In 2004 a popular Nigerian pop musician released a song that took a swipe at Nigeria. Though so many thought the lyrics to be satirical, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s reaction to Eedris Abdukareem’s Jaja-Jaga made headlines in national dailies.
The lyrics described how uncoordinated and hopeless the Nigeria project had become in the sense that nothing was working in the security, business, education and other sectors.
Contrary to the sharp criticisms and bashing the presidency lashed out at the artiste, the song was heralded by Nigerians as describing the reality in the country and captures the desperation, frustration and utter disconnect the citizenry had with government. It was, in a way, a plea by the artiste to the government to get things organized.
With the return to democracy in 1999 following long years of military regimes, there was certainly a lack of ethics and values in Nigeria and Nigerians. There became an urgent need to urge the citizens to once again have a belief in themselves, the government and the country. There was a basic need to uplift the standard of living of the populace in the communities and ensure that they have a sense of belonging in Nigeria and get the best of social services, having the mindset that our political class had overtime encouraged disobedience to the rule of law which has inadvertently eroded the ethical value systems and belief.
The Federal Government, under former President Goodluck Jonathan, on March 17th, 2015 established National Ethnics and Values Department to critically examine the fundamental change in Nigeria that brought corruption to the glare of the public and looking into the importance of ethics and values in our system of governance with Dr. (Mrs.) Serah Jubril appointed the Special Adviser with a view to promoting inherent values of integrity, honesty, fairness and responsibility towards a positive transformation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage and ethical awareness the nation’s core values system.
After the historic election in 2015 which for the first time saw an opposition party defeating the incumbent government, Nigeria was seen to be in a path to self-realization based on the Change Mantra in which the President Muhammadu Buhari government came into power with.
And to achieve this, President Buhari established the National Ethics and Values Compliance Office (NEVACO) to build in Nigerians that self-confidence is needed. NEVACO is looking at developing the entrepreneurship skill of individuals to be self-reliant, developing code of ethics that will stand the test of time, developing code of conduct of ethical training for all staff, developing a broader social responsibility to showcase it as a source of group strength.
Appointed to shepherd this new establishment is Dr. Emmanuel Adeoye as its first Director General, saddled with the task of giving a new orientation to Nigerians to ethics and values.
Correcting the wrongs
According to Adeoye, the core responsibilities that NEVACO has now are to correct the wrong perceptions in the country and redirect the thinking of Nigerians positively.
“NEVACO is established to correct the wrong, the evil vices we are doing in our country and society today. It is to make sure we do things the right way, which we have not been doing in the country, even the little child in Nigeria today want to make money by wrong ways. So, the aim of the commission is to educate people to be upright and sincere in whatever they are doing. For instance, you want to go to the ministry for something, you must have to bribe somebody to help push the letter, this act is wrong and we want to correct it. So, we are out to let everybody know whatever you are doing in the country, let it be ethnical, let it be done in the right way. Ethnic is to correct the abnormality in the society, to correct the misimpression by the outside communities.”
Being among the newest federal government organizations to be established there are fears that the current state of the economy would affect the effectiveness of the commission given the heavy task it has been saddled with in dealing with over 150 million Nigerians and also with the various experiences being witnessed in the North East, South East and Niger Delta regions. But Adeoye dispelled those fears saying that NEVACO existed as the Foundation for Ethics and Values (FEAV) under the former special adviser, Dr. Sarah Jubril under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“If you would remember vividly, how Ethics and Value was been run, the former administration, appointed her Excellency Sarah Jubril as Special Adviser on Ethics and Values and later on my office was created, I am the first Director-General. So, based on this what was in existence before was FEAV at the time, she was not been given fund so she has to use her NGO to carry the message which to me was a good idea, she started it as a corporative society to help the people with their communities.
“For instance, if there is cassava in a particular village, anybody can borrow money from the corporative and process the cassava, refund the money after selling and the loan given to another people. That was how the structures started going base on NGO bases, what the government is doing now is that they are interested, and decided to say let make it a proper structure. But, again, there is no fund, what we told the government is that we will create something to be generating fund, so that the burden would not be on the government alone. That is what the government is looking for, that is what everybody need now. Because the government can’t do everything, there’s no fund/money anywhere at the moment,” he said.
