- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 23:20
- Written by Dr Igietseme Joseph
I was heartened to read that a bill that prohibits Nigerian public officials from training their children/wards overseas, except for specialization at postgraduate levels or in undergraduate courses not offered in Nigerian institutions has already passed first reading in the Senate. The bill if passed, will contribute towards fixing the
comatose education sector in Nigeria.
Some would argue that you can't prevent anyone who legitimately can afford it, the choice of providing the education at any location for his / her children or wards. Those that belong to this school of thought say the solution is “to raise the standard of local universities in all ways, so that the quality provided is comparable to those abroad, so that it makes little sense to send a ward abroad at least for first degrees.”
The dilemma is this: How do you handle this apparent quagmire in this situation: it’s like running away from one’s own dung or whatever we call it! We are in a situation where people who heckle and hassle and hustle for the public positions and offices, promising to create better educational and health systems for society, end up mismanaging, haemorrhaging and ruining those systems and whatever services and products they provide to people in the society; these same public officials that ruined our local education and healthcare end up sending their children abroad for better education or health facilities while they are responsible for the ruinous state of affairs in Nigeria.
I am not sure of exactly what to do; but something definitely has to be done; for example, if you are in charge of anything in the health ministry, you and your family MUST patronize the health system in Nigeria; same with Education and Ministry of Works!
I am sure some people will oppose the idea. Some have already argued that “we need to open up more opportunities for our young people, and it does not matter where those opportunities are.” These further argues that to stop Nigerian public officials from training their children/wards overseas, is akin to a form of group punishment on innocent kids, and that it is an even more outrageous suggestion than the one about prohibiting certain people from getting medical treatment outside the country. If public officials are not doing their job, punish them directly, by throwing them out of office, they say.
But the people who argue this way are simply mixing something up here, and I will clarify it as follows:
First, this is not a case of a policy that limits overseas education or health procurement for citizens; far from it! You know that! This policy aimed at ensuring the dedication, quality and performance of public officials who claim they can plan, develop, manage and regulate the availability of services or products of certain systems or facilities for the society. The policy will ensure that they are consumers of those services and products, and the apparent nonchalant or shoddy performance is prevented.
Second, isn’t it a fact that when you occupy a public office that regulates or monitors stock trading ethics on Wall Street, you can’t be on the Board of a Company trading on Wall street? Is that not one of the selective rules governing Conflict of Interests [COI] for public officials everywhere and in other sectors of the economy as well?
So what is the problem with a CONDITIONAL policy that says the following:
1. If you are an officer in PHCN/NEPA, you or your immediate family members can’t be on the Board of generator sellers’ association;
2. If you are a public official in the Education sector [management/regulation], you have to show that Nigerian universities are good enough for you and members of your family.
3. If you are a public official in the Health sector [management/regulation], you have to show that Nigerian hospitals and public health facilities are good enough for you and members of your family.
4. If you know that you are not prepared to submit yourself or your family members to patronize the services or products of the systems or facilities that you will be managing or regulating as a public official, don’t go near those sectors. This is better than taking secondary steps of identifying non-performing officials for removal from office; for where, Nigeria?
5. This policy to make public officials patronize the products and services of the systems they manage or regulate will ensure that public officials who manage or regulate the services or products of the systems or facilities in certain sectors have the confidence to consume those products.
6. Like in other COI policies, whenever you are out of a sector as an official, you can do whatever you like.
The above item Nos. 3 - 5 are especially crucial in our Nigerian situation today because it is rather unthinkable that public officials who ran down the educational and health sectors [or who are even still on the job to manage or advance those sectors], use the money they looted out the sectors [which is directly or indirectly responsible for the impoverishment and mess in the sectors] to procure “better” educational or health services overseas. What type of treachery, perfidy and abuse of society and people is that? Only a MUGU will continue to live under those conditions ad infinitum.
Another argument against this is bill is that “the children of public officials cannot be used as hostages in the manner implied, in the hope that their families will pay a ransom in the provision of good public service.”
It has also been argued that “such a policy will lead to accelerated efforts on the part of public officials, to loot as much public funds as possible, use the funds to quickly send their children abroad, and then leave the public sector poorer than they found it. The hostage-taking polity and state will in that case have no high moral ground to stand upon, in order to accuse the public official of ethical or moral turpitude. Further we might also create a situation where only the most financially troubled people go into the public sector. The cost to the country from such a development will send hundreds of thousands of kids to relevant training abroad. Their argument is that there has to be a more morally and legally defensible basis for laws dealing with conflicts of interest. You cannot collectively punish a class of people, in order to pre-empt possible violations of the public trust in the future. The proposition gets more bizarre, when it deals with children.”
However, going by such argument, will mean that there is no need for Conflict of Interest policies anywhere because they can force a “would-be” public official to indulged as much as possible before or after service. But what is wrong with that Quality Control [QC] provision in a decadent climate like we have in Nigeria whereby public officials in charge of planning, developing, managing and regulating the availability of essential services or products of certain systems or facilities for the society don’t even have confidence in what they do; they don’t CONSUME them; so why are they in charge of producing or delivering them? Na wa!
To me, under the depressing climate in every sector in Nigeria, the minimum measure to ensure that public officials deliver is to REQUIRE that they and their families are COMSUMERS of the services and products that they claim they can plan, develop, manage and regulate for the society. It is not asking too much; it is not blackmail; it is for Nigerian protection and preservation!
There are so many policies on Conflicts of interest out there in civilized Democracies of the world that are aimed at dealing with situations like this, based on the experience with the willing and dealing by public officials in the society; the objective of this Nigerian bill initiative cannot be different. For example, in the US and possibly other societies harboring global best practices in administration and public ethnics, there are policies, such as: the policy of not supervising your spouse or immediate family member at your public workplace; the policy of not being a Judge in a court case involving a family member; the policy of not serving on the Board of any company that you may regulate or exercise oversights duties as a public official; et cetera. In all these situations, you can make your case about excluding people from what they like to participate in; but the point is that society [especially those harboring global best practices in administration and public ethnics] has found that public fairness or justice may not be served under conditions where those policies are absent.
So to me, under the present depressing climate in every sector in Nigeria due to the ineptitude and neglect by public officials, the minimum measure to ensure that public officials deliver is to REQUIRE that they and their families are COMSUMERS of the services and products that they claim they can plan, develop, manage and regulate for the society. It is not asking too much; it is not blackmail; it is for Nigerian protection and preservation!
I don’t buy the idea that this proposed law is similar to a law that bans anyone working in an American company or city that is responsible for water supply, from buying bottled water, or that the law should also apply to the children of workers, such that if your father or mother works in a public utility responsible for water supply, your children must not buy any bottled water. The analogy is widely off the mark on this issue. Consider the following more relevant and apt illustrations:
First, the Buy American policies in several US public and some private concerns are not only aimed at encouraging Americans to patronize American-made products/services [for the revenues], they also make the key statement that American concerns appreciate the products/services from American companies.
Second, find out the policies guiding employees who work in the automobile industry: the policies HIGHLY ENCOURAGE employees to drive automobiles they make, even with handsome discounts! In fact, how does the management view employees in a beer brewing company drinking other brands of beer at the company’s pub or cafeteria? Citing your own example about water more accurately, how does it look when employees of Pure Water bring and consume other bottled water at work? In fact, in most of these companies, the policy is zero tolerance for other brands of the products they produce and/or market. You can confirm this policy anywhere.
JUI SUPPORTS THIS BILL WHOLEHEARTEDLY!!!
Igietseme, Joseph (CDC/OID/NCEZID)