Nigeria is a good reference point that good conscience cannot be legislated into existence in the conduct of public affairs. No matter how beautifully crafted a law is, there would always be lacunae. And once there is a lacuna, there would always be some smart (read crooked) operators and interpreters of the law to skew it to meet their ends. It is for this reason that I often say that the most dangerous crook is the one who wears a professional garb; be that person a lawyer, doctor, journalist, banker, engineer, clergy etc. They put their professional knowledge to crooked use to attain crooked results; they manipulate the system, justify the unjustifiable and defend the indefensible. Some apply this crooked means even in the exercise of public duties. And these scoundrels live among us.
We see these so often in the public space. For instance, in the course of law-making, many crooked things happen, including legislating to wealth. And so, for instance, a state legislature made up of persons who are largely helped into office or bought over by a state governor or are outright bootlickers to the governor, can in just one week pass any law proposed by that governor. And because the law, not wanting to unduly leash the legislature, never set any time for the passage of a law, the lawmakers can as well pass the law in a few hours. Even the budget law has been passed in less than two weeks in some states.
Take the case of the notorious passage of laws providing outrageous ‘retirement’ packages for state governors. Many of the laws were passed speedily with little opportunity given for debate or even citizens’ engagement. Public business therefore gets carried out as privately as possible or without any concern about public opinion or outcry.
Another area of abuse in public service is what many law officers of the state do. Let us start with the office of the attorney-general (AG). The constitution gives these officers the sole powers to institute, continue or discontinue any criminal prosecution. It did not give any guide as to when and why the AG could discontinue a case in court and so, in practice, the AG is a law unto him/herself.
There is however an expectation, which is often not met, that someone who holds such an important position would necessarily lift him/herself above the pedestrian level of thinking and the shenanigans that the partisan political class brings into governance. But what do we have instead? We see AGs who desecrate the temple of justice by working in cahoots with the executive arm or the politicos to abuse human rights of citizens and breach the clear positions of the constitution.
I recall how, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the federal government used crooked means to attempt to remove some state governors from office. In Anambra, Oyo and Plateau states, the minority members of the Houses of Assembly claimed to have suspended the leadership and majority of the members and further purported to have impeached the state governors. While the shenanigans lasted, the federal government favoured the renegades with justification coming from the office of the federal attorney general.
Increasingly, every state facility is being used as personal property of the chief executive and of the political party they belong. At the federal level, the presidential villa regularly hosts meetings (board of trustees and national working committees) of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while state government houses also host similar meetings of the respective political parties where each governor belongs. Flags and insignias of political parties are hoisted in government houses, offices of government officials and official cars, thus suggesting that the state is a territory which the political parties capture in political warfare and those facilities are the spoils of war. And when the state governors switch parties, as many of them do, the paraphernalia of the new party of allegiance drape the same old public facilities.
But why do public officers act, not in the public good, but for private gains? Sometimes, it may be sheer ignorance, but it seems that in many instances, these officials never cared for what the public good is about in the first place. This is where the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is again expected to work to fulfil its mandate. It needs to design programmes that would emphasise appreciation of the huge responsibility upon public officials. Professional bodies need to exercise more of their disciplinary roles on members, including when they pervert their professions while carrying out public service. Monitoring bodies and officials, including auditors, should insist on separating private and public costs when reviewing spending. That way, we would see less and less of private expenditure being forced on the rest of us as a collective.
– See more at: http://www.thenicheng.com/looking-for-good-conscience-in-public-service/#sthash.DckwyDev.dpuf