The anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari may have become the subject of a new wave of scam targeted at high-ranking civil servants, especially those supervising various directorates in the federal ministries.
Investigations by our correspondents have revealed that the perpetrators, with the help of their collaborators in the ministries are capitalising on the vulnerability of some officials and other unsuspecting persons outside the system due to Nigeria›s poor record keeping culture to rip them off.
It has also been gathered that they now go about sneaking out records of transactions from official files in government departments and using such to concoct petitions, which they confront them with it.
Sources close to Saturday Independent have also revealed that, apart from those who do this for instant gratification, another set of people engaged in this activity are those working for officials who are scheming to be posted to lucrative ministries.
This group of people, it has been gathered, belongs to those sponsoring petitions against persons that are currently supervising the ministries they have their eyes on, with the self-assurances that Buhari would retain them.
“It is true. It is happening. In fact, I have been confronted with similar information about a highly placed civil servant, but was careful not to give credence to what seems like a covert plot to ruin that person,” a source in one of the prime federal ministries who requested anonymity told Saturday Independent.
The scheming for favourable placements by ministry officials have been heightened by Buhari’s perceived resolve to prune the number of ministries from the current 27, by merging a few ones, as a way of cutting down cost of governance.
The lobby for ministerial placements, especially at the level of Permanent Secretaries, is most competitive for the ministries of Agriculture, Power, Health, Education, Works and Defence, especially as it has become obvious that the president would be focusing so much attention on those sectors.
Meanwhile, the President’s avowed resolve to combat corruption, especially among government officials, has unsettled many civil servants, most of who would do everything to serve out their service terms in line with the dictates of the civil service provisions, hence would avoid anything that would taint their records.
The Presidency and Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have confirmed this, saying they are aware of malicious petitions flying around, and have put measures in place to track such and apply appropriate sanctions against perpetrators.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, while responding to Saturday Independent on the issue, acknowledged that such was possible, but added that President Buhari cannot be swayed.
Adesina further disclosed that the Presidency had put a system in place to sift ill-intentioned alarms that come in form of petition over corrupt practices from genuine complaints.
He said: “No doubt, such things do happen in a political setting. There will always be people who want to undermine others, but there are procedures and channels for such petitions.
«If they do not follow the proper procedures they won›t be entertained even if they find their way to the President.
«So, things must be done the proper ?way, and these procedures in place make way for whatever malicious petitions to be filtered out.»
Nonetheless, he pointed out that serious and genuine cases of malfeasance, corruption or misconduct discovered to be perpetrated by public officers would be appropriately dealt with.
The EFCC on its part has said it might be forced to invoke relevant laws to deter those who bring false petitions to the Commission.
A top source at the EFCC Headquarters in Abuja, who would not want to be named, disclosed this to Saturday Independent, against the influx of thousands of petitions to the Commission, most especially after the emergence of Buhari as president.
The source confirmed that most of the petitions, after careful investigations were discovered to be in bad faith just to pull down other people.
The EFCC official said: “We receive thousands of petitions every month. But we have processes that they go through.
“When we get petitions, we don’t just arrest people, we subject the petitions to series and chains of investigations before we act. Most times we discover that some of the petitions are not true. In this situation, we just throw them out.
“However, we have a law that prohibits people from writing false petitions against others. It is therefore an offence in the EFCC Act for anyone to write false petitions against someone.
“Before now, because of the many petitions we receive and the load of work we have, whenever we discover that a petition does not have merit or is not true, we just discard it.
“However, the influx of false petitions will compel us to begin to call for questioning anyone that have written a petition that is discovered to be false against any another person.”
It would be recalled that, no sooner Buhari took over as President with his anti-corruption slogan than whistle blowers of all sorts besieged EFCC with various shades of petitions.
This has led to the interrogation of many Nigerians, including current and past top government officials and heads of agencies by the EFCC in the past few weeks of the Buhari-led administration.