The two-day Retreat organized by Governor Willie Obiano to tune up his incoming cabinet for a high performance came to a glorious end at the weekend with a lecture delivered by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu.
The EFCC Chairman who spoke on the topic “A New Dawn: Expectations from the Public Sector,” addressed the incoming commissioners and special advisers as well as the governor’s principal officers on the imperatives of avoiding the banana peels in the Nigerian public service.
According to the EFCC boss, the service component of every public office holder is enshrined in the SERVICOM charter which tasks every public officer with ensuring quick, efficient and effective service to the citizenry in line with the principles of public accountability.
Pointing out that the man on the street sees government essentially as the public officers who owes him transparency and accountability, Mr Magu maintained that the “betrayal of public trust is the worst crime a public officer can commit against the people.”
The economic and financial crimes boss reminded the members of the soon to be inaugurated EXCO that ‘vicarious liability’ is a clear and present threat to top public officers who may be called out of their retirement to account for the criminal actions of their subordinates. “Have at the back of your mind that time does not run out on criminal investigation,” he warned.
Offering a comprehensive rundown of the ‘don’ts’ of the Nigerian public life, Mr Magu observed that a pre-condition for life as a public officer is to purge oneself of all vices that may negatively influence one’s conduct, pointing out that eliminating all likely sources of a conflict of interest was a good beginning for a peaceful public life.
“The Constitution and Public Service Rules have made it mandatory for public officers to declare beforehand, all personal interests. And where such interests may negatively affect the discharge of your official functions, divest yourself of such interests or simply excuse yourself from the discharge of that function,” he warned.
Speaking further, Mr Magu reminded the audience of the need to raise the red flag whenever there is a clear indication of a breach of due process in the system, pointing out that ‘it is a crime not to report a crime.’
Offering insights into the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, Mr Magu observed that it was a crime for a public officer to hold two jobs for which remuneration is made while in office or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria.
He also warned that ‘a public officer is prohibited from asking and accepting property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties and further.’
Mr Magu further read out the portion that addresses the incubus of bribery directly, observing that ‘no persons shall offer a public officer any property, gift or benefit of any kind as an inducement or bribe for the granting of any favour or the discharge in his favour of the public officer’s duties.’
In his own remarks, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano observed that Anambra was ahead in many of the campaigns mounted by the EFCC and that whistle-blowing had been in practice in the state for quite some time.
He assured the EFCC boss that he had great confidence in his team but that he believed that Mr Magu’s “presence at the retreat would help the team to do better.”
Thanking the EFCC boss for making out time to participate in the retreat, Governor Obiano reiterated the warning that as leaders, team members should be mindful of the fact that they were vicariously liable for the crimes committed by their subordinates under their watch.
“So, keep an eye on the people under you. Don’t say, I was not part of it. Always be careful. If you see a crime, report it,” he advised.
The Anambra EXCO Retreat was an intense two-day exercise organised by the newly inaugurated Obiano administration to tune up his cabinet for an excellent performance that would help the governor in leaving an enduring legacy of visionary governance in Anambra State.