Caught in the act?

The ICPC sting operation that caught a lowly civil service in alleged receipt of  bribe is one up for anti-corruption

Sales of petty corruption are probably as old as the civil service itself. But a reported case of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) using a sting operation to apprehend a civil servant allegedly involved in such an act holds the promise of ending the criminal culture of silence that has fuelled that impunity for too long.

According to news reports, one Abbah Adikwu, a Grade Level 07 officer with the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Abuja, allegedly kept on demanding bribe before doing his legitimate duty. Another civil servant (names not mentioned) had, according to the report, been visiting the suspect’s office since 2012. His mission was to regularise his appointment. But each time, Adikwu allegedly always stonewalled his efforts, allegedly insisting on gratification before doing his job.

Adikwu’s conduct therefore compelled the unnamed colleague to lodge a complaint with the ICPC. The anti-graft body told him to play along, agree to a bribe sum and gave the complainant marked notes to pay Adikwu. But no sooner had Adikwu collected the marked bribe money than ICPC operatives swooped on him to effect his arrest.

To show Adikwu was probably not alone in his alleged pastime, some of his colleagues tried to obstruct the ICPC agents from arresting the suspect, who had earlier turned violent and tried to bolt for it. These misguided sympathisers (at best) or accomplices (at worst) even tried to cage the ICPC agents and their quarry, until back-up security foiled their efforts. It is however gratifying to note that both Adikwu and accomplices are cooling their heels at an ICPC facility.

Corruption often appears a huge and fearsome monster, on which virtually nothing can make a dent. But that is not true. What appears so mighty and formidable is only an agglomeration of millions of tiny turpitudes. So, if you keep hacking at those tiny misdeeds, the chances are you are attacking the base of the worrisome monster. With persistence and focus, it just might crash.

That the unnamed Abuja civil servant shunned criminal silence and abject submission is a thing of cheer. If many people take after his bold lead, the criminals entrenched in the corrupt practice, from the messenger to the minister, would surely be less brazen. If people had always challenged requests for gratification, corruption would not today have assumed the worrisome guise of the norm, rather than the abnormal it is.

The defiant victim has also earned praise by resorting to the bounds of law and decency to trap the suspect. But he would have got nowhere if the ICPC had not risen to the occasion and supported him. On this score, the ICPC deserves praise. It should do more of that by timely responding to similar requests. To the extent that the ICPC has been perceived as somewhat less vibrant than the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), this is a move really to cheer.

But every action so far taken would amount to nought if the Adikwu matter was not pursued to its logical conclusion. Even more than punishing the suspect if he is guilty, the innocent civil servant must get his due by getting his service regularised. The FCSC must see to that, if only to publicly demonstrate that it tolerates no bad conduct from bad eggs in its employ.

Then ICPC should bring Adikwu to speedy justice, to serve as example to others. But it must also go after bigger rogues in the civil service. Nigeria has no choice than to win the war against corruption. Otherwise, the future is bleak.

An Editorial of ”The Nation” Newspaper.