Not waiting for government
With a full knowledge of the task ahead the new DG embarked a sensitization programs aimed at introducing NEVACO to the grassroots all across the six geo-political zones in the country. The first was held at Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State over the weekend with a great emphasis on agriculture.
The conference tagged South West Convention on Ethics and Values sought to engage the people, listen to their complaints and educate them on the need to adhere strictly to the ethics and values of the country. The participants drawn from all sectors of the economy had open access to the Director-General. The core message NEVACO is dwelling on is the need for Nigerians to return to farming. Also enumerated were some of the attracting offers NEVACO spelt out to those who comply.
“We intend to create employment, by training people on different vocations. For instance, in Ekiti state right now, the yam flour Processing Mill is down; it has not been working for a long time. We are looking at NEVACO taking over the mill, we can talk to the people, they bring the yam to our warehouse, we can buy it from them, process it and repackage it for final consumption. We have to invest; we have to also look at bringing in investors to partner with us. We must find a way to create jobs/employment; we don’t need to wait for the government for everything.”
Adeoye made it clear that as a new sheriff tasked with preserving the ethics and values of the land, they are looking for partners that will work progressively with them to achieve the objective.
“We are looking for credible people to drive these programs, not just anybody that would come to destruct the whole process. Like I always tell people, Nigerian like to two things, they like uniform and they like titles. So, structures have to be on ground to correct. Everybody must know their function, not for a watch repairer to stand up and tell the whole world he is a managing director. In order words, we need to get the message of the government to the grassroots; there must be orderliness, structures for everybody to carry out their respective functions.”
Duplication of duties
With the Bill establishing the National Ethics and Values Compliance still under consideration by the National Assembly, some experts are of the fear that the duties of the compliance officers may be conflicting with those of the police and Civil Defense corps, an assertion Adeoye said isn’t possible as ethics and values compliance will also partner with the police, armed forces and civil societies.
“The police is established to act after the offence, the Police arrest because you are a criminal, the DSS arrest criminals but NEVACO is a compliance office. We are there to correct everybody; all Nigerians. We are compliance officer and tasked to preach the change, ethnics and value to let people know their right from wrong. We are there to correct people, even the policeman can be corrected by a Compliance Officer. We were with the Inspector General of Police recently and we told them we are here to partner with them, we told them they also need to establish ethnics and value in the police force to deal with any officers that try to go above the law. Every department of our lives, every ministry, parastatals must have a compliance officer to correct abnormality in the country. We don’t arrest, we make sure you don’t commit the crime. The police arrest after a crime is committed but we are here to prevent you from committing the crime in the first place. We are going to partner with the police and already existing arm forces; we are here to enlighten people.”
Owing to the hard anti-corruption stance of President Muhammadu Buhari and his establishment of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) as a military administrator with WAI brigade corps enforcing discipline at times with force, there has been some allegations by the opposition that the establishment of NEVACO is another form of Buhari bringing in attack dogs that will champion his anti-corruption cause. But the DG reassures that none of that is true as every advanced government knows the need to have an ethics and values department.
“Any serious government all over the world must have Ethics and Values, just take a look at the advance world. It duties is to correct, train and enlighten the citizen. In Nigeria we are developing and as a develop nation things like this will need to stay together as one. Other organization will come up in the nearest future that will are suppose to have. Even in the National Assembly at the moment have a committee on Ethnic and Values is to check them.”
The first test that NEVACO is likely to encounter is the turbulence being witnessed across the regions; Boko Haram in the North East; the agitation for Secession by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) in the South-South, how ready is the commission to send its officers to these volatile areas.
“You know as government, we are talking to everybody; some parts of the country feel cheated and feel they need to have their own share. But, most of the problems are even the communities themselves, they vandalize the pile and it will spill over and destroy their farm, some of them have different ship on the sea to hijack vessel and this is not helping the federal government. Resource control is what they are fighting for, they want to be in control, but this is one Nigeria they should know that there is no negotiation. Power belongs to the people and not one section of the country. They claim they are fighting for the community, but the communities are rejecting them, as we read in the papers every day,” he said.