around the idea of integrity and demonstrate the importance of honesty, impartiality and personal responsibility.
In 2017, the award recognized and commended public servants like Dr. Yemi Kale, Statistician-General, National Bureau of Statistics among four others; in 2018, Mr. Benson Agwu, a journalist with the Ebonyi State Newspaper Corporation was recognized for his courageous constructive criticism and media publications”
In 2019, CSP Francis Erhabor a police officer, Nigerian Police Force was recognized for his outstanding performances , Tina Odinakachi Lirmdu, lecturer, University of Jos, Tani Ali Nimlan ,Assistant Director, NAFDAC, Christian Ahiauzu, Head of ICT Unit, University of Port Harcourt and also Kacheilom Betram R.
The country Director of DAI,Joe Abah views Integrity as the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.
He added that, “In a society like Nigeria where people that are honest and morally upright are regarded as fools, rather icons; where those that are dishonest and untrustworthy are seen as sharp and smart, rather than liars and thieves; where the ambition of many is to become stupendously rich without working hard; aiming for integrity is often swimming against the tide.
Swimming against a raging tide is a difficult and often dangerous endeavour. Very few people that swim against the tide make it to safety. In most cases, the tide overwhelms them and sends a strong signal to other swimmers to go with the flow.
However, some swimmers show that consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values are the hallmarks of integrity.
“I remember interviewing Nuhu Ribadu about his time as the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. His formula was simple. He said: “1 decided that I will not take money and that none of the people working with me would” he said.
“I also remember interviewing the late, great, Professor Dora Akunyli about her time as the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). She narrated to me how she had had to sack her own brother-in-law from NAFDAC because of corruption. When I tell this story abroad, many people do not easily relate to the kind of courage and strength of character that it requires for an African woman to sack her own husband’s brother”.
More recently, my friend, Dr Yemi Kale, Statistician General of the Federation, recognised here as an Integrity Icon in 2017, has continued to do his job with consistency and an uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values, regardless of unrelenting pressure from politicians.
“I remember reaching out to Dr Kale in December 2018 to encourage and strengthen him when he was under attack by politicians from the government he is serving, simply for doing his job properly. He said to me: “Egbon (elder brother in the Yoruba h), as you know, Accountability and Integrity come with consequences. I had decided long ago to accept those consequences. I am fine and I’ll be fine.”
He explained further that Integrity in the private sector is reflected in the consistency with which one is in compliance with Statutory Regulations, Professional Ethics, norms in the informal sectors.
For example, at DAI these are set out in the company’s Code of Business Conduct, Anti-Harassment Policy and Ethics training, which all staff must pass within 2 weeks of joining the organisation.
This ensure that the company complies with all relevant laws and regulations, deals with staff and beneficiaries honourably, and prevents fraud, bribery and corruption. It helps us manage and minimize conflicts of interest and to guard against unfair advantage or bias to contractors, candidates for employment or consultants. Integrity in the private sector makes good business sense. It enhances your reputation and makes you a trustworthy party to do business with, also it helps you to avoid litigation and negative publicity.
Integrity in the public sector goes well beyond this he said. It is much harder. Many professions have their own codes of ethics, with rules of behaviour that members of those professions must adhere to or risk sanctions, including expulsion.
However, not many people see Public Service as a profession, in the same way as they see Medicine, Law, Engineering, or Accountancy.
Indeed, public servants that come from these professional backgrounds tend to hold on to those backgrounds, rather than seeing Public Administration as a profession in its own right, with its own ethics and values.
In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly Overwhelmingly passed an International Code for Public Officials as an annexed to its resolution titled: Action against Corruption. The code requires public officials to ensure that they perform their duties ethically and with integrity.