Humanitarian Ministry Scandal: Tunji-Ojo’s Defence Unacceptable

Abuja – 09 January, 2024

ImpactHouse Centre for Development Communication (ImpactHouse) finds unacceptable the explanation given by Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, over the allegation of his company receiving N438 million in ‘consultancy fees’ from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

In an interview with Channels Television, the minister said he is only a shareholder of the company, ‘which is not in violation of the law’. However, according to section one of the fifth schedule of Nigeria’s constitution, a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.

In explaining this paragraph, the federal government’s Explanatory Manual on The Code of Conduct for Public Officers (CCPO) reads: ‘A public officer shall not hold shares or have any other interest in a company, partnership or other body directly or through another person, if the holding of those shares or having that interest will result in a conflict with the officer’s official duties’.

‘However, in a situation where the shareholdings or interest in the company was in existence before the officer’s employment, election or appointment to a public office, the officer shall declare such shareholding/interest and recuse himself from participating in any decision-making process involving that company, partnership or other body where he holds shares or has an interest’.

‘Therefore, the Minister of Interior needs to answer more questions about his company being a contractor to the humanitarian ministry while he is a serving minister, especially after confirming in that interview on Channels Television that he is still a shareholder in the company’, Executive Director of ImpactHouse, John Andah, said.

‘One of the primary reasons government officials should refrain from using their private companies to bid for government contracts is the inherent conflict of interest. When public servants have a personal stake in the outcome of a government contract, their decision-making process may be compromised’, Andah added.

The potential for favouritism, biased evaluations, and unfair advantages creates an environment that undermines the principles of fairness and equal opportunity in a bidding process. 

This unacceptable conduct will further diminish citizens’ trust in government, which weakens the social contract between the government and the people. Already, there is a decline in citizens’ trust in government due to the failure of public servants and institutions to uphold transparency and accountability in their operations. A regional average score of 32 out of 100 on Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for sub-Saharan Africa indicates that the continent is still grappling with corruption and governance challenges.

ImpactHouse calls on President Bola Tinubu to consider a short retreat for his appointees to ensure they understand government processes, and the dos and don’ts. We also call on the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to implement stringent measures, enforce existing laws, and foster a culture of ethical conduct that will contribute to a procurement process that serves the public interest and promotes a thriving, corruption-free economy.

Since these sorts of underhand practices are characteristics of our public office and civil service, a riot act should be read to appointees and heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to desist from all unprofessional and corrupt practices.


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