By Charles Ofoji
Nigeria is ostensibly a mad nation peopled by mad people. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to expect the civil servants to be different. In oddities, Nigeria comes first and little wonder that all around the world, it is only in our country that civil servants are multimillionaires and billionaires.
It is unspeakable that in the midst of humbling poverty, Nigeria runs one of the most expensive civil service in the world, whereby senior public officers live in free houses with all bills paid, cruise around in Toyota Prado jeeps (which cost about (N12million) as official cars and go about their official duties flying first and business classes. They also lodge in five star hotels when they are out of station.
It is also only in Nigeria that a public servant will live above his means and eyebrows will not be raised.
Rather he would be hailed as having arrived and traditional rulers would be jostling to bestow chieftaincy titles. As I have said before, majority of the houses in the juiciest places in Abuja are owned my men and women who pose to be civil servants, but are pen robbers and the unmentioned worms eating down the fabric of this nation.
The case of the pension thieves is only a tip of a monstrous iceberg. Six public servants boast of 108 properties. That is an average of 17 each! Welcome to the world of billionaire civil servants. In any case, the EFCC, pursuant to Section 28 of the EFCC Act 2004, had attached the list of all the assets belonging to the men and woman who fleeced their fatherland of N32.8 billion under a bogey pension scheme. The anti-graft agency therefore asked an Abuja High Court for leave to seize same. The go-ahead was granted. The six have also since been suspended by the Federal Civil Service Commission.
We can shout to high heavens about our corrupt elected leaders, but the corruption that leaves us endangered as a people is the one among civil servants. Never forget that 50% of our annual budget ends up in private pockets and it is facilitated by civil servants. I fail to see how an executive can loot the treasury without civil servants as accessories- the so-called permanent secretaries or permanent suckers. If we had a sane and morally upright civil service, the level of corruption we have today, could never have been possible.
Let there be no mistake, the N32.8bn police pension scam is only a trickle in a desert. Our public service is awash with fiddles of jaw-dropping dimensions. I make bold to say that our civil servants are only preoccupied with dirty deals and contract inflations, which goes to sustain the 10% of our population who will eagerly and proudly tell you that they are government contractors if someone asked them what they did for a living.
The corruption we have in our civil service is the stumbling block to our growth as a nation. It is the reason why a mother watches her child die in her arms because she does not have the money to pay the hospital charges. It is the reason why our children are paying cutthroat tuition fees to acquire an inferior education in a country that could have afforded quality and free education for all.
It is also why, in the midst of plenty, there is so much hardship as the mainstream look on as a greedy few feed fat on what is meant for all.
If you know any senior or even a junior but clever civil servant, take a look at his lifestyle, then you will get a clue of what I am talking about. And what you see is tremendously representative. Our civil servants are mostly billionaires and multimillionaires who wreck the nation under the cloak of serving their country.
We have civil servants who are not worthy to be so-called. Most of them were drafted in there to grab as much as they could for their people in a multi-ethnic group as ours, where each group is scheming to undo the other in the sharing of the bounties. There is simply no patriotism and nor dedication. Last November, I went with a friend of mine to the Ministry of health. The first thing I screamed when I got to one of the floors was: ‘what are all these people doing here?’
The place teemed with people idling around that you go away thinking that we are operating a socialist government, where the government is obliged to provide job for all, including those who have nothing to offer. In a small room on the seventh floor, I counted eight workers, and six were sleeping as we entered.
Nobody is interested in knowing what they did during working hours or even if they turned up for work because those, whose duty it is, are preoccupied with pilfering the nation through deals and inflation of contracts.
So much is wrong with our country that we do not know where to start with its transformation. However, the civil service needs to be reorganized, restructured and given a new orientation if we are to make any progress as a nation.