By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
The Country Director Accountability lab, Odeh Friday has decried the failure of candidates and political parties in putting accountability at the forefront of their campaigns ahead of 2023 elections.
Friday made this known as he addressed newsmen at the 6th edition of the Integrity Icon Awards 2022, explaining that despite campaign funds pegged at N5 billion by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, political parties were not held accountable for a violation which contradicts the provision of the electoral act.
The Integrity Icon Awards is an annual event that recognises and awards honest public servants who display integrity on their job, organised by Accountability Lab. Since its inception in 2017, 30 integrity icons have emerged winners. This year, over 1700 nominations were received nationwide with over 8000 votes collated. According to Friday, the top 5 winners have contributed tremendous quota in ensuring accountability and integrity in the public service sector in Nigeria.
“For us at accountability lab, the future of Nigeria, the development of Nigeria is integrity and accountability. If you look at what is happening, none of our political candidates has put accountability at the forefront of their campaign, which is a big problem for us because it is now going back to show that we are having the same circle back and forth in lack of accountability in our community but how do we begin to build on that process of people doing the right thing.
“The top 5 every year are doing fantastic things. We’ve seen the DG of a procurement agency in Gombe state who has moved the revenue from about N400,000 to N1.2 billion. Those are the kinds of inspirational stories because they are beginning to get the corrupt practices that happen in those kinds of sectors like contracting which is the number foremost corrupt practice in Nigeria happening in almost every sector. But when you find people like that doing the right thing, we can save more money, we can ensure quality service is delivered to citizens, ” said Friday.
He therefore stressed the need to build strong institutions that can stand and build on their mandate and carry out the course in which they were established.
He said, “If INEC is able to stand strong, we wouldn’t have political parties who are spending over. The new electoral act provides for every political party to produce a report of their campaign spending after elections. After 2019 elections, I think only two political parties were able to do that. For 2023 elections, we’re not even seeing any of the political parties producing any of their election campaign spendings to the public which is basically a huge problem and we need to strengthen INEC to address some of these issues.”
Earlier in his keynote address, former Statistician-General, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Yemi Kale narrated his experience, explaining that though it may not come with immediate benefits, integrity remains what every government official must imbibe in delivering their jobs.
He said, “unfortunately there are certain job descriptions like the one I used to have at the national bureau of statistics where some of the information that you publish is not going to be what people will like. You’re going to step on toes – if the data is looking good, the question might be happy, the general public or the opposition might attack you and say you’re making it up but when it is negative the opposition would jump on it and say you did very well and government will be unhappy. At the end of the day, all you have to do is stick to what you know right and do your job diligently without considering what the consequences might be to you and the job.”
Speaking further, he said the NBS has maintained the legacies he laid, noting that Nigeria is a work in progress. “I don’t think we’re there yet, we still have a lot to do but I believe some progress has been made in certain areas, in some other areas we have moved backward, some other areas we have not moved at all. It depends on what you’re looking at.
“Overall I’ll say we’ve moved into the positive but is not as much as we should have moved by now. In terms of my office, everybody has noticed that office has continued to work diligently in upholding the integrity that we tried to put in the system and to maintain the trust of the general public and that’s what is important,” he added
Mrs Mwalin Abdu, a prosecutor with the Ministry of Justice Gombe and one of the top 5 Integrity Icon 2022 awardees said, “What I mostly do is on gender-based violence. Because of that background, I handle a lot of cases of sexual violence and domestic violence.
For us in the North, I’ll call it a pandemic because we have been battling with it for a while but coincidentally the law was domesticated in my state last month and it will help but prior to that, it’s been a serious tussle that you have people coming to you to approach you to have favours to the perpetrators and what of the issues you have is when you don’t do what they want you to do.
“What makes me passionate is that people will always come for the perpetrators. What about the victim? What about the survivors? And then mostly they are people from vulnerable backgrounds and that means nobody stands for them. That’s why I feel that I should be the one to do that for them.”
For Charles Enuma, another Awardee who works with the Ministry of Health Bayelsa State, he learnt his trait from his bosses and held on to it – standing for integrity.
Enuma, who is also a procurement officer with a World Bank project NG Cares, said, “I believe change starts with one person and so if you choose to do the right thing and people see you doing the right thing they will want to emulate you, ” Enuma started.
Other Awardees were Mr Babayola Mobammed, Due Process Bureau Gombe State; Mr Innocent Ayabotu, Nigerian Police Force, DPO A Division Cross River State and Mrs Victoria Barnabas, High Court of Justice Taraba State.